Iran's homophobic persecution condemned
Call to reform the asylum system to protect LGBT refugees
London – 25 March 2008
Over 120 protesters braved hail and rain to demand that gay Iranian
asylum seeker, Mehdi Kazemi, be granted refuge in the UK.
They also urged asylum for the Iranian lesbian refugee, Pegah
Emambakhsh, and an estimated 12 other gay Iranians who are at risk of
deportation back to Tehran.
There were calls for a "fundamental reform" of the way the Home Office
treats LGBTI asylum applicants.
The demonstration took place opposite the Prime Minister's residence,
Downing Street, on Saturday 22 March.
See photos of the protest:
(credit: OutRage! – free use, no charge)
"The British government had ordered Mr Kazemi to be deported back to
Iran," said protest speaker Peter Tatchell, spokesperson for the LGBTI
human rights group OutRage!.
"Following worldwide protests, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith MP,
has agreed to review Mehdi's case. While there is no guarantee that
this review will result in him being allowed to stay, we are hopeful
that he will be permitted to lodge a fresh asylum claim and that this
will result in Mehdi being given refugee status in the UK."
Saturday's protest was sponsored by Middle East Workers' Solidarity
and the National Union of Students LGBT campaign, with the support of
The protest's three main demands were:
- Don't send Mehdi Kazemi back to Iran
- Iran's homophobic laws violate human rights
- Give the victims of homophobic persecution the right to settle in the UK
Peter Tatchell told the rally:
"There needs to be a fundamental reform of the way the Home Office
processes LGBTI asylum applications.
"The government is currently failing LGBTI refugees:
"Asylum staff and adjudicators receive race and gender awareness
training but no training at all on sexual orientation issues. As a
result, they often make stereotyped assumptions: that a feminine woman
can't be a lesbian or that a masculine man cannot be gay. They
sometimes rule that someone who has been married must be faking their
"The government refuses to explicitly rule that homophobic and
transphobic persecution are legitimate grounds for granting asylum.
This signals to asylum staff and judges that claims by LGBTI people
are not as worthy as those based on persecution because of a person's
ethnicity, gender, politics or faith.
"The Home Office country reports on homophobic and transphobic
persecution are often partial, inaccurate and misleading. They
consistently downplay the severity of victimisation suffered by LGBTI
people in violently homophobic countries like Iran, Nigeria, Iraq,
Uganda, Palestine, Algeria and Jamaica.
"Cuts in the funding of legal aid for asylum claims means that most
asylum applicants - gay and straight – are unable to prepare an
adequate submission at their asylum hearing. Most solicitors don't get
paid enough to procure the necessary witness statements, medical
reports and other vital corroborative evidence.
"The Home Office has failed to take action to stamp out anti-gay
abuse, threats and violence in UK asylum detention centres. Some LGBTI
detainees report suffering homophobic or transphobic victimisation,
and say they have failed to receive adequate protection or support
from detention centre staff," said Mr Tatchell.
Peter Tatchell, OutRage! 020 7403 1790
Photos of the protest can be viewed and used free of charge for
publication from the OutRage! photo website:
Professional photos by photojournalist Marc Vallée can be viewed here:
Permission is required from Marc Vallee for publication:
studio: ++ 44 (0) 1923 822170
cell: ++ 44 (0) 7947 181204
Peter Tatchell is the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East
http://www.greenoxford.com/ and www.petertatchell.net
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