National newspaper takes up gay Iranian story

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A concerted campaign by gay rights activists on behalf of a gay teenager facing deportation to Iran and possible execution has pushed his plight into the national press.

This morning The Independent newspaper devoted its front page to 19-year-old Medhi Kazemi, who fled to the Netherlands last year after his appeal for asylum in the UK was refused.

His story was first reported on on February 19th.

He appeared in a Dutch court yesterday asking to be allowed to remain in the Netherlands.

However, under the terms of an EU treaty, asylum seekers must be returned to the first state where they claimed asylum.

Holland offers special protection for gay Iranians, which is why Medhi went there.

He fled England last spring after his visa ran out and a Home Office tribunal dismissed his appeal against deportation.

A Dutch court will now decide if he can remain there.

At the end of last year a court in the Netherlands ruled Medhi must be returned back to the UK.

It is feared that if Medhi is ordered to be deported back to Iran he may face execution for being gay.

Since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, human rights groups estimate that between 3,000 and 4,000 people have been executed under Sharia law for the crime of homosexuality.

He left Iran in 2004 to travel to England on a student visa and continue his education.

Two years later while still in the UK he learned that Iranian authorities had arrested his boyfriend Parham back in Iran, and that his boyfriend had been forced to name Medhi as someone with whom he had had a relationship.

Medhi’s father then received a visit from the Tehran police, with an arrest warrant for his son.

In late April 2006, Medhi’s uncle told him Parham had been put to death.

Campaigner Peter Tatchell attacked the Home Office’s stance.

“If Mehdi is sent back to Iran he will be at risk of execution because of his homosexuality,” he said

“This is a flagrant violation of Britain’s obligations under the refugee convention.

“The whole world knows that Iran hangs young, gay men and uses a particularly barbaric method of slow strangulation.

“In a bid to fulfil its target to cut asylum numbers the Government is prepared to send this young man to his possible death.

“It is a heartless, cruel mercenary anti-refugee policy.”

On January 31st the European Commission said:

“Member states cannot expel or refuse refugee status to homosexual persons without taking into account their sexual preferences, the information relevant to the situation in their country of origin, including the laws and ways in which they are applied.”

A Home Office spokesperson told The Independent:

“The UK Government is committed to providing protection for those individuals found to be genuinely in need, in accordance with our commitments under international law.

“If an application is refused, there is a right of appeal to an independent judge, and we only return those who have been found by the asylum decision-making process and the independent courts not to need international protection.

“We examine with great care each individual case before removal and we will not remove anyone who we believe is at risk on their return.

“However, in order to maintain the integrity of our asylum system and prevent unfounded applications it is important that we are able to enforce returns of those who do not need protection.”