Today is the day when the UK Government was planning to deport Pegah Emambakhsh, an Iranian lesbian, to certain torture and possible death.
It now looks unlikely as they have been shamed by an international campaign, led by the Italian Government, involving protests at UK embassies.
Venice, in particular, has offered her refuge. The Mayor, Massimo Cacciari, saying:
"In its recent past Venice has already been a refugee-town for persecuted people, and within this tradition it is ready to host the Iranian woman, at least for the first period of time: the city of Venice, in cooperation with other bodies committed to save Pegah Emambakhsh, places a secure living facility at the woman's disposal.Interesting that, Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, similar historic home to and friend of exiles and the persecuted, hasn't joined this campaign yet.
"By launching this appeal and offer, I am certain I am expressing a common feeling of the whole town and its traditional culture."
On Monday, Italian MPs and several Ministers were amongst those protesting outside the British Embassy in Rome. Campaigners say that they were told by an Embassy official that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown “is paying particular attention to the case of the Iranian refugee” and that the British Government is approaching the case with a solution that respects the conventions for the Human Rights”. This might be because, according to Barbara Pollastrini, the equal opportunities minister, Prime Minister Romano Prodi, is following the case.
Two years ago, UK Gay News ran the headline “Ashamed To Be British” on an article about how a gay Algerian was treated over an asylum application.
Ms. Emambakhsh’s asylum application was said by her supporters to have been denied by the Home Office because she was not able to prove she was a lesbian.
The Guardian quoted a Home Office spokeswoman:
"All applications for asylum are carefully considered by trained caseworkers based on accurate up-to-date information, taking into account all the circumstances of an application. 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."Presumably this is why these cases - which are shameful, I don't think there would be many British people who'd agree with sending gay people back 'home' to their possible death - keep happening. If you come from somewhere like Iran, how do you 'prove' you're a lesbian, and at risk?
Gordon Brown's support for LGBT has been questioned - his support has tended to involve voting the right way rather than visible support. He could do something about this image, and answer Romano Prodi, by publicly asking the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, to take some meaningful steps with the rules and practice. Changing them would help stop this sort of episode happening again. And by not backing down when the right-wing tabloids start up.