Some absolutely shameless statements by a Home Office Minister in the Lords yesterday.
Lord Spit, sorry, Lord West of Spithead (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office), made the claim that in the one case they'd investigated it wasn't homosexuality which the execution was for but for rape.
This echoes George Galloway's repetition of the Iranian regime's lies.
For the Home Office to:
- admit they have investigated only one case
- use the Iranian regime's lies against gay asylum seekers
We are not aware of any individual having been executed solely on the grounds of homosexuality in Iran.He is talking here about Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, pictures of the execution of the two boys are widely available (as are those of other barbaric executions), and - yes - Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have said that rape in that case may be true and it was also true that the case was used by the exiled Iranian opposition for their own purposes.
We do not consider that there is systematic persecution of gay men in Iran.
We have no evidence of anyone we have sent back being executed
[Ugandans sent back (including lesbians) are immediately hauled off to a detention centre and tortured. This is known to have happened to at least one gay Iranian.]
In the one case that we looked into, because it was shown on television, we found that two young males were hanged because they were found guilty of raping a 13 year-old boy. They were hanged for the offence of rape.
In Iran, one of the two partners arrested can find themselves able to escape the death penalty only by charging rape.
But there are numerous other well-documented cases (the link is to Human Rights Watch), so for this to be the one he chooses to mention, to, like Galloway, imply that executions are always for rape and to admit that this is "the one case that we looked into" just shows that they aren't being at all 'careful' about deportations. "We are not aware" is not true - aka a lie.
It is exactly like 1939 all over again: when we made it as hard as possible for Jews to flee Germany - the Kindertransport was largely due to Jewish effort. Or 1946 when thousands were returned to the USSR and certain death. As a tireless defender of gay asylum seekers, Omar Kuddas, puts it:
"To say that homosexuals are safe as long as they are discreet and live their lives in private [that's their policy!], is to say that Ann Frank was safe from the Nazis in WWII as long as she hid in her attic."
Lying. Incompetent. Shameless. I am ashamed of my government.
Human Rights Watch - one of the NGOs whose work Spithead is selectively using - have been supporting Mehdi Kazemi's case for over a year. This includes November when the Home Office last rejected his asylum claim and over Christmas when they last made a real attempt to seize and deport him.
Here's what a Tory London MEP, John Bowis, said about people like Lord Spit last week in the European Parliament during the debate on a resolution supporting Mehdi and Pegah Emambakhsh - the Iranian lesbian who is on her last legal thread and under real threat of being secretly shipped out like Mehdi almost was. The resolution passed nearly unanimously. Bowis' EU MEP Group was divided, with a Forza Italia MP speaking for and a CDU MEP abstaining for that Group.
"It is my country which, if it does not relent in this case, should hang its head in shame."
My country ...
Until the Home Office is finally forced to change the policy which lies behind these cases people just like Mehdi - and Mehdi himself is not safe yet - will continue to be shipped back to torture and death. And they know this. They are lying when they say otherwise.
And who does this attitude appeal to? Who do they think this appeals to? Where do they think the votes are in playing at 'hardliners'? I have been carefully surveying the comment reaction and those who support Mehdi's deportation are very few and very far between. Someone should do a poll.
Even on the websites of the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and - yes - even The Sun many, many conservative, middle-england 'don't-like-refugees' people find this policy obnoxious. Even on muslim/Pakistani Boards I am reading many people supporting Mehdi. Times readers are overwhelmingly commenting that the Home Office's actions are not-in-their-name. The one Tory blogger I could find supporting deportation of gay Iranians prefaced his comments with 'sorry but ...' He sensed the shame of which Lord Spit has none.
Then there's the damage to us around the world. Never mind the blogosphere, on US Prime Time news shows right-wing people have expressed horror at these actions in our name - and how often does Britain ever get a mention there?
The coalition of opposition is enormous and I'll say it again: Jacqui Smith is complicit in murder and if he doesn't do more to end this appalling stain on Britain, Gordon Brown is too.