Iranian Gays Seek Asylum in UK to Avoid Execution in Iran

The cases of a twenty-year-old gay Iranian in London on a student visa and a forty-year old Iranian lesbian show the complex legal, political and personal issues in the law of political asylum. The stories highlight governmental policies with profound human rights implications: Iran’s barbaric policy of executing its citizens for homosexual conduct by a method of slow strangulation designed to maximize suffering; the British Home Office policy of reducing the number of successful asylum applications and increasing the rate of refugee deportation; and a flawed EU agreement designed to work out an orderly political asylum application process for refugees.

According to CNN International, Mehdi Kazemi, originally sought asylum in the UK after learning that his boyfriend had been executed in Iran after saying, under torture, that he and Kazemi had been in a gay relationship. The British Home Office, rejecting Kazemi’s request, ordered him to be deported in a written statement saying that even though homosexuality is illegal in Iran, it did not believe that gays were routinely persecuted purely on the basis of their sexuality. After he was ordered deported, Kazemi fled to the Netherlands where the Council of State (the highest administrative court in the Netherlands) rejected Kazemi’s plea for asylum on the grounds that it had to comply with the Dublin Regulation and return Kazemi to Britain. Under the Dublin Regulation, adopted by the EU in 1997, an asylum seeker must lodge an application for asylum in the first EU country where he or she arrives. The Dublin Convention was designed to prevent “asylum shopping” and is an effort to harmonize asylum policies in the EU.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution this past Thursday (by a vote of 46 to 2 with 12 abstentions) urging a solution to the case, pointing out that the Iranian authorities “routinely detain, torture and execute persons, notably homosexuals” and that “Mehdi’s partner has already been executed, while his father has threatened him with death”. It also urged EU members “to take action to prevent similar situations in the future, while acknowledging that the Commission has announced, for 2008, amendments to the Dublin Regulation”. The resolution also cited the case of an Iranian lesbian, Pegah Emambakhsh, whose asylum application had been denied by UK authorities despite fears that she would face execution if deported to Iran. A report in the British newspaper the Independent gives the details of her case.

For now, Kazemi’s asylum application is under review by the British Home Office which has announced a temporary stay on his deportation. “This is very positive. But reconsidered doesn’t mean he’ll get a permit, they could still deny what he is asking,” Kazemi’s Dutch lawyer told according to a Reuters report.