It was enough to make anyone with a
remote interest in gay men and women from Iran seeking refuge in the United
Kingdom – and their problems with the Home Office – choke on their morning
Is Safe for ‘Discrete’ Gays, Says Jacqui Smith”, the
headline in this morning’s The Independent informed us.
Robert Verkaik, the Indy’s
legal editor who was the first to highlight in the ‘mainstream’ Press the
plight of the then teenage gay Iranian Mehedi Kazemi, reported that Ms.
Smith, the Home Secretary, had written to a Liberal Democrat Peer that gay
and lesbian refuge-seekers can be safely deported to Iran as long as they
live their lives “discreetly”.
Not only that, but she also said
that there was no “real risk” of gay men and lesbians being discovered by
the Iranian authorities or “adverse action” being taken against those who
were “discreet” about their behaviour, Mr. Verkaik reported.
Frankly, we are wondering what
planet Jacqui Smith is on.
No one expects Ms. Smith to know
everything concerning her department. She has “advisors”, in the form of
senior civil servants.
And as the TV series Yes
Minister poignantly portrayed in every episode, these mandarins have a
habit of getting their own way.
Perhaps the writer of the letter to
the Peer was a Daily Mail-reading official who had never come across
any of the background situation reports on Iran by likes of Amnesty
International or Human Rights Watch.
Scott Long, the director of
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch,
The Guardian on March 31 this year:
“The UK should recognise – as the
Netherlands has done – that with a law prescribing death or torture for gay
Iranians, they need not demonstrate the details of past persecution. Lift
the burden of proof from Mehdi and his gay compatriots. End the threat of
He also said that current policy of
the Home Office “is a disastrous evasion of the UK's responsibilities under
To coincide with International Day
Against Homophobia on May 17, Human Rights Watch added the Home Office to
its annual “Hall of Shame” for its policy on the deportation of gay men and
women back to less than sympathetic countries, often flouting international
The problem with the reasoning of
the Home Office is that in all but one of the half dozen cases of gay
Iranian men and women seeking refuge that UK
Gay News knows about, arrived here having fled
because the police were actually on their trail – and not for fearing that
the police might one day be interested in their sexuality.
The one exception was Mr. Kazemi
who was already in the UK completing his education on a student visa when he
learned that his partner had been executed – but not before he had named
Jacqui Smith, as the LGBT Greens
suggest, is “playing a dangerous game” with the lives of gay Iranian
“Effectively she’s trying to
rubbish the argument that LGBT people are being persecuted for their
sexuality in Iran,” LGBT Greens spokesperson Phelim Mac Cafferty said this
“Her claim that as long as people
are ‘discreet’ a regime notorious for its treatment of LGBT people
will somehow stop persecuting them is misled at best – and
homicidal at worst.”
Campaigning group GayAsylumUK
described the remarks by the Home Secretary in the letter to Lord Roberts as
shameful, inhumane and anti-gay”.
The astounding thing is that,
almost four years ago Ms. Smith was in charge of steering the Civil
Partnerships Bill through the House of Commons back in 2004 when she was the
Women and Equality Minister.
UK Gay News
would hazard a guess that Her Majesty’s Government is ‘running scared’ of
the xenophobic and largely homophobic tabloid press when it comes to a fair
policy on gay refuge seekers.
Who runs this country? The
democratically elected Government, or the self-appointed tabloids that huff
and puff – and are expert at creating mass hysteria?
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Licence.
Posted: 23 June 2008 at
16:00 (UK time)