Iranian fears execution if sent home
Mehdi Kazemi fears he’ll be executed if the United Kingdom forces him to return to Iran.
Kazemi went to London to study in 2005 and Iranian officials later arrested his boyfriend, Parham, charged him with sodomy and executed him, according to Kazemi’s father.
Kazemi then sought asylum in Britain but was rejected. In 2006, he fled to the Netherlands, which detained him and is now preparing to return him to the U.K.
The U.K. had been planning to send Kazemi back to Iran when he returned to British soil. But on March 13, following extensive media coverage and political pressure, the Home Office agreed to review his case one more time before forcing him to go home.
"The Iranian authorities have found out that I am a homosexual and they are looking for me," Kazemi said in a recent letter to U.K. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.
In a statement given to activist groups, Kazemi elaborated: "Around [the] end of April 2006, my uncle called me again and informed me that my father had informed him that the authorities had executed Parham and that I must not return to Iran as the authorities would do the same to me. … Parham was charged with [the] crime [of] being homosexual and was executed."
According to Kazemi’s father, Parham named Mehdi as his lover prior to his execution.
Leading British gay activist Peter Tatchell commented: "The Home Office decision to deport Mehdi back to Iran is shameful and reckless. … Gay men in Iran are hanged from public cranes using the barbaric method of slow strangulation."
Tatchell said the U.K. government is "callous [and] more interested in cutting asylum numbers than in ensuring a fair, just and compassionate asylum system."
Britain’s Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association also has taken up Kazemi’s cause, saying that "deporting gay and lesbian people to Iran is akin to deporting Jews back to Nazi Germany."
Meanwhile, The Independent reported March 7 that an Iranian lesbian who fled to Britain after her girlfriend was arrested and sentenced to death by stoning also is at risk of being sent home.
Pegah Emambakhsh, 40, issued a statement March 6 saying: "I will never, never go back. If I do, I know I will die."
Emambakhsh’s asylum claim was rebuffed by the Court of Appeal in February. She now plans to ask the High Court to review the case.
Iran is known to have executed several teens and men accused of engaging in sodomy, although in nearly all the cases that have been publicized in recent years the individuals were accused of other crimes as well, such as rape.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has said it suspects that other charges often are tacked onto sodomy cases to prevent the public outrage that would accompany executions carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult gay sex.
The group also has said it believes executions solely for gay sex are taking place out of the public eye.
"[O]ur suspicions [are] that their current practice really is to rid society of lesbians and gay men," the organization said last year.
Human Rights Watch, on the other hand, has said it cannot fully document any executions in Iran in recent years carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult gay sex.
Last September, during a speech at Columbia University in New York City, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was asked about the nation’s treatment of gay people.
He responded: "We in Iran — we in Iran, firstly, we don’t have hamjensbaz [a derogatory term for homosexuals meaning people with loose morals who chase people of the same gender for sexual pleasure] like you have in your country. In our country, there is no such a thing. In Iran, such a thing does not — in Iran, in Iran, absolutely such a thing does not exist as a phenomenon. I don’t know who told you otherwise."
ILGA conference canceled
The International Lesbian and Gay Association has canceled its 24th World Conference, which was set to take place in Quebec City, Canada, May 14-18.
"[A recent site visit] confirmed the impressions of the current lack of preparedness at this late date and the lack of funding necessary for the conference to take place," ILGA’s board co-chairs said in a statement.
The primary local organizer was the Coalition gaie et lesbienne du QuÃ©bec.
ILGA did not reschedule the conference but did put out "a formal call for new proposals from ILGA member organizations for hosting the world conference later this year." It gave interested parties less than a month to submit proposals.
The board said any local organizer must take on partial responsibility for paying for the gathering.
"ILGA does not have the capacity to fully fund the conference," the co-chairs said. "The local hosts have in the past fundraised for resources, especially to bring scholars from the Global South."
ILGA is a 30-year-old federation of more than 600 GLBT organizations and associated members, such as city governments, from 90 countries.
British gays fight blood ban
A new British group called Bloodban is seeking to overturn the nation’s ban on blood donation by non-celibate gay men, the BBC reported March 7.
Organizers are circulating a petition that they plan to deliver to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The National Blood Service believes gay men are too high risk because of the short gap between one’s getting infected with HIV and when the virus can be detected by a blood test.
Bloodban says people should be excluded based on their lifestyle, not because of their membership in a particular social group.
The activists propose that gay men be banned as donors only if they have had unprotected sex in the past 18 months.
Israeli bashers sent to prison
Four Jerusalem gay bashers were sent to prison for two to eight years March 6 by the Tel Aviv District Court, Ynetnews reported.
Typically, the bashers used a decoy cruiser to pick up men seeking sex with men at Tel Aviv’s old central bus station. Once in the victim’s car, the decoy would direct him to another location where the other bashers joined in beating, stripping and robbing the victim.
Two other men have been indicted for nearly identical crimes at Jerusalem’s central bus station. In one case, one of the bashers bit off a portion of one victim’s ear, Ynet said.
Netherlands to legalize park sex
It will no longer be illegal to have sex in Amsterdam’s Vondel Park under regulations set to take effect later this year, De Telegraaf reported March 7.
"Why should we try to maintain something that is actually impossible to maintain, which also causes little bother for others and, for a certain group, actually signifies much pleasure?" asked Oud-Zuid district Alderman Paul van Grieken.
People having sex in the park will be expected to do so only after dark and out of public view. They also must not leave condoms lying about.
Meanwhile, the police institute’s National Diversity Expertise Center is advising other cities to follow Amsterdam’s lead. It said legalizing park sex would help protect gay men from gay bashers.
The Amsterdam branch of the Dutch national gay group COC (now known only by its formal initials) welcomed the news.
"Cruising is something belonging to all times and banning it does not work anyway," said chairman Dennis Boutkan. "They do it surreptitiously and mostly without others being annoyed by it. [B]y agreeing on rules of behavior, safety can be increased."
Spanish PM wins re-election
Spanish voters re-elected Prime Minister JosÃ© Luis RodrÃguez Zapatero on March 9, apparently unperturbed that he made Spain one of only six nations that grant gay couples access to full marriage.
Zapatero’s Socialist party took 43.7 percent of the vote, besting the conservative Popular Party, which grabbed 40.1 percent.
Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa and the U.S. state of Massachusetts also have opened up ordinary marriage to same-sex couples.
Editorial assistance by Bill Kelley
These articles appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 21, 2008