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Gay Iranian granted asylum in the UK

Decision follows rally, international outrage

MORE TO COME? One gay Iranian has been granted refugee status, but activists warn that the UK Home Office downplays the threat to gays and lesbians facing deportation.

British authorities have granted asylum to a gay Iranian who claimed he would be killed if returned to his homeland, reports UK Gay News.

20-year-old Mehdi Kazemi reportedly told UK Gay News that he received a letter from the Border and Immigration Agency of the Home Office, notifying him that his asylum request had now been granted. Kazemi has been trying to get refugee status in the UK for more than two years.

The decision comes only days after Human Rights Watch named the UK’s Home Office to its annual ‘Hall of Shame’. The rights group blasted the government agency for “failing to implement its human rights responsibilities” by deporting queer people to places where they risk torture and serious abuse.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Iran. After Kazemi moved to the UK in 2005, his boyfriend was arrested by Iranian state police and reportedly executed for the crime of sodomy.

Kazemi requested asylum in the UK, but when his application was turned down, he fled to the Netherlands. Dutch authorities examined his refugee case in early March and decided to send him back to the UK.

British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced Mar 13 that Kazemi would be granted a temporary reprieve from deportation, while the agency reviewed his refugee claim.

Kazemi’s case generated much attention, including a rally in March. More than 120 people gathered in London, demanding that Kazemi be granted refugee status.

Still, activists warn that the Home Office continues to downplay the threat to gays and lesbians facing deportation.

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell says there is a “homophobic and transphobic bias” in the asylum system.

“The government seems more interested in cutting asylum numbers than in ensuring fairness and justice for LGBT refugees who have fled arrest, imprisonment, torture, vigilante attacks and attempts to kill them,” he said at an International Day Against Homophobia event on May 16.