Gay Iranian teen denied asylum

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images (Editor’s note: Please see update at bottom.) If you were gay and your country hanged your partner for homosexuality, wouldn’t you be justified in fearing that your government would be coming for you next? That’s the position that a young Iranian is in. Nineteen-year-old Mehdi Kazemi came to Britain to study. While there, ...

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596010_080313_noose2.jpg

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

(Editor's note: Please see update at bottom.)

If you were gay and your country hanged your partner for homosexuality, wouldn't you be justified in fearing that your government would be coming for you next?

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

(Editor’s note: Please see update at bottom.)

If you were gay and your country hanged your partner for homosexuality, wouldn’t you be justified in fearing that your government would be coming for you next?

That’s the position that a young Iranian is in. Nineteen-year-old Mehdi Kazemi came to Britain to study. While there, he learned that his boyfriend back in Iran had been executed after confessing to being in a relationship with Kazemi. Officials had also visited Kazemi’s parents’ house with an arrest warrant for him.

Kazemi did the logical thing. He applied for asylum. Britain denied it on the grounds that gay people in Iran aren’t systematically persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation. Since then Kazemi has made it to the Netherlands, but his asylum petition there was recently rejected on the grounds that people can plea for asylum in only one European Union country.

Currently, Kazemi risks being deported back to Britain, which may send him back to Iran, a country that has executed at least 4,000 gay people since 1979’s Islamic Revolution, according to one estimate. Sixty members of the European Parliament have signed a petition requesting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to overturn the decision to deny asylum.

Kazemi isn’t the only gay person in this predicament. An Iranian lesbian in Britain, Pegah Emambakhsh, was also denied asylum and faces deportation to Iran, where Iranian gay-rights groups say her partner has been sentenced to death by stoning.

These cases are rather ironic. Iran pays for sex-change surgery for transgender people. Additionally, the first rock group it officially approved was Queen, which was headed by Freddie Mercury, a gay man of Iranian Persian ancestry (by way of his Parsi roots). More importantly, though, if the facts of these cases are correct, it’s utterly shameful that Kazemi and Emambakhsh were denied asylum.

UPDATE (March 17): Britain has stopped deportation motions against Medhi Kazemi. His case is being reconsidered.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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