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Saturday, 24 May 2008

Letter of thanks from Mehdi

I found out on Monday 19th of May 2008 that the government had granted me refugee status for the next five years. I am so happy about this and I just want to say thank you to all the people of Britain, The Netherlands, Italy and across Europe, Canada, America and the world, who have shown their concern for me, who have given me the support that I really needed and who have worked very hard to help me through difficult times and to get me to where I am now. I wouldn’t be alive if hadn’t been for your help. I will never forget everything that you have done.

I also want to say thank you to all the organisations who campaigned on my behalf, especially the EveryOne Group, Dutch COC, IRQO and Human Rights Watch, to UK Gay News and The Independent newspaper who chose to tell my story and to raise awareness of my plight. Thank you to the Members of Parliament in the UK, the Netherlands, in particular Mr Boris van der Ham, and the EU, Marco Cappato, Marco Pannella, Sophia in 't Veld and especially Mr Michael Cashman MEP, who asked the UK government to grant me asylum. I have written a separate letter to the Home Secretary to thank her for granting me refugee status, and to the Members of the British, Dutch and European Parliaments to thank them for their help. Thank you to Mr B.A Palm who represented me in The Netherlands and to my representative in this country, Gabriella Bettiga at Lawrence Lupin Solicitors, who helped me to make a fresh claim for asylum.

I would also like to say some very special thanks. I would like to say thank you to my local MP, Mr Simon Hughes, and his team who gave me the chance to live and made a miracle happen when he heard that my life was in serious danger and asked the Home Office to suspend my deportation in December 2006. I would not be here if it hadn’t been for his intervention. He was here for me then and he was here for me again when I was eventually sent back to the UK in April this year. I do not know if I would have been granted my refugee status without him.
I also wish to say the biggest thank you to my uncles, for all their support, for accepting me for who I am, for their hard work, for everything they’ve done for me, and most of all for their love.

I am so lucky to have them as my uncles and I am so proud of them.

Life has been very hard for me ever since I heard that my former boyfriend had been executed. I was very scared about what would happen to me and this is why I claimed asylum in the UK. I knew that the people of this country accepted homosexuality and that the government gave equal rights to people regardless of their sexuality. So when my asylum claim was refused I was shocked and very disappointed. I had expected more. I had expected to be given the same rights as people here. I thought the government would understand the very difficult situation that I was in.

I couldn’t understand why my claim was refused and then I felt that the judge didn’t listen to me at my appeal. I was detained very soon after my appeal was dismissed and things happened very quickly. One minute I was still going to school in Brighton and the next minute I was told that they had signed a deportation order against me and I would be going back in Iran a few days later. I was devastated and I felt that I was only one step away from death. I was told that I could appeal against the decision to deport me once I was back in Iran, but I thought, how can this be possible? Who will appeal? My dead body? I knew that only a miracle could save me then.

At this point, my uncle, with whom I had originally lived with when I arrived in the UK, contacted the local MP, Simon Hughes. He managed to suspend the deportation order just in time. I couldn’t believe that I had been given another chance. I was temporarily released but I was very scared that I would be in the same situation again just a few months later. I realised that I was not safe in the UK so I decided to flee. I had hoped to go to Canada, but I was arrested in the Czech Republic, taken to Germany and then I escaped again to Holland. I had heard that Holland had a special concession for gay Iranian asylum seekers and that they had a fairer law.

I spent about a year in Holland after I claimed asylum there. It was a very difficult year for me. Asylum seekers have no real rights. All you are allowed to be is an asylum seeker. You cannot study, or work, or do anything. You are only allowed to breathe. I did meet some very kind people in the Netherlands who went out of their way to help me and who became good friends. I would like to go back to see them some time soon. Eventually my asylum claim was refused again, this time in Holland, because under the European Regulation you have to be given asylum in the first country that you arrive in. I was very upset about this decision and I became very depressed. I thought, at least I have tried to save my life, I tried everything that I could but it didn’t work, and you can’t do anymore than that. I had had enough. I just wanted everything to be over. I didn’t want to live anymore.

I was returned to the UK in April. I was very scared but I was so pleased to see my uncles again. I had missed them very much. I was also very grateful and reassured by my local MP, Simon, who told me he would do everything he could to help. My family and I met with him very soon after I came back to the UK and he took the time to really listen to me. He asked me about what I had been through and he explained that he would tell the Home Office and the government why I should be allowed to stay in this country. He put me in touch with the solicitors who helped me to make a new claim for asylum. I am so grateful to Gabriella at Lawrence Lupin Solicitors for all her hard work and all the help she gave me. Simon also wrote a letter to the Home Office in support of my claim. I hadn’t expected to receive so much help and I really felt that there were people here who were fighting my corner.

I was told on Monday that the government had granted me refugee status. I cannot really say how good I feel. It’s the best news I have ever had. I am relieved and just very very happy. I feel that I can start to live again, to plan my life and my future. I can pick up where I left off when my situation became so difficult a couple of years ago. So I am back now and living with one of my uncles. I am making plans to continue with my studies. I would really like to go to university to study Pharmacology.

I am very much looking forward to the future and to doing all the things I thought I would no longer be able to do. But I do miss my family and my friends back at home, and I miss Iran. It is where I come from, Iran is my country and I think it is very sad that people there do not have the same rights as they do in this country and that this means I cannot live there at the moment. I hope that one day I will be safe and that I can live in my country again. I hope that other people in similar situations to mine will have the same rights, that they will no longer fear for their lives and they will have the freedom to live as they want to live and be who they are regardless of their sexuality.

But for now, I am so grateful to be here and to be safe. I want to say thank you again to the people of Britain, The Netherlands, Italy and across Europe, Canada, America and the world for their understanding, for giving me the right to live and to be who I am and who I want to be.

I do not want to say any more than this at the moment and I do not want the media to contact me because I would like to protect my life, my safety and my security. I just want to say thank you.

Mehdi

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