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Thursday, 23 August 2007

Gays Worldwide Rally to Aid Iranian Lesbian Facing Deportation from UK

Hank Wilson (left) and Michael Petrellis outside the British Consulate in San Francisco before meeting with officials to support Pegah Emambakhsh’s asylum claim in the UK.
Source: UK Gay News

A last-ditch attempt to stop the deportation early next week to Tehran of a 40-years-old lesbian has been mounted by her supporters in Sheffield.  But already activists around the world are campaigning against the deportation.

Pegah Emambakhsh is an Iranian national who sought asylum in the UK in 2005. Despite appeals, her claim failed and she was arrested in Sheffield on Monday August 13 2007.  A week ago she was taken to London’s Heathrow airport but a short “stay” on the deportation was given by Home Office officials minutes before being put on a British Airways flight.

Last night, her support group Assist (Asylum Seeker Support Initiative – Short Term) pleaded for more letters and emails of support to be sent to the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith MP, who, as Minister for Women and Equality was responsible for steering the Civil Partnership legislation through Parliament almost three years ago.

A spokesperson at Assist says that already “hundreds of letters” had been received by the Home Office, many of them from outside the UK.

“If you can’t write a letter via the post or manage to send a fax then you could obviously send an email,” the spokesperson said.  (See end of this article for adresses and fax numbers)

“But do bear in mind that emails are easily dismissed while mountains of letters and faxes hang around and embarrass people.  If you email remember to paste the contents of your letter into the body of your text rather than send as an attachment, because attachments are much less likely to be opened and read.”

Tuesday (August 28) is the deadline for the Home Office to receive further representations as to why Ms. Emambakhsh should not be deported.  It is thought that if deportation does go ahead, it could be anytime next week.

Activists from around the world are taking up the case of Ms. Emambakhsh.

In San Francisco, local activists Hank Wilson and Michael Petrellis met with the Deputy British Consul, Mary Gilbert.

“Ms. Gilbert said she would write a memo to the Foreign Office back home that she had met with us,” Mr. Petrellis said after the hastily arranged meeting.  For a report of the meeting see The Petrellis Files

“We remain in solidarity with Pegah and continue to work to prevent her deportation to Iran,” he added.

And in Rome, the Gruppo EveryOne has made representations to the British Embassy.

Roberto Malini of EveryOne Group say that the British Ambassador wrote:  “The United Kingdom repatriates only those who do not need international protection, those who can return to their Country of origin without a risk to their life.”

But the Mr. Malini went on to ask in the report of the representation to the Embassy on the group’s website:  “It is a solemn commitment, but will the British Government honour it?”

Speaking in London, Peter Tatchell of Outrage! said that his group had been working all week on getting Ms. Emambakhsh legal representation and preparing a case to put to the Home Office.

“The UK Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) have chosen not to believe that she is in danger if returned to Iran, even though the UK government are well aware of the terrible situation that gay people face there,” he said.

“The BIA will be committing a serious miscarriage of justice and a gross human rights violation if they insist on Ms Emambhaksh’s deportation.

“We are now getting Pegah new solicitors in order to make a fresh claim for asylum based on new evidence and expert testimonies.  We need a stay of deportation to give Pegah time to prepare and submit this fresh claim.”

Letters of support of for Pegah Emambakhsh should be sent to: Rt. Hon. Jacqui Smith MP, Home Secretary, 2, Marsham St, London, SW1P 4DF.  Because of the urgency and the holiday weekend, faxing the letter is suggested.  The fax number is: + 44 (0) 207 035 3262.

In either case the letter (envelope or fax) should be clearly marked for ‘The personal attention of The Home Secretary’

The Home Secretary’s email address is homesecretary.submissions(at) – replace “(at)” with “@”

“So we can keep a record of what has been written please send a brief email to: pegahletters(at) to let the campaign group know who you have written to and by what form (letters, fax, email),” the Assist spokesperson requested.

■  Newspapers in Iran are now reporting on Pegah Emambakhsh.  Peyke Iran and Asr-e Iran are carrying articles in Persian.
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