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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Never mind Latvian gay rights and the EU, what about Iraq's pogrom of gays?

Source: Left Foot Forward

By Paul Canning

Stonewall and Ben Bradshaw's talking points got another outing last week and scored what must have pleased both them and Gay Times no end, a 'gotcha' moment for Cameron on gay issues.

What is frustrating as political leaders do these rare interviews on gay issues is that there's one area where their glaring failure rarely gets questioned: LGBT asylum and - allied to that - support for LGBT in those parts of the world where they are most at threat.

The UK has a terrible record with case-after-case of people fleeing torture, arrest, 'honour' killing and the like needing campaigning and years of expensive legal effort to force the Home Office to grant them sanctuary.

Harriet Harman was booed at the London Pride rally two years ago following the well-publicised case of Mehdi Kazemi. The teenage Iranian had seen his boyfriend murdered by the Mullas but it took a massive campaign before Jacqui Smith relented. Home Office Minister Lord West actually said that "we do not consider that there is systematic persecution of gay men in Iran."

Campaigners have sought Home Office changes for years to little effect.

Only last month the High Court blocked the government from deporting a Ugandan lesbian who was on a police list.

Now we have the leader of Iraqi LGBT, an incredibly brave man who has saved countless lives from the pogroms in Iraq, being denied asylum and hence travel rights - so he can take up American and European offers to talk with politicians and visit TV studios.

Yet only Johann Hari's recent interviews of Brown, Cameron and Clegg for the Independent has mentioned asylum. This produced the irony of Cameron sounding more liberal than Brown as Hari asked the same question about the policy of telling people to 'go home and be discrete'. It also produced a bizarre Daily Mail headline 'Cameron: Gay refugees from Africa should be given asylum in UK' - when Africa hadn't been mentioned.

But Hari did the same thing as other gay journalists and zoomed in on the Conservative's relationship to eastern European homophobes.

Those journalists' priorities match those of gay and lesbian Labour MPs and Labour LGBT. This when we have executions in Iran, a 'kill the gays' bill in Uganda and looming repression in the rest of Africa plus that ongoing pogrom in Iraq. None of those MPs has raised a finger to help (yes Brown did complain to Museveni but one isolated swallow doesn't make a summer).

The Foreign Office proudly trumpets its gay rights work but its almost entirely European. It's second Human Rights report has some information about Iraq - sourced from the same person Labour's Home Office says does not have a "compelling" case. Only Labour's Michael Cashman MEP has a record to be proud of on international LGBT issues.

By contrast look at what's happening in the US State Department through Hillary Clinton's leadership on truly international gay rights work.

As the booing of Harman showed LGBT voters are aware of Labour's big failing on LGBT asylum. And no ammount of spin helped by gay journalists and pointing at the Tories can cover up the big homophobic stink emanating from the Home Office.

Mehdi Kazemi: a reminder


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