Saturday, March 8, 2008

Leading article: Squalid priorities

Leading article: Squalid priorities

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Friday, 7 March 2008

It is a curious paradox that, while our Government is often perfectly happy to pour scorn on repressive regimes abroad, when it comes to offering asylum to the persecuted inhabitants of such countries, all this righteous anger seems to evaporate.

All of a sudden, these regimes seem less nasty places after all. Take the case of Iran. Yesterday, we highlighted the case of Mehdi Kazemi, a gay Iranian teenager who was been refused asylum in Britain. Mr Kazemi, 19, fled to Holland but could now be deported back to Britain under a European Union law which says that asylum-seekers should be returned to the first member country in which they claimed asylum.

Our own government, in turn, has signalled its intention to fly Mr Kazemi back to Tehran, where he could very well face the death penalty. And today we report on the case of Pegah Emambakhsh, an Iranian lesbian, who is also facing deportation.

So exactly where does our own Government stand on the Iranian treatment of homosexuals?

While it acknowledges that gay people in Iran have been executed, it argues that there is no "systematic repression". This is mere sophistry. It is surely apparent to anyone who looks at the case history of Mr Kazemi and Ms Emambakhsh, that they face a real risk of persecution if they are deported. Only a government that has put internal political concerns before its international duty to shield those in genuine fear of their lives would be trying to return them to Iran.

Sadly, it seems that is exactly the squalid order of priorities our own Government has adopted.