The British government announced Thursday that it was ending efforts to deport Mehdi Kazemi, a 19-year-old Iranian who has been studying in Britain – a move that should be applauded by human rights activists everywhere. Had he been forced to return to Iran, Kazemi would almost certainly have been executed there. Roger Roberts, one of eight members of the House of Lords who petitioned British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to allow Kazemi to stay in Britain, declared: “There is no doubt that he will be persecuted and possibly face state-sanctioned murder if he is forced to return.”
This is because, while in Britain in 2005, Kazemi learned that his male lover back in Iran had been hanged for the crime of sodomy. He applied for asylum in Britain, was turned down, went to the Netherlands and applied for asylum again, and was turned down again.
The Dutch denied Kazemi’s application because European Union regulations allow someone to apply for asylum in only one EU country. But why did Britain initially turn him down also? Because according to British authorities, Iran does not persecute homosexuals.
According to The Independent, “The Home Office’s own guidance issued to immigration officers concedes that Iran executes homosexual men but, unaccountably, rejects the claim that there is a systematic repression of gay men and lesbians.” Maybe British officials have subscribed to the view of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who famously declared at Columbia University last year: “We don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. We don’t have this phenomenon; I don’t know who’s told you we have it.”
In reality, homosexuality has often been punished with death in Iran. According to the Iranian gay and lesbian rights group Homan, the Iranian government has put to death an estimated 4,000 homosexuals since 1980. Scott Long, director of the Human Rights Watch Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program, notes that Iranians who are suspected of being gay commonly face torture. Hossein Alizadeh of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has declared that in Iran gays live with “constant fear of execution and persecution and also social stigma associated with homosexuality.” On July 19, 2005, when two teenage boys, Mahmoud Asgari, 14, and Ayaz Marhoni, 16, were hanged in a particularly brutal manner in Iran for the crime of homosexual activity. Although Iranian officials insisted that the death sentence was for the rape of a third boy, the National Council of Resistance of Iran has said otherwise. But Asgari and Marhoni were not alone.
Of all this Mehdi Kazemi is well aware. In his asylum application in Britain, he wrote: “The Iranian authorities have found out that I am a homosexual and they are looking for me….If I return to Iran I will be arrested and executed like [my boyfriend]. Since this incident…I have been so scared.”
Yet despite all this, the Left in America, for all its vaunted concern for gay rights, remains largely silent about Iran. Has The Nation, or Katha Pollitt, rushed to Kazemi’s aid? No – not a word about Kazemi has appeared in The Nation. And The Nation is not alone. Although Columbia students did react derisively to Ahmadinejad’s denial that there were homosexuals in Iran, the violent persecution of gays in Iran was well-known in the West long before the President of Iran’s visit there – and yet he was still welcomed enthusiastically by students who would have lustily reviled Pat Robertson or Franklin Graham, neither of whom has ever called for anything remotely close to the execution of gays, had either of them dared to set foot on campus. And a delegation of Columbia professors, according to Tehran’s Mehr News Agency, even planned a trip to Iran in order to present an official apology to Ahmadinejad for the way he was treated by Columbia President Lee Bollinger when he visited the university.
Why did these professors, no doubt all confirmed and proud Leftists, want Columbia to be nice to a government that executes gays?
What’s more, Britain was not alone in its readiness, before the House of Lords petition and a public outcry compelled them to reconsider, to feed the Iranian killing machines. New Zealand authorities last week ordered Bahareh Moradi, a convert to Christianity, to return to Iran within two weeks. They doubted that her conversion to Christianity was genuine; the pastor at her church, however, vouched for her: “She’s a Christian and her life is in danger if she goes back.” Islamic law forbids Muslims to leave Islam, on penalty of death – in accord with Muhammad’s words, “If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’”
In contrast, at the end of February the European court of human rights ruled that Italy could not send convicted jihad terrorist Nassim Saadi back to Tunisia, on the grounds that he would be face torture there. Can there be no such consideration for Mehdi Kazemi? Or is such protection afforded only to those dedicated to the destruction of the West? Bruce Bawer, author of the indelible chronicle of Europe’s suicide, While Europe Slept, remarked to me about the curious inconsistency of the British government as revealed by the Kazemi case:
The Queen knighted Iqbal Sacranie, who cheered the Rushdie fatwa; London mayor Ken Livingstone honored the appalling terrorist defender Yusuf al-Qaradawi; and the Archbishop of Canterbury has called for a parallel system of sharia law in the U.K. Forty to sixty percent of Muslims in Britain tell pollsters they want sharia in that country, and every day the British government welcomes more immigrants who agree with them. Britain doles out massive amounts of financial support to schools that teach jihad, imams who preach it, and ordinary believers who support it; and it keeps accommodating sharia in various ways, most recently by deciding to recognize Muslim polygamy for the purposes of calculating welfare payments.
But this same government has now turned down an asylum request from somebody who – far from being a supporter of sharia and jihad – would be one immigrant from the Muslim world who would be a 100% guaranteed staunch believer in the freedoms for which Britons, in their finest hour, stood up alone against the Nazis. For all the irrational, despicable, and self-destructive acts of dhimmitude Her Majesty’s Government has committed in recent years, few things that it has done have demonstrated its utter moral blindness in the face of Islam more starkly than its refusal to offer sanctuary to Mehdi Kazemi.
Indeed. And, as Bahareh Moradi’s case illustrates, that “utter moral blindness in the face of Islam” is not found in Britain alone. Mehdi Kazemi may be safe, but there are many other Mehdi Kazemis who are not safe. It is good that Kazemi can stay in Britain for now, but there is still no general outcry in Britain or in the West in general against human rights abuses in Iran, and still no consistent effort to stand against them. There is still no recognition on the Left of its outrageous double standards, as it focuses its energy on combating conservative Christianity’s opposition to gay marriage while saying nothing about Islam’s death penalty for homosexuals.
How many more people will the mullahs murder before the West ends its indifference?