United Kingdom: IGLHRC joins Iranian Queer Organization in asking Britain to Reconsider Deportation

Update: Pegah released from UK detention

The following is a statement from the Iranian Queer Organization that was posted on their website on September 11, 2007 (http://www.irqo.net/IRQO/English/pages/091.htm)

We have some good news at last! Pegah was granted bail this morning, is now out of Yarls Wood Detention Centre and back with people who will love and care for her. The Court of Appeal has also agreed to hear her case. It will be listed within the next couple of weeks and will be heard sometime in the next few months, we believe.

There are also other actions that we know are being taken on her behalf, by influential organizations at a high level in the UK. We really don't think that we would have got this far without the fantastic work you have put in supporting Pegah. She is truly grateful and gives her heartfelt thanks to you all - as do we. It is impossible to overstate the value of your support.

This does not mean that Pegah is out of the woods but she is now in a much more hopeful position. As you will understand Pegah needs time to recover from the ordeal of the past few weeks. She also needs to get back in touch with the ordinary business of living her life in some peace and tranquility. We will keep you updated as events develop.

Love and solidarity to you all

Friends of Pegah Campaign
c/o Victoria Hall Methodist Church
Norfolk Street, Sheffield S1 2JB, UK
email: admin@assistsheffield.org.uk

IGLHRC joins with the Iranian Queer Organization in asking that the British Home Secretary reconsider its apparent decision to deport Pegah Emambakhsh, an Iranian lesbian whose request for asylum was rejected. Given the public exposure this case has prompted, it is highly likely that Ms. Emambakhsh would face severe repercussions should she be forced to return to Iran. Following is IGLHRC’s letter:

IGLHRC logo

August 27, 2007

The Right Honorable Jacqui Smith MP
Home Secretary
2 Marsham St
London, UK SW1P WDF

Re: Home Office Reference number B1191057

Dear Madame Secretary Smith:

As an organization whose mission is to secure the full enjoyment of human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination and abuse on the basis of perceived or expressed sexual orientation and gender identity, the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) was deeply troubled by published reports of the decision of the Home Office to deport Ms. Pegah Emambakhsh to her home country of Iran. As someone whose lesbian identity has now been publicly exposed, it is quite probable that she will face severe repercussions upon her return. The human rights violations against lesbians and gay men in Iran has been well documented, and it is not a country in which there is much doubt about the likelihood that she will face persecution.

In 2005 the Foreign Office minister of the UK stated that “[t]he signs of slight improvement in Iran’s human rights record we saw after Khatami was first elected in 1997 have not been sustained” and acknowledged this fact “as a matter of profound concern for the British Government.” In the two years since this statement was released, there is a new president in Iran, but no signs of a new policy toward the human rights violations of Iranian people.

As a woman who has publicly acknowledged her lesbianism, we fear that Ms. Emambakhsh will face the types of abuses that motivated the Foreign Office minister’s report. Not only have there been accounts of imprisonment, torture and execution performed on open or perceived sexual minorities, but it is reported that Pegah fled Iran after her female lover was subjected to the very abuses that we fear will befall her.

Given the British government’s great support for the human rights of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people, domestically and internationally, we are at a loss to understand how the circumstances facing LGBT Iranians could not have led to a decision to grant asylum and help her settle into a new life. We ask that the deportation order be rescinded and hope to hear soon of your decision to do so.

Sincerely,

Paula L. Ettelbrick
Paula Ettelbrick
Executive Director


IGLHRC works to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression, and/or HIV status. A US-based nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, IGLHRC effects this mission through advocacy, documentation, coalition building, public education, and technical assistance.