There have been some encouraging developments in the case of Saba Rawi, a gay Iranian refugee whom the Dutch government is threatening to repatriate, even though homosexuality in Iran is punishable by death.
Yesterday, the Dutch newspaper reported that gay Iranians aren't the only ones facing extradition -- so are Iranian Christians, and now the Dutch Council of Churches has joined in the clamor against Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk. As has Ayaan Hirsi Ali:
The Lower House temporarily wants to prevent Minister Verdonk from sending any failed asylum-seekers back to Iran. A majority in the House has said that Verdonk should continue with the current moratorium [on deportations].
According to Minister Verdonk, homosexuals and Christians in Iran need not fear persecution or other dangers as long as they keep their sexual orientation or faith to themselves. She thinks that these refugees must be sent back as soon as they're denied a residence permit.
The PvdA, SP, GroenLinks [three leftist opposition parties], D66 [centrist party, member of the governing coalition], and ChristenUnie [conservative Christian opposition party] are not convinced that it's safe for them in such a strict Islamic country. Churches have expressed concerns too. The CDA and VVD [right-wing governing parties] want a debate first. VVD'er [Ayaan] Hirsi Ali [well-known anti-Muslim dissident who is also a member of the Lower House]: 'That must not happen. It contradicts our refugee policy, because after they return, those people face persecution.'
The Dutch gay organization COC notes that the story is finally garnering widespread coverage in the Dutch media. "TheBlogosphere" has started to take notice too -- as opposed to the small-b blogosphere, i.e. the vast world outside the Pajamas stable, which discovered this story several days ago. From PeakTalk:
Verdonk is making the wrong call here, sure, but given the sensitivity of the case I do believe that the department of foreign affairs does a thorough enough job to unearth all the evidence before it makes one. Although statements made by Iranian authorities are by their very nature, questionable.
So: poorly crafted decision, wrong call, terrible precedent.
Interesting that a European government should be so willing to trust the Iranian government's word on its treatment of gays and Christians, but not on other issues -- like, oh, I don't know, say, its nuclear policy.
Today's Volkskrant has more:
Inside and outside the Lower House, there is an outcry over Minister Verdonk's decision to deport failed gay and Christian asylum-seekers to Iran. A majority of the House has asked the minister not to take "any irreversible steps" until talks with her have been held.
D66 lader Van der Laan has called the deportation decision "completely misguided, naïve, and irresponsible." She says that according to research done by human-rights organizations, Iran is "simply unsafe" for gays.
Whether or not gays in Iran can be executed simply for being gay, or only if they're caught engaging in homosexual behavior, or only if there are extenuating circumstances (e.g. allegations of sexual abuse of minors), one thing about Rawi's case seems pretty clear. The COC, apparently referring to Rawi, remarks:
Next week in the Netherlands, there will be another case involving an Iranian asylum-seeker who is involved with the Iranian gay organization PGLO. The fate of this man is also cause for concern if a decision is made to send him back to Iran. All the more because his name regularly shows up on the Internet and his connection to homosexuality can be traced.
The Christian Union, the Council of Churches, the political left, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Holland's largest gay organization, all united against Rita Verdonk. Strange bedfellows indeed.