Deportation of gay Iranian refugees is essentially a death sentence, according to Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Equality Forum. The issue recently came into the spotlight with 19 year old Mehdi Kazemi, who was first denied asylum in the UK and then the Netherlands after his lover was executed in Iran. Kazemi's deportation is still in limbo.
Now Equality Forum is asking the Presidential candidates to encourage British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to halt the deportation of gay Iranian refugees. While Republican nominee John McCain did not respond to any inquiries, both Democratic candidates' campaigns did.
Read their statements after the jump...
Obama's campaign, the first to respond, said in a statement Monday that the senator 'believes that the United States and countries around the world have both a legal and a moral obligation to protect victims of persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
'Under an Obama administration, the United States will lead by setting a strong example, which includes making clear that asylum for persecuted people is a bedrock principle of American and international law,' says the statement. 'Moreover, Obama will exert diplomatic pressure and employ other foreign policy tools to encourage other nations to address human rights abuses and atrocities committed against LGBT men and women.'
Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesperson, would not say whether Obama planned to write to Brown on the issue, as Equality Forum requested.
Lee Feinstein, the Clinton campaign's national security director, said Tuesday that it was tracking the case of Mehdi Kazemi, a 19-year-old gay man living in Britain who faces execution if returned to Iran.
'The campaign has discussed this issue with the U.K. government,' he said. 'We were encouraged to learn that the deportation order for Mr. Kazemi has been deferred and is now under review.'
Feinstein said the campaign would 'continue to follow this issue closely.'
Finally the campaigns are discussing important issues and policy rather than flag pins and "gotcha" moments. International human rights are extremely important and it is a place where our country can make a positive impact if we are committed to it.
I was especially heartened to hear Obama include gender identity and the need for diplomatic pressure in his statement, as well as Clinton's proactive discussion with the UK government.
Perhaps most telling of all is McCain's deafening silence on the issue. You would think someone who has been on the receiving end of torture and human rights atrocities would have the fortitude to stand and do the right thing.
If this doesn't draw a distinct line in the sand for our community, I'm not sure what will.