Saturday, May 15, 2010

Britain Refuses Lesbian Iranian Filmmaker’s Asylum Request


Kiana Firouz, 27 years old, is an outspoken Iranian LGBT rights activist, filmmaker, and actress. When clips of her video documentary work featuring the struggle and persecution of gays and lesbians in her country were acquired by Iranian intelligence, agents began to follow Firouz around Tehran, harassing and intimidating her. She fled for England where she could safely continue her work and studies.
She plays a starring role in Cul de Sac, a documentary film produced in the UK about the condition of lesbians in Iran, and based heavily on Firouz’s own life story. Directed by Ramin Goudarzi-Nejad and Mahshad Torkan, the movie will premiere in London in a few days. Since the trailer was posted on YouTube in December 2009, Cul de Sac has attracted global media attention, with thousands of views. Apparently, some of those views included members of Ahmadinejad’s puppet media in Iran. They know who Firouz is and what she stands for. They may want her to come back to the country she was born in to answer for it.
Still from Cul de Sac.
Firouz, understandably, has requested asylum from the British government. Much to everyone’s shock and dismay, the British Home Office has rejected her application for refugee status. Yes, they know she’s gay. Yes, they know she could be deported back to Iran at any time, and that if this happens, Firouz will most likely be sentenced to torture and death after being found guilty of the “unspeakable sin of homosexuality” because she has participated in explicit lesbian sex scenes in the movie, and been a fierce proponent for human rights in her country.
In Iran, the punishment for lesbianism involving mature consenting women consists of 100 lashes. This punishment can be applied up to three times. After a fourth violation of Iranian law, a woman convicted of “unrepentant homosexuality” is finally executed by hanging, often publicly, in front of a howling mob.
Kiana filed for a court appeal following the Home Office’s decision to reject her application for asylum, but the judge overruled her appeal. According to Kiana’s lawyer, the last remaining chance is to appeal the judge’s decision, but the risk of deportation is imminent.
The EveryOne Group, an international human rights organization, which was involved in the asylum cases of the lesbian Pegah Emambakhsh, who risked being deported from London to Tehran in 2007, and of the Iranian gay, Mehdi Kazemi, appeals to the British government and the democratic forces of the European Union, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, that Kiana Firouz be immediately guaranteed adequate humanitarian protection and that the order for her deportation be repealed, given that on return to Iran she will face a death sentence not only because a lesbian but because of her civil rights activism.
The EveryOne activists invite concerned readers to send protest e-mail messages to the British Home Office (public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk) requesting that Kiana receive refugee status as soon as possible, for she is a symbol of the international fight against homophobia and repression of gays and lesbians in Islamic countries.

I’ve spent a fair amount of my day researching, fact-checking and  attempting to verify this story, and I can’t figure it out: why is this news not EVERYWHERE right now? Why is this petition for Firouz so anemic? There should be hundreds of thousands of names on that list.

And yet, I am only just catching wind of Firouz’s story from a chance visit to Kim Boekbinder’s blog, where Kim posted a heartbreaking letter written by an Italian friend of hers, Sylvia K.

An excerpt:

No major newspaper even remotely talks about Kiana’s story, nor do gay activists. People don’t seem to care much at all. I do. Last night I wrote to Kiana. Nothing much, only to say that I was so saddened and angry, that her story had moved and inspired me and that I was SO thankful to her for standing up for what she truly believed in… This morning before going out I found her reply. It goes like this :

“Dear Sylvia
I am proud of you. we should proud of each other for being strong. I am so thankful for your supportive and kindly letter. It does not matter what is going to happen to me. Its all about freedom.
Take care and do not forget you are not alone, we are many…
Kiana”

I wrote it on a piece of paper and hurried out of the house.
I spent the greater part of this rainy day sitting in one of the University’s courtyards, crying alone [...]  I look at myself, always complaining about homophobia in Italy, about the fact we have no equal rights, and I feel like a fucking piece of shit. Because for me, it is SO easy to go to London, to Paris, to Berlin and be the butchest fiercest lesbian around, without having to be afraid of being lashed 100, 200, 300 times and then hung, a thick rope around my neck, people rejoicing all around.

It does matter what happens to Kiana Firouz. This should not be a reality for her, or anyone else.
Here is the official Cul de Sac website.
Here is the petition endorsed by Kiana Firouz herself.
And this is her story.
Let’s make some noise, comrades.

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