Labour’s abuse of gay asylum seekers condemned
Pride stewards manhandle Tatchell, threaten to arrest him
Iranian President ridiculed in protest at homophobic persecution
London – 6 July 2008
Harriet Harman MP, government minister and deputy leader of the Labour Party, was booed and heckled as she spoke from the main stage at the gay Pride London celebrations in Trafalgar Square yesterday (5 July 2008).
“At several points during her speech a bewildered Ms Harman appeared to waiver and had to struggle to be heard,” said gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who was at the side of the stage.
“It got so bad that the gay Pride organisers came on stage and appealed to the crowd to stop jeering and listen to what she had to say. Their appeal had limited effect.
“Hundreds of people in the crowd expressed their anger at the way the Labour government is locking up gay asylum seekers, refusing them refugee status and ordering them to be sent back to violently homophobic countries like Algeria, Uganda, Iran, Nigeria, Iraq and Belarus. Those who are returned are at risk of arrest, imprisonment torture, rape and even murder.
“I tried to explain the crowd’s anger to Ms Harman as she left the stage. But several gay Pride stewards violently shoved me out of the way and threatened to have me arrested. It was needless and unjustified aggression.
“As I was being dragged away by the stewards, Ms Harman shouted for me to contact her. She said: ‘Peter, give me a call and we can discuss your concerns.’ I will take up her offer. I plan to present the government with a six-point plan to end the homophobic bias of the asylum system,” said Mr Tatchell.
Peter Tatchell had earlier marched in the Pride Parade holding a poster placard ridiculing the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It featured a doctored photo of Amhadinejad wearing blue eye shadow, red lipstick, a gold earring and pink nail varnish. The placard was emblazoned with the words: “President of Iran. Murderer. Homophobe.” Next to the President’s tiny wagging finger was a mocking speech bubble with the words: “My penis is this big.”
See photos of the placard here:
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“Sometimes the best way to deflate tyrants is by mocking them,” added Mr Tatchell.
“Ahmadinejad leads a regime that arrests, jails, flogs, tortures and sometimes executes gay people. It also terrorises trade unionists, students, women activists, journalists, bloggers, Sunni Muslims and ethnic minorities like the Ahwazi Arabs, Baluchs and Kurds.
“I don’t support a military attack on Iran, but I do urge greater international solidarity with democratic, liberal and progressive Iranians who are struggling to overthrow the clerical dictatorship from within,” he said.
Speaking from the main stage in Trafalgar Square, Mr Tatchell condemned “President Amadinejad’s violent homophobia” and “the Labour government’s policy of deporting lesbian and gay asylum claimants back to Iran.”
He condemned the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith MP, who last month refused requests for a moratorium on the return of gay asylum seekers to Iran. She claimed “the evidence does not show a real risk of discovery of, or adverse action against, gay and lesbian people who are discreet about their sexual orientation.”
“This is complete nonsense and deeply insulting,” said Mr Tatchell. “It is like saying that Jews in Nazi Germany were safe if they hid their Jewishness.”
At the start of the march Mr Tatchell met the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, urging him to confound his gay critics and show practical support for London’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Mr Tatchell marched in the parade with actor Sir Ian McKellen and Davis Mac-Iyalla, a leader of the Nigerian gay rights movement.
“Mr Mac-Iyalla was recently forced to flee Nigeria after threats and attempts to kill him, following homophobic denunciations by the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, Rev Peter Akinola. Akinola is a leading figure in the conservative splinter group, Gafcon, which opposes women bishops and gay priests, and which supports punitive legal discrimination against lesbian and gay people,” said Mr Tatchell.
“Davis arrived in Britain seeking sanctuary but was incarcerated in an asylum detention centre. The government treated him like a common criminal. It took a frantic lobbying campaign to pressure the Home Office to release Davis. He was only set free from Oakington detention centre at 5pm on Friday, the eve of the Pride London parade. Although it is good that he was released, the Home Office should have never incarcerated him in the first place,” added Mr Tatchell.
In 2007 Harriet Harman MP was elected as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. She has since been appointed by the Prime Minister to serve as Chair of the Labour Party, Leader of the House of Commons, Secretary of State for Equalities, Minister for Women and Lord Privy Seal.