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Save Mehdi Kazemi

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The hypocrisy of the British state knows no bounds, writes Mark Booth. While drumming up support for a war with Iran, based upon the oppression and barbaric nature of the theocratic regime, the government is intent on deporting Iranian asylum seekers, who face death at the hands of the regime.

The Islamic regime has executed more than 4,000 lesbians and gay men since it took power, following the Iranian revolution in 1979.

This is the fate facing Mehdi Kazemi, a gay teenager whose boyfriend was hanged by the regime in 2006 for the "crime" of being homosexual. Fearing for his life if he returned to Iran, he attempted to claim asylum in Britain where he was studying. After being refused asylum and fearing deportation back to Iran, he fled to Holland and attempted to seek refuge there.

Now his case is being decided by a Dutch appeals court. But if they decide he cannot claim asylum in Holland, he will be returned to Britain, where he will be deported to Iran. Since coming under pressure from human rights groups and gay rights campaigners, the government has said it will review Kazemi's case. However, the sheer fact they even considered sending this man back speaks volumes about the Labour government's support for gay rights - and its claims of humanitarian motives behind the economic sanctions and warlike thundering against Iran.

While we condemn unreservedly the brutal practices of the regime and its oppression of lesbians, gays, women, ethnic minorities, trade unionists and socialists, the anti-war movement cannot allow this case to be used to build up support for an attack on Iran. Any supposed support for "gay rights" shown by the imperialist powers is - like their support for "women's rights" in Afghanistan - just window-dressing for their plans for invasion and occupation.

The case of Afghanistan shows clearly, the situation for women does not improve following an imperialist invasion and occupation; neither will the position of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Iran. What the Iranian masses need is not "liberation" from above, by the most oppressive capitalist superpowers, but a revolution, led by the Iranian working class, to overthrow the regime and establish a workers' state, in which equal rights are afforded to all, regardless of sex, religion, ethnicity or sexuality, and in which the great wealth of the country can finally be used to raise the living standards of the people and eradicate poverty and oppression across the Middle East through a federation of socialist republics.

Galloway - a disgrace
What a disgrace, therefore, that George Galloway abused his position in the Stop the War Coalition, and declared from the platform at the 15 March London rally that: "the khaki war machine now has its pink contingent."

This was not even a one-off, loose remark. Two days previously, while reviewing the national dailies on Channel 5's The Wright Stuff, Galloway said, "all the papers seem to imply that you get executed in Iran for being gay. That's not true." This is a blatant lie! But like all homophobes, Galloway likes to suggest that, far from being persecuted, gay people have somehow seized control of the media and are perpetuating a "myth" about gays being killed. Hmmm, where have we heard that sort of denial before?

He then followed up this up with a particularly pernicious lie about Mehdi's partner, claiming he was hung, "but not for being gay, for committing sex crimes against young men". According to Brett Lock of lesbian and gay rights campaign OutRage! not even the Iranian authorities have made this claim. So despite going on to claim he is against Mehdi's deportation, Galloway is intent on smearing the reputation of his executed lover and, by implication Mehdi, himself.

Indeed, it makes one wonder what sort of regime George Galloway would impose, were he ever to be in power. Respect? We think not!

George Galloway has courageously stood up against the US and UK's wars and occupations in the Middle East. For that he should be supported. But he has many abhorrent views, which spring from his political tradition - Stalinism. In Stalinist Russia and, until recently, Fidel Castro's Cuba, homosexuality was considered a crime.

But this has nothing to do with VI Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who repealed every single one of the Tsar's anti-gay laws in December 1917, one month after taking power. Even as late as 1923, the official soviet line was summed up in a pamphlet, The Sexual Revolution in Russia:

"Concerning homosexuality, sodomy, and various other forms of sexual gratification, which are set down in [Western] European legislation as offences against public morality – Soviet legislation treats these exactly the same as so-called 'natural' intercourse. All forms of sexual intercourse are private matters."

The anti-war movement has a duty to criticise the barbaric practices of the Islamic government and support those struggling against it. To gloss over its anti-democratic and anti-working class dictatorship would leave the antiwar movement open to the charge that it does not support the rights of those struggling against the regime, and allow the imperialists to pose as the real supports of human rights. Further, in Iran itself, as was made abundantly clear in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, social, religious and ethnic oppression merely makes a country less capable of self defence against imperialist attack.

We call on the Stop the War Coalition - and all its affiliates, including trade unions - to publicly distance itself from George Galloway's remarks, to denounce them and to add their weight to the pressure on Galloway to fully retract his comments and to campaign openly for political asylum for Mehdi Kazemi and all those facing persecution because of their sexual orientation.