Over 150 people turned out on Saturday 22nd for a protest against the deportation of Iranian gay 19-year-old Mehdi Kazemi. Even though the Iranian regime has already executed his boyfriend, Mehdi is in limbo, with the Dutch government and the UK Home Office refusing to let him stay. The protest also highlighted the cases of Pegah Emambakhsh — an Iranian lesbian woman — and Jojo Yakob — a Syrian gay man — also under threat of deportation.
This turnout was particularly pleasing in that it came despite snowy weather and bitter cold. Dozens of activists came from outside London, including groups of students from Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester.
Speakers such as Sofie Buckland (NUS Executive and Feminist Fightback) and David Broder (Middle East Workers’ Solidarity) highlighted the inherent racism of the immigration system and called for the abolition of borders. Similarly, demonstrators chanted slogans including “No borders, no nations, stop deportations!” and “Mehdi must stay!”
They furthermore pointed to the homophobia of people like George Galloway who call themselves left-wing but have refused to back Mehdi Kazemi, instead leaping to the defence of Iran’s theocracy. Opposing war does not mean we have to whitewash the Iranian regime — the anti-war movement needs to be honest if it is to deserve support.
Other speakers at the demonstration opposite Downing Street included Peter Tatchell, Scott Cuthbertson (NUS LGBT), Chris Strafford (Hands Off the People of Iran) and Dave Landau (who advertised the 29 March trade union conference against immigration controls)
Middle East Workers’ Solidarity will continue to defend Middle Eastern asylum seekers from deportation and highlight the issue of immigration controls, as well as opposing war and supporting unions and social movements in the region.
For more info see the MEWS website at www.union-solidarity.org