Sweden “must stop sending homosexuals back to Iran”

A Swedish gay rights group has called on the government to immediately halt all deportations of homosexuals to Iran, saying two young men were hanged there this week for committing a "homosexual act".

“There are clear examples that homosexuals are killed in Iran for their sexual orientation. I think the Swedish government is extremely cynical when it sends gays and lesbians back to Iran,” Sören Andersson, head of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), told AFP.

The two men, one of whom was under 18 years of age, were hanged on Tuesday, officially for raping a 13-year-old boy at knife-point, but Andersson said it was possible that they had in fact only had sex with each other.

“It is not unusual that one uses such charges as an excuse (to execute homosexuals) in such reactionary states as Iran,” he insisted.

Before their hanging in northeastern Iran, both convicts were also reportedly given 228 lashes each for drinking, disturbing the peace and theft.

Sweden’s asylum policy makes it illegal for the government to deport any person “who due to her/his sex or homosexuality experiences a well-founded fear of persecution”, but authorities have claimed that the death penalty for sodomy is no longer in force, allowing it to send gay asylum seekers back to Iran.

“They keep looking for excuses to send them back there, but it is dangerous for homosexuals in Iran,” Andersson said.

Sweden, which is considered one of the world’s most liberal countries when it comes to gay rights and gender equality, “has always wanted to be the voice of human rights in the world. The deportations of homosexuals to Iran is a stain on Sweden’s reputation”, he said.

The Swedish Migration Board told AFP on Friday that it does not keep statistics on the grounds rejected asylum seekers had used in their asylum applications.

“It’s difficult to know how many cases there have been,” agency spokeswoman Marie Andersson said.

RFSL asylum seeker attorney Stig Åke Petersson however claims that some 10 homosexuals and transsexuals have their asylum applications turned down each year.

“They are sent back or disappear somehow. One transsexual whose case was turned down committed suicide last year. I guess that was preferable to going back,” he told AFP.

In 2004 at least 159 people were executed in Iran – the highest rate in the world after China – according to Amnesty International.

Iran’s capital offences include murder, rape, armed robbery, apostasy, blasphemy, serious drug trafficking, repeated sodomy, adultery or prostitution, treason and espionage.