Supporters of a gay Iranian couple being held in an Australian detention center on the Pacific island of Nauru have had a petition campaign in support of the couple being allowed to live in Australia go viral with at last count 18,960 people signing it.
The campaign was launched through a partnership between Australia’s Human Rights Law Center (HRLC) and global LGBTI rights group AllOut.org.
Nima and Ashkan both fled repressive conditions in Iran but they only met after arriving in Australian waters as boat people.
Nima reached Australia two and a half years ago but because of Australia’s strict policy that forces refugees by boat to be processed off shore in facilities in Nauru and Papua New Guinea he was sent to a Nauruan detention center.
There he met Ashkan and the pair fell in love but since starting their relationship they have faced violence from other refugees as well as local Nauruan people as well.
The couple now live together outside the detention center but say it is too dangerous for them to leave their home other than once a week when a case manager escorts them to the shops to buy food.
Adding to their woes is the fact that Nauru has laws on its books against homosexual acts that could potentially see the couple jailed for as long as 14 years if they were successfully prosecuted.
A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration told the Sydney Morning Herald last week that the couple could apply to resettle in Cambodia through a $55 million deal struck between the Australian and Cambodian governments to resettle asylum seekers.
However only five refugees from offshore detention centers have opted to try to resettle in Cambodia and of those three eventually elected to return to the country they had fled from in the first place.
The Cambodian Government has indicated that it is now unwilling to accept any more refugees.
However unlike heterosexual Iranians, Nima and Ashkan could face the death penalty if they return home if the regime becomes aware of the nature of their relationship.
AllOut.org and HRLC launched their petition campaign on 4 March n the hopes of persuading the Australian Government of their special predicament but are hoping to collect more signatures.
If you would like to add your signature you can find it HERE