It is great news to me that an Iranian Christian convert - after much suffering in New Zealand has finally been given refuge. Ali Panah, a man so concerned at being sent back to Iran after he converted from Islam to Christianity, starved for seven weeks in 2007 to bring attention to his and other Iranians’ plight.
Mr Panah may indeed have been back in Tehran facing persecution if current Labour Party Finance spokesperson David Cunliffe and former Prime Minister Helen Clark had been able to overcome an impasse with Iran whereby Iranian citizens were shoved back into the hands of the Iranian religious police.
I want to be fair to Ms Clark and Mr Cunliffe and hope that now the influence of NZ First is hopefully no more, they will return to advocating on behalf of those whose human rights are being trampled rather than merely mouthing whatever the NZ Immigration Service’s officials believe is the correct line.
Photo Credit: Lyndon Hood of Scoop
Mr Cunliffe prior to being Immigration Minister had actually written letters of support for another Iranian, Thomas Yadegary, in which Mr Cunliffe pointed out that Mr Yadegary would be persecuted should he be sent back to Iran. Mr Yadegary spent many years locked up in NZ jails before finally being let out on bail late in 2008.
During the time Mr Yadegary was incarcerated Mr Cunliffe had surprisingly decided Iran was actually completely safe for Christian converts. I think anyone that is willing to spend years locked up in Auckland Central Remand to stay in New Zealand would probably make a good hard working citizen anyway. And the ability of the Clark-Labour administration to indifferently sanction people being locked up indefinitely is a stain on its record that will take some effort in Opposition to forget. NoRightTurn pulled some figures out on this subject that I consider absolutely shocking.
I hope that the new government will look to the story of current Prime Minister John Key, a man whose Jewish mother fled Nazi persecution and realise that refugees can make extremely valuable contributions to New Zealand life – though it helps if they are out working rather than being kept locked up at Auckland Central Remand.