Some URL adresses focusing on Iran’s execution of gays:
-Iran Reportedly Executes Two More Gay Men – November 13, 2005
-Iran Hangs Two Young Homosexuals – November 13, 2005
-Iran Executions – 92 people in four and a half months
-Iran Purge of Moderates Extends to Governors and Banks
-Canada pushes for adoption of UN resolution on human rights in Iran
-Iran Publicly Hangs Young Man in North of Country
Gay Middle East Web Site: http://www.gaymiddleeast.com/
More information about Islam & Homosexuality can be found at: www.al-fatiha.org
Other articles of interest can be found at: groups.yahoo.com/group/al-fatiha-news
Queer Muslim magazine: Huriyah
Gay Islam discussion groups:
January 25, 2005 (Also see story #1-a below)
Changing Their Sex in Iran–‘There is no reason why not,’ one cleric says of gender reassignment surgery. In fact, Khomeini approved it four decades ago.
by Megan K. Stack Times Staff Writer
Tehran – Whispering like conspirators, the two cousins hook their thumbs in their belt loops, skim cocky eyes over the women and swivel, stiff-legged from their hips, like the men they have become. Across the room, and a few steps away on the gender spectrum, a man with shaggy hair wrinkles a pug nose in the mirror and struggles to drape a silky scarf over his head in the style of Islamic womanhood.
Almost everybody here, in this sterilized waiting room at a clinic in the clanging heart of Tehran, is in the midst of changing their sex. Waiting their turn to see the doctor, they strut about in self-conscious gender rehearsal. Someone has brought cookies, sweet with honey. " I was married. I had a wife and children," says Maria Pakgohar, a curvaceous former truck driver wearing flower barrettes and fake furs. She claims she’s in her 40s but flashes an identification card giving her age as 62. "The cleric came to my house and said to my wife: ‘What do you want from him? He’s a woman, not a man.’ "
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, gay male sex still carries the death penalty and lesbians are lashed, but hundreds of people are having their gender changed legally, bolstered by the blessings of members of the ruling Shiite clergy. " Approval of gender changes doesn’t mean approval of homosexuality. We’re against homosexuality," says Mohammed Mahdi Kariminia, a cleric in the holy city of Qom and one of Iran’s foremost proponents of using hormones and surgery to change sex. "But we have said that if homosexuals want to change their gender, this way is open to them."
Not that it’s easy in Iran. The Islamic Republic remains a fundamentally traditional, conservative society, laced by harsh judgments and strict mores. A blizzard of clerical decrees is unlikely to make a mother eager to see her son become a woman or enlighten leery co-workers who squirm at hearing their colleague’s voice drop a few octaves. And the government’s response is fractured, with some officials remaining opposed to sex change.
" The people our age, they all know and accept us," says Toumik Martin, a brusque 28-year-old businessman who was born a girl named Anita, leaning in close to be heard over the cacophony of ambiguous tenors bouncing off the waiting room walls. "Our problem is with the parents. They don’t know how to differentiate between transsexuals, gays and lesbians." Like their brethren around the world, these people have complicated, often sorrowful, stories. They have been cast out by their families and fired from their jobs. They have struggled to find love.
Martin, who became a man six years ago, proposed marriage to the woman he’d loved ever since they were classmates.
" She said, ‘Yes, I love you, I understand you, but I don’t know about my parents,’ " says Martin, who has a prospering business importing vitamins from Russia.
When the couple approached the woman’s parents, they were flatly rejected. "They think I’m a lesbian," Martin says. "They said, ‘We won’t give our daughter to a girl.’ Especially her mother, she was very hard with me." His heart was broken, and the relationship faded. When Dr. Bahrom Mir-Djalali first began performing sex-change operations 15 years ago, he endured death threats from scandalized parents. One father, he recalls, showed him a dagger and vowed to slash his throat. But slowly, he says, society has come around. He measures the shift in the fights with the families, which he says have become less drastic.
"This is an Islamic country, and very, very old-fashioned," says Mir-Djalali, a white-haired surgeon who studied sex-change procedures in Paris. "I try to tell people, ‘They don’t have horns, they are normal people.’ But it’s hard for society to accept. At least now we have a discussion about it."
Iran isn’t the only Muslim society that appears to be growing more accepting of sex changes while still shunning homosexuality. A Kuwaiti court recently decreed that a 29-year-old man who had changed his gender could live legally as a woman. That decision was later overturned by a higher court, but it provoked a startling debate in a country where the subject of homosexuality remains taboo. In Saudi Arabia, an Islamic judge backed an heir’s right to keep the larger share of inheritance given to sons even though the heir had undergone surgery to become a woman. Even Al Azhar, the ancient seat of Sunni Muslim learning in Cairo, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, in the mid-1990s that approved gender changes in some cases.
But no Muslim society has tackled the question with the open-mindedness of Shiite Iran. That’s probably because the father of the revolution himself, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, penned the groundbreaking fatwas that approved gender reassignment four decades ago. Khomeini reasoned that if men or women wished so intensely to change their sex, to the point that they believed they were trapped inside the wrong body, then they should be permitted to transform that body and relieve their misery. His opinion had more to do with what isn’t in the Koran than what is. Sex change isn’t mentioned, Khomeini’s thinking went, so there are no grounds to consider it banned. " There is no reason why not," says Kariminia, the cleric. "Each human being is the owner of his body, and therefore he can make changes."
Before Khomeini, some Islamic edicts had approved sex changes for hermaphrodites, but nobody had given carte blanche for sex reassignment without medical deformities. To this day, some Shiite clerics argue against operating on healthy bodies.
But in a low stone house in the twisting alleys of Qom, Kariminia is writing his doctoral thesis on transgender law. His writings tease out the work of Khomeini, tackling legal questions such as: If a married woman wishes to become a man, must she first get permission from her husband? Must a man seek permission from his wife?
" Islam has recognized the rights of transgender. We can’t say to anybody that they must be a man or a woman," Kariminia says. "But do you think just because they don’t have legal or Islamic problems, their problems are solved? I certainly do not." Iran’s acceptance of sex-reassignment operations raises the specter that gays and lesbians may be able to find a place for themselves here only by changing their gender. Some transgender patients complain that lesbians and gays are exploiting the surgery to create a legal way to sleep with their preferred partners.
Mir-Djalali, a kinetic man with an irrepressible enthusiasm for spelling out the more delicate details of the surgeries, says that in 15 years he’s transformed about 320 men into women, and 70 women into men. He is careful to point out that those were only half of the would-be patients who came to his office. He disqualified the others after they were examined by a panel of three psychiatrists.
The psychiatric team tries to sort out homosexuality from gender disorder by asking a series of questions. A man hoping to become a woman, for example, is asked whether he has dreamed of removing his penis. Gay men recoil at the idea, the doctor says — but transgender men are eager at the suggestion. "They say, ‘Yes, yes, yes, I’ve always dreamed of it,’ " Mir-Djalali says.
But the screening is the only restriction in Iran’s relatively lax system. In most countries where sex-change operations are performed, doctors urge their patients to live for some time in the guise of their preferred gender before taking any drastic measures. But in Iran, there’s no waiting period. After passing the psychological screening, the patients are hustled into treatment. After all, in the interim they are considered gay, and therefore outlaws.
"By the time they come to me, they’ve made up their minds," Mir-Djalali says. "They’ve already worn makeup and women’s dresses. They don’t need to try." The 25 years since the revolution have been an era of turmoil and liberation for Iran’s transgender community. Despite the tolerance contained in Khomeini’s fatwas, many suffered bitterly when he came to power, caught in revolutionary purges meant to turn Iran into a pure Islamic republic.
"Twenty years ago, we were living in secret and with fear," says Maryam Khatoon Molkara, 54, one of the elder stateswomen of the transgender movement. "I wanted to become a woman and also do something for the others." Today Molkara lives in a second-floor walk-up in a dingy part of Tehran, where she receives her visitors in a cramped sitting room with pink walls and baffling layers of mirrors. There are books of religion and poetry and paintings of Ali — cousin of the prophet Muhammad and a revered figure among Shiites — and his trusty sword, Zulfiqar.
In the chaotic early days of the revolution, Molkara was taunted and harassed by overzealous mobs. So many transgendered people were rounded up by the regime that a special jail wing was built for them. Molkara grew depressed. "I wanted to die," she says, waves of perfume wafting from her muumuu. Instead, she appealed to the government, working her way up the chain of clerics until she spoke with Khomeini’s brother. It was he who took her to see Khomeini himself. That same day, Molkara won the right to live as a woman. On Khomeini’s orders, the clerics gave her a chador and registered her as a woman in the government directories.
" It was like heaven," she remembers dreamily. "I was born again."
But it was only the beginning of Molkara’s fight. She recently teamed up with sympathetic Iranian officials — including the head of the Special Court of Clergy and the vice president for women’s affairs — to form an organization devoted to transgender rights. At her prodding, a government-linked Islamic charity named after Khomeini recently agreed to provide loans to pay for the surgeries. Still, Molkara is not satisfied. She doesn’t like the government-issue identity card that spells out her former life as a man. She doesn’t like the hard-liners who’ve threatened her. One official even sneered that she’d tricked Khomeini, she says. In short, she is hoping to push transgenders even further into the Iranian mainstream. "Nobody ever asks why a dog is a dog," she says. "And yet they always have to explain that I was once a man."
July 28, 2005 (Also see story #1 above)
One woman’s courage in appealing to the late Ayatollah Khomeini has made Tehran the sex change capital
by Robert Tait
It could take something extraordinary to move the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa (or religious and legal decree). Novelist Salman Rushdie did it by challenging the sanctity of the prophet Mohammed in "The Satanic Verses," provoking Iran’s austere revolutionary leader into pronouncing the death sentence. For Maryam Khatoon Molkara it required the equally dramatic step of confronting Khomeini in person and proving, in graphic terms, that she was a woman trapped inside a man’s body.
To do so, she had to endure a ferocious beating from bodyguards before coming face to face with the ayatollah in his living room, covered in blood, dressed in a man’s suit and, thanks to a course of hormone treatment, sporting fully formed female breasts.
"It was behesht [paradise]," Molkara, 55, says of the meeting 22 years ago. "The atmosphere, the moment and the person were paradise for me. I had the feeling that from then on there would be a sort of light." Light or not, the encounter produced, in turn, a religious judgment that — unlike the unfulfilled edict on Rushdie — has had an enduring effect that still resonates. Because today, the Islamic Republic of Iran occupies the unlikely role of global leader for sex changes.
In contrast to almost everywhere else in the Muslim world, sex change operations are legal in Iran for anyone who can afford the minimum $3,500 cost and satisfy interviewers that he or she meets necessary psychological criteria. As a result, women who endured agonizing childhood and adolescent experiences as boys, and — albeit in fewer numbers — young men who reached sexual maturity as girls, are easy to find in Tehran. Iran has even become a magnet for patients from eastern European and Arab countries seeking to change their gender.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday morning in Dr. Bahram Mir-Jalali’s Tehran clinic, young men and women gather in preparation for a new start on the opposite side of the gender divide. Many are desperate, seeing the operation as an escape from a confused sexual identity that has led to parental rejection and persecution by police and religious vigilantes.
Ali-Reza, 24, wearing thick makeup, has livid red burn marks on his arm after his father poured boiling water over him in a rage over his "sexual deviancy." "I have attempted suicide three times," he says. "The interpretation of my family was that having a child like me was a punishment from God. My parents were religious and traditional, and they called me trash under the name of Islam."
Others voice feelings of spiritual renewal after the surgery. "It’s like a rebirth," says Hasti, formerly Hassan, now reinvented as a svelte, leggy 20-year-old who is planning to marry her German fiancé. "I’ve even forgotten my male birthday. I only remember my female birthday, the day when I received the operation. It was very painful, but I feel happy whereas before I was always crying."
Mir-Jalali, 66, a Paris-trained surgeon, has performed 320 gender operations in the past 12 years. Around 250 have involved the complex and physically painful process of transforming men into women by creating female genitals through a skin graft from the intestines. In a European country, he says, he would have carried out fewer than 40 such procedures over the same period. The reason for the discrepancy, he says, is Iran’s strict ban on homosexuality, as required by the Quran.
" In Iran, homosexuality is treated as a crime carrying the death penalty," he says. "In Europe and North America, it is accepted. Transsexuals aren’t homosexuals. Unlike homosexuals, they suffer from a separation of body and soul where they believe their own body doesn’t belong to them. But in Europe they can have a free life. They aren’t under the same pressure to change their sex. In Iran, transsexuals suffer from a lack of awareness, within their own family and in wider society. That increases the psychological pressure and contributes to the higher number of operations here."
Nevertheless, the surgery’s availability has provided deliverance to a community that was once cowed and confined to a secret underground existence. Bringing it about has required a theological rethink from Iran’s Shiite Islamic rulers, accustomed to rigidly traditional stances on sexual matters.
Indeed, Islamic scholars are still trying to reconcile the fatwa with religious thinking. Hojatolislam Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia, a cleric based in the holy city of Qom, is writing a Ph.D. thesis on transsexuality. "The basic humanity of the person is preserved," is his conclusion. "The change is simply of characteristics."
This situation would have been unthinkable were it not for the bravery and persistence of Molkara, who embarked on a personal odyssey that brought persecution and abuse in her quest for Khomeini’s official blessing. Khomeini had pronounced on gender problems in a book written in 1963, when he indicated there was no religious proscription against corrective surgery. However, says Molkara, the statement applied only to hermaphrodites, defined as those bearing both male and female genital characteristics. It provided no remedy for those — such as Molkara — who physically belonged to one gender but were convinced that they were members of the opposite sex.
In 1975, Molkara — then working with Iranian television and going by her male name of Fereydoon — wrote the first of several letters to the ayatollah, then exiled in Iraq in opposition to the shah. "I told him I had always had the feeling that I was a woman," she says. "I wrote that my mother had told me that even at the age of 2, she had found me in front of the mirror putting chalk on my face the same way a woman puts on her makeup. He wrote back, saying that I should follow the Islamic obligations of being a woman."
In 1978 Molkara traveled to Paris, where Khomeini was by then based, to lobby him in person. She was unsuccessful, and the subsequent Islamic revolution, far from easing the transsexuals’ path, cast them into darkness. Some were locked up in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison while others were stoned to death. Molkara, meanwhile, was fired from her job, forcibly injected with male hormones and confined to a psychiatric institution.
Thanks to her contacts with influential clerics, Molkara was released and resolved to keep fighting. She lobbied several leading figures in the regime, including Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who later became president. All urged her to write once again to Khomeini. "I couldn’t continue like this," she says. "I knew I could get the operation easily enough in London, but I wanted the documentation so I could live."
Desperate for the religious blessing that would confer legal protection in staunchly Islamic Iran, Molkara decided on a fateful step. Donning a man’s suit, she walked to Khomeini’s heavily protected compound in north Tehran, carrying a copy of the Quran. In an additional piece of religious symbolism, she had tied shoes around her neck. The gesture — redolent of Ashura, the Shiite festival depicting the heroism of the third imam Hossein — was meant to convey that she was seeking shelter.
At first, it failed to provide her with any. As she approached the compound, armed security guards pounced and began beating her. They stopped only when Khomeini’s brother, Hassan Pasandide, witnessing the scene, intervened and took Molkara into his house. There, Molkara — then bearded, tall and powerfully built — hysterically tried to explain her predicament. "I was screaming, ‘I’m a woman, I’m a woman,’" she says. The security guards, fearing Molkara was carrying explosives, were anxious about the band wrapped around her chest. She removed it to reveal the female breasts underneath. The women in the room rushed to cover her with a chador.
By then, Khomeini’s son, Ahmad, had arrived and was moved to tears by Molkara’s story. Amid the emotion, it was decided to take Molkara to the supreme leader himself. On meeting the nearly mythic figure in whom she had invested such hope, Molkara fainted. " I was taken into a corridor," Molkara says. "I could hear Khomeini raising his voice. He was blaming those around him, asking how they could mistreat someone who had come for shelter. He was saying, ‘This person is God’s servant.’ He had three of his trusted doctors in the room, and he asked what the difference was between hermaphrodites and transsexuals. What are these ‘difficult neutrals,’ he was saying. Khomeini didn’t know about the condition until then. From that moment on, everything changed for me."
Molkara left the Khomeini compound with a letter addressed to the chief prosecutor and the head of medical ethics giving religious authorization for her — and, by implication, others like her — to surgically change their gender. It was the fatwa she had sought. Subsequently, Molkara struggled to convince fellow transsexuals of their rights and to introduce the requisite medical standards for sex change operations to Iran. She only completed her gender change four years ago, ironically undergoing the surgery in Thailand because of unhappiness with procedures in her native country.
Today she runs Iran’s leading transsexual campaign group and has become the community’s spokesperson. But two security monitors in her living room attest to her vulnerability in a society still intolerant of sexual unorthodoxy. "It is hard to live with constant fear," she says. "I hope things are easier for the next generation of transsexuals. Every time a transsexual is arrested by the police I am called to bail them out. Outside the police station there will be a crowd of vigilantes waiting to beat me or stone my car." A brief encounter with Iran’s hallowed religious leader may have brought light. But for many Iranians, enlightenment has yet to dawn.
April 20, 2005
Gay Iranian Kills Himself After UK Asylum Appeal Denied
by Peter Moore
A gay man who feared he would be executed if he were deported to his native Iran killed himself after the British government turned down his second appeal for asylum a coroner’s inquest was told on Tuesday. Hussein Nasseri, 26, was terrified of being returned to Iran where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death. An inquest this week into his death was told that Nasseri entered the UK in March 2000 and claimed asylum. He told authorities that he had been persecuted because of his sexuality and had been thrown in jail when it was discovered he was gay.
Nasseri managed to escape and made his way to England. A friend testified at the inquest that Nasseri was in panic after learning that his asylum application had been denied. “I saw him two weeks before he died. He was very upset. He said he wanted to kill himself. He said he had bought a gun to kill himself,” his friend, Nader Ashkani, also from Iran, testified. On June 25, last year, just days after learning he would be deported Nasseri shot himself between the eyes with an airgun modified to fire .22 caliber bullets. The plight of gay asylum seekers has been highlighted by LGBT rights group Outrage. The group has accused the Labor government of callousness.
Another case is that of a 25 year old Algerian who is also facing deportation. The man, identified by Outrage as Saad B, has lived in the UK since he was 15. He has a good job and a domestic partner. He and his partner, Matthew Skelly, were planning to register with Britain’s domestic partner registry when it begins in December. But, Saad’s asylum application has been rejected. All his appeals have been turned down – despite the fact that he has lived his entire adult life in the UK.
He is scheduled to be deported just weeks before the registry opens – but, if he were already registered, he would be considered a "spouse" and entitled to live in the UK. “I fear for my safety and mental well-being if I am sent back to Algeria,” he said. Like Iran and most other Islamic states, Algeria practices Sharia law which calls for death for homosexuals.
July 21, 2005
IRAN EXECUTES 2 GAY TEENAGERS (updated)
Two gay Iranian teenagers — one 18, the other believed to be 16 or 17, were executed this week for the "crime" of homosexuality, the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) reported on July 19. (The ISNA report is in Farsi, and was translated into English by the British gay rights group OutRage!, which released its report today–ISNA also provided the terrifying photos of the teens’ last moments you see on this page. You can see an enlarged version of each photo by left-clicking on them)
The two youths — identified only by their initials as M.A. and A.M., were hanged on July 19 in Edalat (Justice) Square in the city of Mashhad in north-eastern Iran, on the orders of Court No. 19. The hanging of the teens was also reported by the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
And the website Iran Focus not only confirms the story but provides more details, reporting that "Members of Iran’s parliament from the north-eastern city of Mashad, where a minor and an 18-year-old man were publicly hanged yesterday, vented their anger on Wednesday on foreign and domestic news outlets for reporting the ages of hanged prisoners.
Ultra-conservative deputy Ali Asgari said that the two deserved to be hanged in public, adding, ‘Whatever sentence is decreed by an Islamic penal system must be approved, unless proven otherwise.’ Asgari complained of foreign and domestic reporting that the two were mere boys. ‘Instead of paying tribute to the action of the judiciary, the media are mentioning the age of the hanged criminals and creating a commotion that harms the interests of the state,’ the member of the Majlis Legal Affairs Committee said. ‘Even if certain websites made a reference to their age, journalists should not pursue this. These individuals were corrupt. Their sentence was carried out with the approval of the judiciary and it served them right.’ "
Consensual gay sex in any form is punishable by death in the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to the website Age of Consent, which monitors such laws around the world, in Iran "Homosexuality is illegal, those charged with love-making are given a choice of four deathstyles: being hanged, stoned, halved by a sword, or dropped from the highest perch. According to Article 152, if two men not related by blood are discovered naked under one cover without good reason, both will be punished at a judge’s discretion. Gay teens (Article 144) are also punished at a judge’s discretion. Rubbing one’s penis between the thighs without penetration (tafheed) shall be punished by 100 lashes for each offender. This act, known to the English-speaking world as ‘frottage,’ is punishable by death if the ‘offender’ is a non-Muslim. If frottage is thrice repeated and penalty-lashes have failed to stop such repetitions, upon the fourth ‘offense’ both men will be put to death.
According to Article 156, a person who repents and confesses his gay behavior prior to his identification by four witnesses, may be pardoned. Even kissing ‘with lust’ (Article 155) is forbidden. This bizarre law works to eliminate old Persian male-bonding customs, including common kissing and holding hands in public." And Outrage, in its release about the gay teens’ execution, noted that, "according to Iranian human rights campaigners, over 4000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979. Last August, a 16-year-old girl , [Atefeh Rajabi] was hanged [in the Caspian port of Neka] for ‘acts incompatible with chastity,’ [i.e., sex before marriage]."
In the case of the two teens hanged in Mashhad, "They admitted having gay sex (probably under torture) but claimed in their defense that most young boys had sex with each other and tdhat they were not aware that homosexuality was punishable by death," according to the ISNA report as translated by OutRage. "Prior to their execution, the gay teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten with 228 lashes. The length of their detention suggests that they committed the so-called offenses more than a year earlier, when they were possibly around the age of 16."
" Ruhollah Rezazadeh, the lawyer of the younger of the two boys, had appealed that he was too young to be executed and that the court should take into account his tender age (believed to be 16 or 17). But the Supreme Court in Tehran Ordered him to be hanged." As a state party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Iran has undertaken not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under the age of 18 — which means that by hanging the two youths Iran is in violation of international law.
The Iranian authorities are putting out a cover story that the two boys had participated in the rape of a 13-year-old, but OutRage affirms from its sources that this accusation is a smokescreen for inhuman conduct and is without foundation.
However, the Murdoch press (e.g., the Times of London) is putting about the Iranian government’s story as a virtual statement of fact. But there is no mention of this Iranian government accusation in the original ISNA report, otherwise quite detailed.– which rather suggests it’s a recent invention.
Furthermore, it is hardly surprising that, at the very moment at which Iran is engaged in the most delicate negotiation with the Western powers over nuclear materials — the outcome of which will have a profound impact on the Iranian economy –the Iranian government, when caught in a heinous act of barbarity that is also a violation of Iran’s commitments under international law — should try to find a new excuse for the inexcusable.
If you would like to protest the barbaric hanging of these two kids with same-sex hearts, while the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran, there is an Iranian embassy in Canada. You may write, telephone or fax the Iranian ambassador in Canada:, the embassy address is: iranemb@SalamIran.org. The consulate address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 23, 2005
Laureate Condemns Hanging of Iranian Boys
By Ali Akbar Dareini
Tehran – Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi on Saturday condemned the hanging of two teenagersaccused of raping younger boys in northeastern Iran, a punishment that also prompted protests by the international community and rights groups.
Last week’s hangings of an 18-year-old and 16-year-old on charges of involvement in homosexual acts violated Iran’s obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bans such executions, Ebadi said.
Ebadi said her Center for the Protection of Human Rights will intensify its fight against Iran’s executions of minors.
" My calls for a law clearly banning execution of under-18s has fallen on deaf ears so far but I will not give up the fight," Ebadi told The Associated Press.
Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, were hanged publicly July 19 in the city of Mashhad on charges of raping younger boys. They said before their executions that they were not aware that homosexual acts were punishable by death. Asgari had been accused of raping a 13-year-old boy. His lawyer, Rohollah Razaz Zadeh, said Iranian courts are supposed to commute death sentences handed to children to five years in jail. " The judiciary has trampled its own laws," Razaz Zadeh told the AP.
But the lawyer said Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the verdict and allowed the execution despite his objections. Gay rights groups, such as the London-based Outrage!, and Iranian opposition groups suggested the rape allegations were trumped-up charges aimed to undermine public sympathy for the teenagers.
In Sweden, Foreign Ministry spokesman Per Saland said the government was "looking very seriously" at the hangings.
" We are against the death penalty and we particularly react when it comes to the execution of minors, pregnant women and the mentally disabled," Saland said. The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Rights posted a photo on its web site showing hooded executioners tightening ropes around the suspects’ necks.
The group’s chairman, Soren Andersson, called on Sweden’s government not to deport gay and lesbian asylum seekers back to Iran. " Sweden has turned gay and lesbian refugees back to Iran and they should know that these people could be killed," he said. Being gay or lesbian should be enough for refugees to remain in Sweden and not be returned to Iran, he added. Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, has campaigned to protect the rights of children and improve human rights in Iran but has met stiff resistance from the judiciary, which is controlled by hard-liners.
The Iranian government last year refused to give Ebadi permission to stage a rally to protest children’s executions.
Under Iranian law, girls older than 9 and boys older than 15 face execution if they commit crimes such as murder and rape. Under certain conditions, capital punishment is imposed for those engaging in illegal sexual relations. In 2003, a 16-year-old girl said to be suffering from a psychological disorder was executed in Neka, a town in northern Iran, on charges of having an illegal sexual relationship.
While there are no official figures on death sentences given to minors, human rights activists say about a dozen were executed in Iran last year.
25 July, 2005
International anger grows over gay executions
by Ben Townley
International human rights organisations are calling for more action to be taken against Iran, after it publicly executed two gay teenagers last week. The country executed the two boys, who were only identified by their initials, for having sex with each other. Homosexuality is illegal under the harsh Sharia law, which allows execution of children as young as nine.
The pair were also charged with raping a 13-year-old boy, although the majority of news services say this charge has been trumped up by the Iranian state in a bid to avoid international criticism. Campaigners believe the boys were likely to have given a “confession” after weeks of torture. They were detained and subjected to beatings by local police for up to two weeks before their death.
Now, international groups are calling for stronger action to be taken against Iran. In the UK, Peter Tatchell and Outrage have criticised the Labour government for moving towards closer ties with the government. "Britain’s Labour government is pursuing friendly relations with this murderous regime, including aid and trade,” Tatchell said. “We urge the international community to treat Iran as a pariah state, break off diplomatic relations, impose trade sanctions and give practical support to the democratic and left opposition inside Iran.”
He also said the country had become a “prison”, with the ultra-conservative state blocking any movement towards a more liberal, democratic society. Smaller regional activists are now urging local people to contact the Iranian embassy and “register your disgust” at the executions. “The images we have received are heartbreaking and have caused shockwaves in the gay community,” a gay group based in Derry, Northern Ireland said in a press release today. “Whilst we are powerless here to directly affect what happens in Iran the least we can do is raise our voice against this unbelievable cruelty. We urge people not to be complicit in this through silence,” Elsewhere, campaigners are calling for their government’s to publicly criticise the Iranian sanctioned executions.
In Sweden, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) has called on the government to update its asylum policy, so that lesbian and gay people are not deported back to Iran. “I think the Swedish government is extremely cynical when it sends gays and lesbians back to Iran," Sören Andersson told the AFP news agency. "They keep looking for excuses to send them back there, but it is dangerous for homosexuals in Iran," he added.
In the US, campaigners are calling for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to denounce the executions. In a letter to Rice, activists say the killings are “barbarous. As we have seen in recent weeks, the barbarous punishments for sexual acts in these countries run contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the letter says. “For that reason, these acts must be condemned.”
However, Iran is standing firm on its decision to kill the two young men. Members of Iran’s parliament hailing from the northeastern city of Mashad complained last week about news coverage of the deaths. "Instead of paying tribute to the action of the judiciary, the media are mentioning the age of the hanged criminals and creating a commotion that harms the interests of the state," said ultraconservative deputy Ali Asgari in a quote published by Iran Focus. "Even if certain Web sites made a reference to their age, journalists should not pursue this. These individuals were corrupt. Their sentence was carried out with the approval of the judiciary, and it served them right," he said.
July 26, 2005
An interview with gay activists in Iran–Some deny that the boys were persecuted because of being gays and put more emphasize on the boy’s crime
Conflicting information has been circulated around this information: it is argued the two boys were hung for having raped a 13 years old boy. The main French LGBT-community magazine "Têtu" has reported that according to the lawyer of the two Iranian boys recently executed in Iran, the boys did not know that homosexual relations and alcohol consumption were illegal. "Homosexuality is a crime in Iran, but the death penalty is usually reserved for cases of rape, armed robbery, adultery, drug trafficking, and renouncing Islam." A third boy, 13 years old, who was with them, was not prosecuted because Iranian law does not consider that a person of that age can consent to sexual acts. This means that any type of sexual contact with a 13 year old is considered rape, and it is for this reason that the two boys were executed.
On this case, apart from this interview below, please also read the statement from other ILGA members IGLHRC, Outrage and COC. Following, ILGA publishes an interview of MAHA, an LGBT group in Iran. Project GayRussia.Ru conducted the interview with the publishers and distributors of MAHA, Iran’s Homosexual E-Magazine in Persian (it also means “We” or “Us” in Persian language). They are located in Iran and they gladly answered to our questions about the situation of homosexuals in Iran as well as the perception of the recent event that sparked international outrage with Iranian policy.
Can you tell us a bit about the situation in Iran in terms of access to the information for sexual minorities? And also we would like to know about your own MAHA magazine.
Last year, the Persian Internet operator company shut down 15 gay websites in Iran. To strike back and to provide information about GLBT rights in Iran, and to help to create a nationwide network for GLBT in the country, a few gays decided to start publishing a newspaper without a website, as they knew that the authority would close down their website, so they decided to publish a PDF format magazine and send it by email to their readers. After 8 months of hard work, 8 issues and 4 supplements appeared, covering issues such as gay and family, depression among GLBT, a report about lesbians in Iran, etc. MAHA also publishes a separate supplement for gay aid and to help GLBT to find a friend. Today MAHA has two editors, one gay and one lesbian, and MAHA’s readers are all over the country and even some Iranian GLBT in exile. Currently 600 subscribers receive our magazine and we know that more than 1000 people are reading it. This number is growing every day! PGLO (Persian gays and lesbians organisation) is an Iranian GLBT organisation working from abroad. They publish a PDF format magazine and most important they send a weekly radio program by email to people inside Iran.
Do you have any further details on what happened on July 19th except what was published in the international media?
Unfortunately not much. The authorities try to give as little information as possible about issues which may cause international reaction. And as you may know there is already a worldwide reaction and protests against the execution of the two boys. We know that the two boys (with the names of Mohammad Askari and Ayad Marhuni) belonged to Iran’s Arab minority, which live in Khuzestan province, a province bordering Iraq. During the 8 years war between Iran and Iraq, the Arabs were forced to leave their home and some of them went to Mashhad in North East of Iran. The two boys were from one of these families.
We also know that the authorities have been giving conflicting messages. Some are denying that the boys were persecuted because of being gays and they put more emphasize on the boy’s crime (allegedly they have raped a 13 years old boy), but according to the boys lawyer the boys had said that they did not know that such acts (sexual relations with the person of the same sex) were punished by execution. It shows that the boys were executed because of having same-sex intercourse. The problem in Iran is that there is no harmonised authority in the country and one local authority sometimes makes a decision contrary to the other part of the country.
Do you see a possible link with the killing and the result of the recent presidential elections?
It’s hard to say and it’s too early to see such a link. We know that the newly elected president is a conservative hardliner, we know that while he was a mayor of Tehran he was very much against cultural activities (such culture activities that promote modern western life style). But we also know that he could not resist the democracy movement and NGO, as we would like to do as the desire for democracy, freedom and separation of religion from politics is indeed strong in Iran.
Was this execution event reported in the media in Iran or not?
Yes, it was reputed and even some of international reaction to the event was reported but as you can guess the media is controlled by the regime to a large extent. However, inside Iran, there is a large number of NGOs like children’s rights, women’s rights, human rights groups etc. but also Ms. Shirin Ebedadi (peace Noble prize winner) protested against the execution. The situation in Iran is so that no one can talk openly about GLBT rights so those who protested, they protested against execution of children (one of the boys was clearly under 18 years old). The other problem is the conflicting messages from authorities, so no one wants to defend someone who raped a young 13 years old boy, as authority claims now.
What is the situation of gays in Iran? How can gays live in the atmosphere of constant fear?
The GLBT situation in Iran has changed over the past 26 years. The regime does not systematically persecute gays anymore, there are still some gay websites, there are some parks and cinemas where everyone knows that these places are meeting places for gays, furthermore it is legal in Iran that transsexual applies for sex change and it is fully accepted by the government. There are some medias which sometimes (not often) write about such issues. Having said that, the Islamic law, according to which gays punishment is death is still in force but it is thought not much followed by the regime nowadays. You may remember the Soviet days, there was not much info about homosexuality in your country, families and the society could not accept it and the regime did not allow GLBT to have their organisations or to spread info about the issue. The situation is pretty much the same in Iran today. But thanks to Internet and contact with the International community, people get the info and Iran society has changed a lot and support for GLBT rights is growing in Iran though we still have a long way to go.
In the recent elections there was a candidate who put “RESPECT FOR DIFFERENT LIFE STYLES” in his program. And it was something new. We do not know if he really meant gay life but we know that his front is not anti gay. In addition there is a famous political person, Mr. Akbar Ganji, who also openly talks about RESPECT FOR DIFFERENT LIFESTYLES. Add to that GLBT which is still in the beginning of its journey but it is young and determined to fight for GLBT rights. There are also opposition political groups in exile and some of them voiced their support for GLBT rights in their program. So, on the whole, we are optimistic about the future as Iran’s situation can not continue like that and people are pushing for reforms and changes.
How do Iranian gays live knowing that they fear death penalty in their motherland and that in other countries same sex marriages are already allowed?
Life is not easy, it is mixed with fear, uncertainty and self oppression. The biggest problem we are facing is that GLBT do not have info about their sexual desire. They simply can not find explanation to it. Why they feel as they feel (feeling for persons of the same sex), they do not know what it is. What it’s called etc. but when they get the knowledge, then it is becoming much easier. Not all Iranians have access to the Internet, there are no gay bars or clubs, so creating a network of GLBT is very difficult. Bear in mind that after 8 months of publishing MAHA, still a great number of GLBT people have not got the news. Many GLBT people are living with denial of their own sexuality, or they get married in hope to disguise and hide their deep homosexual desire or in hope to be cured of it.
What can we do from abroad to help you?
You have already done too much for us and we are very thankful for it. Iran’s GLBT struggle is in its beginning and no doubt that we have a lot of challenges in front of us and there are a lot of obstacles we have to overcome. The authorities are not going to accept our right easily. And they may even take a hard stand against us. So we are indeed in need of International GLBT support. Please do keep an eye on Iran and demand a better life and respect for Iranian GLBT. Your support means a lot for us and gives us energy and encouragement. Despite the fact that you may not hear from Iran GLBT regarding your support, please rest assured that we hear about it and we welcome it but sometimes it is not easy to work and be in touch with our friends abroad. We would like to take the opportunity and via you say a big THANK YOU to ALL GLBT groups and individuals worldwide who are thinking of us and supporting us.
GayRussia.Ru, interview conducted by Nikolai Alekseev
Project GayRussia.Ru asked people to sign the letter to the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran and to the Russian President Vladimir Putin against barbarism that took place in Iran, the execution of two young gays on 19 July 2005. The letters were sent last Saturday. When we ask people to support and join our actions and when we ourselves responded to the international appeal of the British gay group Outrage!, we also have the obligation to provide you with some follow up and further investigation into what happened.
Here now we offer you the testimony of our contacts inside Iran (see GayRussia.Ru). For their own safety, we will not publish their photo or contact details. But if you want to send a message to them please e-mail to email@example.com and we will forward your message to Iran. Our contacts in Iran also collect information on the actions of support from different countries connected with the executions of teen gays. Please send us the information you published or campaigns you conducted locally or internationally. We will transfer everything to our contacts in Iran. After that they will be able to include all the information concerning support in the next issue of their electronic magazine. It will show to local Iranian gays and lesbians that they are not alone as they do not have much information from other sources! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 27, 2005
THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE IRANIAN "GAY" HANGINGS–Commentary
I wrote the following commentary for this week’s Gay City News (New York City’s largest gay weekly) which publishes it tomorrow:
The report on the hanging of two Iranian teenagers for being gay, the controversies surrounding the initial reports, and the way in which the story has evolved illustrate a number of problems which should concern sentient gay and lesbian people here in the U.S.
Gay people in American culture are not exempt from the self-centeredness of the society in which they live. As a result, our national gay institutions–like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force–as a general rule pay so little attention to events touching gay people outside our borders that they have little experience or background in evaluating, reporting on, or mobilizing around such issues.
And the commercial gay press, which devotes endless, ad-revenue-generating pages to gay tourism, rarely pauses to examine the political, social, and cultural contexts in which gay people in other countries live out their daily lives. Nor does our gay press generally have a perspective that situates gay oppression within the broader context of the challenge to human rights, or engage with human rights issues that are not specifically gay.
This lack of sophistication in dealing with the problems of same-sexers in foreign cultures is particularly noticeable when dealing with a closed society like Iran. In the Iranian police state, where the religious authorities and their political police enforce strict controls on freedoms of thought and expression, it is difficult even for national and international news organizations with large budgets and experienced reporters at their disposal to always distinguish what is false from what is true. Add to this paradigm the institutional and individual homophobia that characterize such news organizations and many of their staffers, and the problems of covering gay news in particular are magnified. as often the will to do so is lacking.
In Iran censorship is an everyday occurrence. The operations of more than 10 newspapers have been suspended and journalists are constantly subject to arbitrary arrest.The international group Reporters Without Borders has named Iran’s senior spiritual leader, Ayatollah AliKhameini — the "Guide of the Islamic Republic" (right) — as one of the world’s foremost "Predators of Press Freedom." All this explains why bloggers have become an important part of the democratic opposition to the clerical-fascist regime of the ayatollahs–and why the Iranian government has been engaged in a massive crackdown on bloggers since last fall. At least a half dozen online journalists and bloggers have been arrested, and both international Web sites in English and local web sites in Farsi have been blocked by a filtering system (ironically with SmartFilter, a system manufactured and marketed by a U.S. company, Secure Computing).
In Iran, blogs are particularly crucial in helping gay and lesbian people to come out and form a specifically gay consciousness which does not generally exist nor dare speak it name in such a traditional, patriarchal culture (that has also succeeded in erasing from collective memory the strong literary and poetic same-sex tradition that flourished in Islamic cultures in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.) A large number of those blocked Iranian Web sites related to gay and lesbian and women’s issues, as well as AIDS, according to a report on Iran released last month by OpenNet Initiative, a project sponsored by Harvard University, the University of Toronto and Cambridge University among others. Yet the U.S. gay press and our national gay institutions let these events pass in nearly total silence.
As I noted on my blog, DIRELAND, when I first transmitted the reports of the hanging of the two Iranian adolescents for criminal homosexuality, consensual gay sex in any form is punishable by death in the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to the Web site Age of Consent, which monitors such laws around the world, in Iran "homosexuality is illegal, those charged with love-making…Even kissing ‘with lust’ (Article 155) is forbidden. This bizarre law works to eliminate ancient Persian male-bonding customs, including common kissing and holding hands in public."
But Iran is a signatory to and has ratified two international conventions–The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights–both of which prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18. Besides the death sentence (confirmed by Iran’s Supreme Court) carried out against the two teens hanged on July 19 in violation of Iran’s treaty commitments, Iran is thought to have executed at least four other juvenile offenders in 2004, and at least 30 juvenile offenders are on death row. Besides Iran, only China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and the United States are known to have put juvenile offenders to death in the past five years.
The U.S. executed nine juvenile offenders during this period; the other countries are each known to have put one juvenile offender to death. Thus, the U.S. has not only been the world’s leading executioner of minors, but has put to death twice as many as has Iran in this period. Where were the gay community’s voices raised against these U.S. executions, every bit as outrageous as those of the two Iranian teens?
As protests by bloggers and online journalists within Iran brought the hanging of the two teens to worldwide attention, the Iranian government justified the hangings on the grounds that the two boys had participated in the rape of a 13-year-old boy. Immediately, U.S. gay organizations–mortified at the thought they could be implicated in the defense of a pedophilic incident–backed away from their initial protests of the teens’ hangings. For example, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) took its letter to Condoleeza Rice demanding the U.S. protest the executions down from its website.
I was initially skeptical about the rape charge, particularly because Iran is currently in delicate negotiations with Western European powers over its developing nuclear capacity–hardly the time to be caught in a violation of its international commitments under two treaties (i.e., the ones outlawing the execution of minors). When I asked Hadi Ghaemi, who runs the Iranian desk for Human Rights Watch, on what basis HRW was saying they were "90 percent sure" rape had taken place (as the director of HRW’s gay and lesbian program, Scott Long, told me) Ghaemi said his sole source was the daily newspaper Quds in the city of Mashad where the two teens were hanged. This newspaper carried statements alleged to be from the father of the 13-year-old who was supposedly raped, and from several of the passers-by who had interrupted the "gang rape" in a vacant lot, upon which, they were quoted as saying, they were threatened at knife point by a group that included the two hanged youths.
When I asked Ghaemi why the July 24 Associated Press dispatch on the hangings cited the executions as being only for "homosexual acts" without mentioning the rape, he said that the original charge against the boys was "sexual assault based on homosexual acts," and that the first part of the charge had been somehow "lost in translation." Ghaemi said he didn’t believe that Quds — a newspaper controlled by regime supporters –had fabricated the quotes in the article about the rape, which had appeared the morning of the hangings (not after the protests). But he also said he had no independent confirmation from sources in Mashad of the accuracy of the rape charge.
So, did the "rape" occur? Until further independent confirmation is forthcoming, we can only surmise. Did the hanged kids claim "gay" identity? Most probably not–since the concept is virtually unknown among the uneducated classes in Iran. But that doesn’t excuse our national gay organizations’ cowardice in backing off their demands that the U.S. government specifically protest the hanging of the two youths for crimes committed when at least one, and possibly both of them were underage.
The moral of this story: American gays need to more fully engage themselves with what is happening to our brothers and sisters in other cultures, where oppression– both cultural and political, is commonplace. And not just when there’s a crisis.
Posted by Doug Ireland
July 27, 2005
EU criticizes Iran for executing gay teens
The European Union on Tuesday condemned the public hanging last week of two Iranian teenagers who, according to human rights activists, were only 16 and 18, and it called on Tehran to cease such executions. However, Iran’s top envoy to Belgium told foreign minister Karel De Gucht that the two teens, who were hanged on July 19—Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni—had been over 18 when they raped young boys.
Ebrahim Pour, Iran’s charge d’affaires in Brussels, said Asgari and Marhoni were sentenced for kidnapping, rape, and homosexual activities, the Belgian Foreign Ministry said. "The charge d’affaires indicated that, according to information he had received from Tehran, the two persons were over 18 at the time of the acts," the ministry statement said after De Gucht had called the Iranian envoy on the carpet. In 2004, Iran told the EU it would not execute or flog anyone under 18.
The EU said Tuesday it hoped "a law abolishing such punishments will be adopted soon" and urged Tehran to respect a moratorium until then. "Capital punishment may not, in any circumstances, be imposed on persons below 18 years of age at the time…of their crime," the EU statement said. Gay rights and Iranian opposition groups have suggested that the rape charges against Asgari and Marhoni were meant to undermine public sympathy for the two and noted that executing minors violates the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Under Iranian law, girls over the age of 9 and boys over 15 face execution if they commit certain crimes, such as murder and rape. Capital punishment is also imposed, under certain conditions, for those engaging in illegal sexual relations. While there are no official figures on death sentences given to minors, human rights groups say about a dozen were executed in Iran last year.
Iranian rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi said that as a result of the hangings, her Center for the Protection of Human Rights would intensify its fight against Iran’s executions of minors. De Gucht also questioned Pour about investigative journalist Akbar Ganji, who was jailed in 2000 for reporting that intelligence officials had murdered five dissidents. Pour said Ganji was now receiving hospital treatment after several weeks on a hunger strike and must spend another year in jail. The EU called for Ganji’s release on humanitarian grounds. (AP)
August 05, 2005
Don’t believe Iran on teens–Gay and human rights groups are naïve to believe Iranian teens were hanged for forcible sodomy.
by Peter Tatchell (www.petertatchell.net)
Editors’ note: This column was written in response to the story, “Mixed reports on Iran hangings” (news, July 29). Southern Voice stands by its story. When the ayatollahs seized power in Iran in 1979, they established an Islamic fundamentalist regime, governed by the barbarism of Shariah law. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have been jailed, tortured or executed—including LGBTs, women, and ethnic, religious and political dissenters.
The Iranian dictatorship has often produced trumped up charges to undermine public sympathy for the victims of its hardline version of Islam. I work with exiled Iranians in London. They confirm that whenever the regime wants to deflect criticism or discredit victims, it invents allegations of alcoholism, rape, adultery, spying and drug abuse. Some Iranians say groups like the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission have fallen for the ayatollahs’ ploys. As evidence of homophobic persecution in Iran, IGLHRC cites the case of Dr. Ali Mozafarian, a Sunni Muslim leader who was executed in 1992. According to IGLHRC, he was “convicted of espionage, adultery and sodomy.”
But contrary to IGLHRC claims, most informed Iranians believe these charges were faked by the regime to win public support for Dr. Mozafarian’s execution and to discourage mass protests. This history of trumped up charges compels us to be skeptical about claims that the two teenagers hanged on July 19 were executed for raping a 13-year-old boy. Why should we believe a brutal judicial system that has a proven record of lying to cover up its crimes against humanity?
We may never know for sure whether a rape took place, but let’s not give the benefit of the doubt to a violently homophobic Iranian regime that has executed thousands of LGBTs over the last 26 years. The story of the recent teen executions was first reported by the Iranian Student News Agency. My Iranian contacts say the ISNA report they saw did not mention any rape or any 13-year-old victim. Others say they saw an ISNA report that mentions rape in the headline, but not in the story. Which version is true?
Some government-sanctioned newspapers say the rape allegation is confirmed by the 13-year-old’s father. This is not necessarily proof. According to Iranian gay contacts, even if the sex was entirely consensual, the father is likely to claim his son was raped.
What about the passers-by who claim to have witnessed the rape? Iranian colleagues say that most straight Iranians who witness sodomy are bound to assume it is rape. To them, homosexuality is so vile that nobody would ever consent.
ISNA reported that the two executed teenagers said, “We did not know such acts result in the death penalty. … We grew up in harsh circumstances where these crimes are common.” Their comments suggest they were probably executed for gay sex, rather than rape. Another possibility is that the 13-year-old had sex willingly but that Iranian law—like the laws of many Western nations—deems teens of that age as incapable of sexual consent.
Last week, according to an article in this paper, “Reports claiming the boys were executed for being gay originated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran.” This is untrue. The NCRI did not mention the reason for their execution. The Southern Voice article also claimed falsely that Iran Focus is the English language Web site of the NCRI. It is not.
The Southern Voice then repeated the CIA and U.S. State Department smear that the NCRI is a “terrorist organization.” Lord Slynn, a former U.K. Law Lord—the British equivalent of a U.S. Supreme Court judge—has described this claim as “outrageous.”
Despite some wrongs, the NCRI played a heroic role in resisting the U.S.-backed dictator, the Shah of Iran and, more recently, the ayatollahs’ Islamist tyranny.
NCRI is a legitimate liberation movement. The NCRI is no more a terrorist organization than the African National Congress of South Africa. The precondition for gay rights in Iran is the overthrow of the Islamo-fascist regime, not by Western invasion, but by international aid to help the Iranian people liberate themselves.
Peter Tatchell is a spokesperson for the U.K. queer rights group OutRage!, and can be reached via www.petertatchell.net.
August 09, 2005
Worldwide protests over Iran hangings, plus new reports doubt validity of ‘rape’ charge, plus history of repression against gays in Iran in new book
Worldwide protests have been called against the death penalty and criminalization of homophobia in Iran in the wake of the hanging of two teen boys in the Iranian city of Mashad. August 11 has been designated as the day for a series of coordinated demonstrations in France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.
In France, a coalition of 20 gay organizations has said that the July 19 hangings of the two Iranian youths for "homosexual acts" — the boys were also convicted of "sexual assault," but there is enormous controversy over whether or not that charge was justified — "illustrates perfectly the policy of repression and homophobic hate which persists in Iran," and recalls that "the execution of two youths who were underage at the time of the ‘crimes’ they were charged with is itself a crime under humanitarian international law, since Iran is a signatory party to the International Conventions on Civil and Political Rights and on the Rights of the Child, which both forbid executions of minors."
The August 11 French protest demonstrations will be held in Paris at 7 PM at the Place Edmond Michelet (left) in front of the Centre Georges Pompidou museum on the right bank (the site is symbolic, as Michelet was an important figure of the French Resistance whom the Nazis deported to Dachau); and in Montpelier at 12 Noon at the Place de la Comedie, in front of the fountain of the Trois Graces (right).
Here are the French groups calling the demonstrations: Académie Gay & Lesbienne, Act Up-Paris, AGLA France, ARDHIS, C’est l’bouquet!, Collectif contre l’homophobie, Commission LGBT des Verts (Green Party), Coordination InterPride France, Coordination Lesbiennes en France, Centre lesbien, gai, bi & trans de Paris et Ile-de-France, Ensemble contre la peine de mort, Homonormalité, Inter-LGBT, Panthères roses, Soeurs de la Perpétuelle Indulgence (couvents de Paname et d’Atlantique Sud), Solidarité Internationale LGBT, SOS homophobie.
In County Dublin on August 11, the demonstration will be held in Blackrock (overlooking Dublin Bay) in front of the Iranian Embassy at 72 Mount Merrion Avenue (for details, click here). The call to the Irish demonstration underlines the torture the two hanged Iranian boys were subjected to: — "Both boys spent the last 14 months of their lives in police custody where they each received 228 lashes prior to being hung to death" — and includes the slogan "Ban the Death Penalty in Iran."
In London, the August 11 demonstration will be held from 1-6 PM, in front of the Embassy of Iran at 16 Prince’s Gate in Knightsbridge, quite near Royal Albert Hall and a five-minute walk from the Knightsbridge Underground station.
The French gay coalition has also endorsed the international petition entitled "No Gays to the Scaffold" organized by the French group Ensemble contre la peine de mort (Together Against the Death Penalty.) The petition says: "I hereby assert my solidarity and my support to homosexuals and other members of sexual minorities who are being arrested, imprisoned, and even sentenced to death and executed in the world. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, Nigeria (northern states), Yemen, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates are the 9 countries where homosexuals risk death penalty the only motive being their homosexuality.
"This has to stop. Affirming and living freely one’s sexual orientation is not a crime and should not have its place in the penal code. In the name of liberty and elementary human rights, valid to all women and men, I ask the international community to act with vigour so that the last countries still advocating for death penalty reform their penal code, and, in the meanwhile, commute the death penalty condemnations, and set free those arrested for the only reason them being homosexuals."
There’s an English-language sign-on page for the petition.
Meanwhile, new information is continuing to come in from Iran casting doubt on the validity of the rape charge against the two hanged boys. Afdhere Jama, editor of the e-zine for Queer Muslims, Huriyah, says contacts of his in Iran affirm that the two boys hung in Mashad were lovers. "The first day I found out, I called my Iranian contacts from Huriyah," says Jama. "All agreed on the fact that these boys were murdered for being queer. One of my contacts who has been to gay parties in Mashad (the city where the boys were executed) swears the boys were long-term lovers, and another source told me one of he boys’ family members outed the couple.
Jama told me that, "The level of surveillance in Iran has reached maximum since the reports of the hanged boys ‘got out.’ You would be surprised how far I had to go to find out what happened. Can you believe one of my contacts had to dress up as a woman — with full facial nikkhab — also wearing gloves…. and go into an Internet cafe… only to use Yahoo messenger he created right there for only — yes — just a ONE minute message to me? He had to travel a day to this Internet cafe to make sure nothing would get back to him. it is that scary. People are rightfully scared for their lives."
I have also had e-mail correspondence over the last ten days with the editors in Tehran of an Iranian underground publication for Iranian gays — who have asked that neither their names nor the name of their publication be cited, as they are fearful of the heightened repressive atmosphere for same-sexers there. They, too, assert the ‘rape’ charge was trumped up and that the two boys who were hanged were lovers. I am trying to confirm the above refutations of the government’s "rape" charge from still more and new sources within Iran and inside Mashad.
But there have always been good reasons to be suspicious of the charge of "rape" against the two boys. The sole source from within Mashad (where the boys were prosecuted and hung) which Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups relied on to confirm that the "rape" the government charged the boys with actually happened was a newspaper, Quds, controlled by hardline, conservative religious elements completely supportive of the regime.
Moreover, Mashad is considered one of the "holiest" cities in Iran, second in that status only to Qum (home of the late Ayatollah Khomeini). Mashad is the site of a shrine and mausoleum to the 9th century Imam Reza — the 8th spiritual leader of all Shi’ite Muslims whom many considered the Imam of all Muslims, who was poisoned and is considered a religious martyr — a shrine which has existed (and been partially destroyed, only to be rebuilt more lavishly) for over 1000 years; and the city is a major pilgrimage site drawing hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year. This "holy" city of Mashad is completely under the thumb of the hardline conservatives and clerics, and the prosecutor there holds his job at their pleasure.
Background to todays’ gay repression in Iran:
The distinguished Iranian scholar in exile Janet Afary has written a new book — Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islam (University of Chicago Press, co-authored with Kevin Anderson) — with an extraordinarily significant chapter on same-sex relations in Iran.
Prof. Afary (left), now teaching women’s studies and history at Purdue University, is working on a major study of the history of sexuality in Iran that should be quite important when she’s finished. But already, in her superb latest book (Chapter Five) she points out how the current regime in the Islamic Republic of Iran is stifling a tradition of homosexual culture that is over a thousand years old. For example, she writes that "Classical Persian literature — like the poems of Attar (died 1220), Rumi (d. 1273), Sa’di (d. 1291), Hafez (d. 1389), Jami (d. 1492), and even those of the twentieth century Iraj Mirza (d. 1926) — are replete with homoerotic allusions, as well as explicit references to beautiful young boys and to the practice of pederasty…
" Some of the famous love relationships celebrated by classical poets were between kings and male slaves. The beloved could also be the slave of another more powerful person. Many erotic Persian love poems, in which the lover describes the secret and sporadic nocturnal visits of the beloved, refer to such situations. Outside the royal court, homosexuality and homoerotic expressions were tolerated in numerous public places, from monasteries and seminaries to taverns, military camps, bathhouses and coffee houses. In the early Safavid era (1501-1723), male houses of prostitution (amard khaneh) were legally recognized and paid taxes. Bathhouses and coffee houses were also common locations for illicit [homosexual] sex…."
But under both the Pahlevi family’s rule and under the Islamic Republic in Iran, Afary tells me, professors of literature have been forced to teach that these extraordinarily beautiful gay love poems aren’t really gay at all and that their very explicit references to same-sex love are really all about men and women!
Furthermore, Afary explains how the virulence of the current Iranian regime’s anti-homosexual repressions stems in part from the role homosexuality played in the 1979 revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini (left) and his followers to power. In her new book, she (and Anderson) write:
" There is also a long tradition in nationalist [Arabo-Islamic] movements of consolidating power through narratives that affirm patriarchy and compulsory heterosexuality, attributing sexual abnormality and immorality to a corrupt ruling elite that is about to be overthrown and/or is complicit with foreign imperialism. Not all the accusations leveled against the [the deposed Shah of Iran and his] Pahlevi family and their wealthy supporters stemmed from political and economic grievances. A significant portion of the public anger was aimed at their ‘immoral’ lifestyle. There were rumors that a gay lifestyle was rampant at the court. [The Shah’s] Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda (left) was said to have been a homosexual. The satirical press routinely lampooned him for his meticulous attire, the purple orchid in his lapel, and his supposed marriage of convenience. The Shah himself was rumored to be bi-sexual. There were reports that a close male friend of the Shah from Switzerland, a man who knew him from their student days in that country, routinely visited him.
" But the greatest public outrage was aimed at two young, elite men with ties to the court who held a mock wedding ceremony. Especially to the highly religious, this was public confirmation that the Pahlevi house was corrupted with the worst kinds of sexual transgressions, that the Shah was no longer master of his own house. These rumors contributed to public anger, to sense of shame and outrage, and ultimately were used by the Islamists in their calls for a revolution.
Soon after coming to power in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini established the death penalty for homosexuality. In February and March 1978 there were sixteen executions for crimes related to sexual violations…" There’s a great deal more material like this, largely unknown to Westerners, in Afary and Anderson’s fine book.
August 25, 2005
Iran’s Anti-Gay Purge Grows–Reports of New Gay Executions
I wrote the following article for the new issue of Gay City News — New York’s largest gay weekly — which hit the newsstands today:
There have been reports of a new execution of a gay man in the city of Arak, Iran, on August 16, and of other executions of four men, ages 17 to 24, for unspecified “sexual offenses.” But it is difficult to confirm these reports with total accuracy, because of the climate of fear which prevails in the Islamic Republic of Iran today. The newly-elected, reactionary regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (lower right) has heightened its campaign of repression of gay people since the worldwide protests against the hanging of two gay teens in Mashad on July 19, and Iranians — both gay and straight –are afraid to communicate with the outside world on these matters. At the beginning of this week, 365gay.com posted an article claiming that a gay man had been executed in Arak on August 16, and cited as its source the British newspaper, The Observer.
But when I talked by phone with the author of The Observer’s article — the paper’s social affairs editor, Jamie Doward — he told me that The Observer had no independent source for his article’s one-sentence reference to this new execution, and said that he got the information from a private e-mail he’d received from the British gay rights group OutRage. At the same time, a French gay group, Solidarité Internationale LGBT, sent out an alert this week saying that a gay man had been executed in Arak, but on a later date — August 19 — and adding a new detail, that this man was one of the two men whom (as GCN had previously reported) had been condemned to be executed in Arak on August 28, and who were “gay,” according to gay Iranian sources. The French group cited no sources and no other details, and attempts to reach them by phone and e-mail were unsuccessful by press time.
When this reporter tried to confirm from Iranian sources the report that had appeared in The Observer and the French report, he received an e-mailed reply from an underground ‘zine for gays edited in Farsi in Tehran (whose editors requested, out of fear, that neither their name nor that of their publication be cited) saying that their information was that a man had been hanged in the public square in Arak on August 16, but that they had no information as to his sexuality. This was the same source, OutRage’s Brett Locke said by telephone from London, from which OutRage had received its information about the latest execution in Arak. Since both this non-Farsi-speaking reporter’s communications with Iran, and those of OutRage, were in English, there may have been a language problem explaining the contradictions between the differing reports received from the Iranian gay ‘zine‘s editors, whose English is far from perfect.
Farshad Hoseini of the Netherlands secretariat of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR), when asked about the supposed August 16 execution, said that they had knowledge of a public hanging in Arak’s main square of a 21 year old man — but said it had taken place two days earlier, on August 14. Hoseini, too, said IFIR had no information about the young man’s sexuality, indicating the official charge against him was homicide.
Afdhere Jama, editor of the gay e-’zine for Muslims, Huriyah — who had just returned from a lengthy European trip, during which he met with Iranians in exile — told me this week that his Iranian contacts, both inside and outside Iran, were upset with the way some human rights organizations in the West were so readily accepting the official government versions of the crimes for which men thought to be gay were being executed. “Under Islamic law, which has been adopted by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s legal system, it takes four witnesses to prove an act of homosexuality, which is a capital crime. That’s why its much easier for the Islamic government to invent other criminal charges against gay people to get rid of them,” Jama said.
In an e-mail to this reporter from the underground gay publication in Iran, its editors expressed a similar view, saying “the government invent all kind of charges on gay people that are not true, and are not to [be] believed.” They urged those in the West to be “very careful” before accepting such criminal charges at face value.
On August 23, the news website Iran Focus — run by Iranian exiles — posted a story saying, “Four young men between the ages of 17 and 23 were hanged in public in the port city of Bandar Abbas.” Citing as its source “the ultra-Islamist daily” Kayhan, Iran Focus added, “All four were accused of sex offences and theft. The daily quoted an unnamed Justice Ministry official as saying that the reason why young men were committing so many sex offences was that ‘they are not aware of the punishment for their offences under Islamic laws.’” That, of course, is what the two gay teens hanged in Mashad had said through their lawyer, according to multiple published reports–that they were unaware homosexual acts between two consenting people were a crime. Thus, the statement by the Justice Ministry official strongly suggests — although this is speculative — that the “sexual offenses” for which the four young men in Bandar Abbas were executed was homosexuality.
The following day Iran Focus reported, “Iran’s clergy-dominated Supreme Court has given the green light for the hanging of a 16-year-old schoolboy in Tehran, a state-owned daily reported on Wednesday. The boy, identified only by his first name Mostafa, was convicted of killing a man in a scuffle that began when the boy tried to save a girl who was being harassed by the drunken man…Mostafa, who had no criminal record, told the Islamic judge that when he saw the drunken man insult and harass a young girl near his home in Tehran Pars district, he intervened and tried to save the girl, but the foul-mouthed man began to beat him. In the brawl that followed, Mostafa killed the man.” Iran Focus cited as its source the pro-regime daily Etemaad. Iran is signatory to two international treaties by which it pledges not to execute minors.
In a related development, the British gay rights group Stonewall this week asked the U.K. Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, to halt the deportation of a 29-year-old gay Iranian back to Iran, which was ordered by a judge in what Stonewall calls an instance of “institutional homophobia.”
In ordering the deportation, the British judge used homophobic language, writing that the Iranian man had been “engaging in buggery” and describing his sexual orientation as a “predilection.“ Stonewall’s Ben Summerskill said. “I am shocked that this sort of language is still being used in 2005.” The gay man, whose name was not disclosed to protect him if he is deported, says he fled Iran after a gay friend was arrested by police, who seized a videotape of the two men kissing, and asserts he fears for his life if returned to his home country. Another Iranian gay man, 26-year-old Hussein Nassen, committed suicide in July two weeks after the U.K. refused his appeal for asylum. Hussein fled from Iran in March 2000 after being imprisoned for three months for his sexuality. Friends said he feared he would be executed if he was returned to Iran.
September 20, 2005
Iranian Gay Tells Of Torture
by Peter Moore
A gay Iranian group has released photos and details of a 22 year old man it says was given 100 lashes for being gay. The exiled Persian Gay & Lesbian Organization identifies the man only as"Amir".The group said in a statement Tuesday that "Amir" escaped Iran following his incarceration and after he was threatened with rearrest and execution but did not identify the country where he now is living.
The Persian Gay & Lesbian Organization said that because of his sexuality Amir experienced continued homophobia during his university studies.He was arrested at a party, was convicted and had to pay a fine. On several more occasions he was arrested and put in custody by police, the Basij – thefundamentalist militia – and the Revolutionary Guard.
During his last jailing he was whipped with a lash 100 times as part of his sentence. The organization said that authorities havin filtrated gay sites on the internet posing as gays and entrapping others. "This is a further example of the violent homophobiaof the Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist regime," said Brett Lock of the British LGBT rights group OutRage! Another exiled Iranian gay rights group, Homan, claims the Iranian government has executed at least 4,000 gays since 1979. Last month the third gay man in a month was executed.
On July 19 two gay teenagers were executed in the northeastern city of Mashhad. The hangings sparked international outrage.The Iranian government maintains the teens had raped a 13 year old boy – an allegation that many international rights groups discount. Several European Union countries have placed a moratorium on deporting gays who entered their countries illegally as a result of concerns over thetreatment of gays in Iran.
September 29, 2005
Inside Iran: A gay man speaks of routine torture of gays
by Doug Ireland (http://direland.typepad.com/direland/)
Amir is a 22-year-old gay Iranian who was arrested by Iran’s morality police as part of a massive Internet entrapment campaign targeting gays. He was beaten and tortured while in custody, threatened with death, and lashed 100 times. He escaped from Iran in August, and is now in Turkey, where he awaits the granting of asylum by a gay-friendly country. In a two-hour telephone interview from Turkey, Amir provided a terrifying, first-hand account of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s intense and extensive anti-gay crackdown, which swept up Amir and made him its victim. Our conversation took place thanks to the generous translation provided by Dr. Houman Sarshar, who also provided research assistance for this piece. Here is Amir’s story:
Amir is from Shiraz, a city of more than a million people in southwestern Iran that the Shah tried to make "the Paris of Iran" in the 1960s and 1970s, attracting a not insignificant gay population and making Shiraz a favorite vacation spot for Iranian gays – but after the 1979 revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini, Shiraz was targeted as a symbol of taaghoot (decadence). Amir’s father was killed by a gas attack in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1987, becoming – in the Islamic Republic’s official parlance – a "martyr," whose surviving family thus had the right to special benefits and treatment from the state.
Amir, who grew up with his mother, an older brother and two sisters, says "I’ve known I was gay since I was about 5 or 6 – I always preferred to play with girls. I had my first sexual experience with a man when I was 13. But nobody in my family knew I was gay." Amir’s first arrest for being gay occurred two years ago. "I was at a private gay party, about 25 young people there, all of us close friends. One of the kids, Ahmed Reza – whose father was a colonel in the intelligence services, and who was known to the police to be gay – snitched on us, and alerted the authorities this private party was going to happen. Ahmed waited until everyone was there, then called the Office for Promotion of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice, headed in Shiraz by Colonel Safaniya, who a few minutes later raided the party. The door opened, and the cops swarmed in, insulting us – screaming ‘who’s the bottom? Who’s the top?’ and beating us, led by Colonel Javanmardi. When someone tried to stop them beating up the host of the party, they were hit with pepper spray. One of our party was a trans-sexual – the cops slapped her face so hard they busted her eardrum and she wound up in hospital. Ahmed Reza, the gay snitch, was identifying everyone as the cops beat us up.
"The cops took sheets, ripped them up and blindfolded us, threw us into a van, and took us to a holding cell in Interior Ministry headquarters – they knew us all by name," Amir recounts. Iranians live in fear of the Interior Ministry, which has a reputation like that of the former Soviet KGB’s domestic bureau, and whose prisons strike fear in people’s hearts the way the infamous Lubianka once did. Amir says that, "I was the third person to be interrogated. The cops had seized videos taken at the party, in one of which I was reciting a poem. The cops told me to recite it again. ‘What poem?’ I said. They began beating me in the head and face. When I tried to deny I was gay, they took off my shoes and began beating the soles of my feet with cables, the pain was excruciating. I was still blindfolded. They had found dildos in the house where the party was – they beat me with them, stuffed them in my mouth. When I told them my father was a martyr [of the Iran-Iraq war] they beat me up even more, and harder. They took away my card [entitling Amir to martyr’s benefits] and said they’d tell the local university, where I was studying computers."
At the same time, Amir continues, "They went to my house, seized my computer, found online homoerotic pictures of guys in it, and showed them to my mother. That’s how mother found out I was gay. Eventually I was tried and fined 100,000 tomens [or about $120, a large sum in Iran]. At the time he fined me, the judge told me that ‘if we send you to a physician who vouches that your rectum has been penetrated in any way, you will be sentenced to death.’"
Most of the anti-gay crackdown, Amir says, is conducted by the basiji. The basiji are a sort of unofficial para-police under the authority of the hard-line Revolutionary Guards (called Pasdaran in Persian.) It is the basiji – thugs recruited from the criminal classes and the lumpen unemployed – who are assigned to be agents provocateurs, and are given the violent dirty work, so the regime can claim it wasn’t officially responsible. For example, during recent university strikes and demonstrations, it was the basiji who were charged with the defenestrations and the vicious beatings of rebellious students.
A year after his first arrest, an unrepentant Amir was in a Yahoo gay chat room on the Web. "Someone came into the chat room and started messaging me, but I told him he wasn’t my type and gave him a description of the kind of guy I was looking to meet. A few minutes later, another guy started messaging me. We exchanged pix, and he sent me his Web-page right away – and he matched exactly all the descriptions I’d sent to the previous guy. It turned out later both guys were police agents, they had so many they could come up with one who matched the personal preferences of any gay guy in the chat rooms."
"With this second guy, I was really excited, and we made a date for that afternoon at a phone booth near Bagh-e-Safa bridge. When I got there, we started to walk away to talk and get to know each other. But within 30 seconds, I felt a hand laid on my shoulder from behind – it was an undercover agent in regular clothes, whose name turned out to be Ali Panahi. With two other basiji, he handcuffed me, forced me into a car, and took me back to the Intelligence Ministry headquarters, a very scary place. There I denied that I was gay, and denied that this had been a gay rendezvous – but they showed me a printout from the chatroom of my messages and my pix."
Then, says Amir, the torture began. "There was a metal chair in the middle of the room – they put a gas flame under the chair, and made me sit on it as the metal seat got hotter and hotter. They threatened to send me to an army barracks where all the soldiers were going to rape me. There was a soft drink bottle sitting on a table – Ali Panahi told one of the other basiji to take the bottle and shove it up my ass, screaming, ‘This will teach you not to want any more cock!’ I was so afraid of sitting in that metal chair as it got hotter and hotter that I confessed. Then they brought out my file, and told me that I was a ‘famous faggot’ in Shiraz. They beat me up so badly that I passed out, and was thrown, unconscious, into a holding cell.
"When I came to, I saw there were several dozen other gay guys in the cell with me. One of them told me that, after they had taken him in, they beat him and forced him to set up dates with people through chat rooms – and each one of those people had been arrested, those were the other people in that cell with me.
"We were eventually all taken to court, and cross-examined. The judge sentenced four of us, including me, to public flogging. The news was printed all over the newspapers that a group of homosexuals had been arrested, with our names. I got 100 lashes – I passed out before the 100 lashes were over. When I woke up, my arms and legs were so numb that I fell over when they picked me up from the platform on which I’d been lashed. They had told me that, if I screamed, they will beat me even harder – so I was biting my arms so hard, to keep from screaming, that I left deep teeth wounds in my own arms."
After this entrapment and public flogging, Amir’s life became unbearable – he was rousted regularly at his home by the basiji and by agents of the Office for Promotion of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice [which represses "moral deviance" – things like boys and girls walking around holding hands, women not wearing proper Islamic dress or wearing makeup, same-sex relations, and prostitution].
But after the hangings of two gay teens in the city of Mashad in July of this year – and the world-wide protests that followed those hangings – Amir says that things got even worse for him and other Iranian gays. Amir was under continual surveillance, harassed, and threatened: "After the Mashad incident, the ‘visits’ from the authorities became an almost daily occurrence. They would come to my house and threaten me. They knew everything about everything I did, about everywhere I went. They would tell me exactly what I had done each and every time I had left the house. It had gotten to the point where I was starting to suspect my own friends of spying on me. On one of these visits, Ali Panahi -the one who’d arrested me the last time – grabbed me by the hair and asked me if I’d suck his cock if he asked me to. One of my friends was raped by Ali Panahi, who fucked my friend in exchange for letting him go without a record.
"They would arrest me all the time, take me in for questioning in the middle of the day – when I left the house, they’d hassle me, ask me if I was going to go looking for dick, and tell me not to leave my house and to keep off the streets. In one of these arrests, Colonel Javanmardi told me that if they catch me again that I would be put to death, ‘just like the boys in Mashad.’ He said it just like that, very simply, very explicitly. He didn’t mince his words. We all know that the boys who were hanged in Mashad were gay – the rape charges against them were trumped up, just like the charges of theft and kidnapping against them. When you get arrested, you are forced by beatings, torture, and threats to confess to crimes you didn’t commit. It happens all the time, it happened to friends of mine.
"I could not get a job because of my case history. Since I was obviously gay I couldn’t get a job anywhere, and could not get a government job because of my record, Amir says. " By the last time the cops came to his house, Amir had decided to try to leave the country: "I invented an excuse, and told them I had to go to Tehran to take my higher university entrance exams. I already had a passport from three years ago. In Tehran I borrowed a little money from a friend and came to Turkey by bus. At the border, I really lucked out – I was terrified because I had a record, and not enough money to get out or pay a bribe." But indolent border guards didn’t bother to check on him – they just took his passport, stamped it, and let him leave. That, says Amir, was about a month ago.
When asked what message he wants to send to the world about what’s happening in Iran, and what he thinks about his own future, Amir pauses, then says: "The situation of gays in Iran is dreadful. We have no rights at all. They would beat me up and tell me to confess to things I hadn’t done, and I would do it. The gays and lesbians in Iran are under unbelievable pressure – they need help, they need outside intervention. Things are really bad. Really bad! We are constantly harassed in public, walking down the street, going to the store, going home…anywhere and anywhere, everyone, everyone! One of my dear friends, Nima, committed suicide a month ago in Shiraz. He just couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I’ve run out of money. I don’t know what to do. I just hope they don’t send me back to Iran. They’ll kill me there."
Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at http://direland.typepad.com/direland/.
by Eric Resnick
Mashhad – In response to an elevated crackdown on gay men by the June 24 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, gay and lesbian Iranians are pleading for relief and calling for protests by the worldwide GLBT community.
Those pleas are falling on largely deaf ears in the United States, amid increasing reports of public hangings and torture. With these is the first-hand account of a 22-year-old who escaped to Turkey after being publicly lashed 100 times. He says he was entrapped by government officials bent on rooting out gays. Ahmadinejad is a former mayor of Tehran and reactionary known for his role in the 1979 revolution that resulted in the overthrowing of the shah and seizure of 52 American hostages. He was elected with support of powerful religious conservatives mobilized through mosques.
As mayor, Ahmadinejad waged cultural war by shutting down fast-food restaurants, requiring male city employees to wear beards and sleeves, and purging the city of references to Western culture, including billboards picturing Westerners. As president, Ahmadinejad appears to be including hanging and torturing gay men in his efforts to bring Iran in line with a narrow interpretation of Sharia, or law inspired by the Koran.
Politics shaped by homophobia are nothing new in Iran.
One of the tools used by the Ayatollah Khomeini to depose the shah was to stir up public outrage at government officials’ “immoral lifestyle,” which included assertions that homosexuality was rampant in the administration. The shah was rumored to be bisexual, and his prime minister, Amir Abbas Hoveyda, was gay. This was seen by fundamentalists as a clear sign that the shah was not fit to govern. It was Khomeini who instituted the death penalty for the “crime” of homosexuality.
The current anti-gay crackdown is part of a larger but similar crackdown on all “moral corruption” by Ahmadinejad. According to gay political journalist Doug Ireland, who interviewed the escaped 22-year-old known only as Amir, the penalties are the same for men and women, but men are being executed far more often because they are more visible in the culture. The government is snaring men in entrapment campaigns on the internet and in outdoor cruising spots.
Amir told Ireland in a widely published September 20 interview that most of the anti-gay entrapment is being done by the basigi, an unofficial parapolice force under the authority of the Revolutionary Guards called Pasdarani, whose officers are recruited from the criminal classes and assigned to be “provacateurs” with no official link to the government. It is the basigi that are trolling gay chat rooms, trying to make dates with men. In Amir’s case, it was the basigi that arrested him and took him to the Intelligence Ministry headquarters where officials were shown a printout of his internet activity and photo. Amir said he was tortured to confession by being made to sit on a metal chair with a gas flame under it, while being threatened with rape by men at an army barracks. A basigi told another “to take [a] bottle and shove it up my ass, screaming ‘This will teach you not to want any more cock,’ ” Amir told Ireland.
Once he confessed, Amir was beaten and eventually taken to court where he was sentenced to the flogging. Labelled as a “famous faggot,” Amir’s home was regularly visited by the basigi and by the Office of Promotion of Virtue and Promotion of Vice. The office is a governmental arm that also works to prohibit “deviant” activity, including women wearing makeup, boys and girls holding hands, and women not wearing proper Islamic attire. Amir was under constant surveillance and could not get a job.
Others have been hanged after additional trumped-up charges such as rape are added.
Two gay teenagers, Ayaz Marhini, 18, and Mahmoud Asgari, 16, were hanged July 19 in Justice Square in the city of Mashhad.
After members of Iran’s parliament expressed outrage because the boys were so young, conservative deputy Ali Asgari defended the hanging saying, “Instead of paying tribute to the action of the judiciary, the media are mentioning the age of the hanged criminals and creating a commotion that harms the interests of the state.”
Human rights organizations and individual advocates, especially bloggers, have petitioned the U.S. State Department to speak out against the human rights violations in Iran. The department has declined. They have also called on American GLBT advocacy organizations to do more. The groups have made initial requests to Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, but not followed up.
Ireland calls what is happening in Iran a “pogrom” of targeted, large-scale violence, and says it appears to be getting worse. The Persian Gay and Lesbian Association has been organized by Iranian gays who have fled to safe countries for the purpose of telling the story of Iranian gay persecution and helping others escape.
PGLO was formed in 2004 as an outgrowth of an earlier group called Rainbow. Its secretariats are in Norway and Turkey, and soon, Canada. They are gearing up for a campaign against what’s happening in Iran and are seeking help from North Americans.
“ We reach out our hands of need to you,” says their website.
PGLO can be found on the Internet at www.pglo.org.
22 Nov 2005
Iran: Two More Executions for Homosexual Conduct
New York – Iran’s execution of two men last week for homosexual conduct highlights a pattern of persecution of gay men that stands in stark violation of the rights to life and privacy, Human Rights Watch said today. On Sunday, November 13, the semi-official Tehran daily Kayhan reported that the Iranian government publicly hung two men, Mokhtar N. (24 years old) and Ali A. (25 years old), in the Shahid Bahonar Square of the northern town of Gorgan.
The government reportedly executed the two men for the crime of "lavat." Iran’s shari’a-based penal code defines lavat as penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts between men. Iranian law punishes all penetrative sexual acts between adult men with the death penalty. Non-penetrative sexual acts between men are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are punished with death. Sexual acts between women, which are defined differently, are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are also punished with death.
" The execution of two men for consensual sexual activity is an outrage," said Jessica Stern, researcher with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "The Iranian government’s persecution of gay men flouts international human rights standards."
In addition to the two executions last week, there have been other cases of persecution and execution of gay men in Iran in recent years.
• In September 2003, police arrested a group of men at a private gathering in one of their homes in Shiraz and held them in detention for several days. According to Amir, one of the men arrested, police tortured the men to obtain confessions. The judiciary charged five of the defendants with "participation in a corrupt gathering" and fined them.
• In June 2004, undercover police agents in Shiraz arranged meetings with men through Internet chatrooms and then arrested them. Police held Amir, a 21-year-old, in detention for a week, during which time they repeatedly tortured him. The judicial authorities in Shiraz sentenced him to 175 lashes, 100 of which were administered immediately. Following his arrest, security officials subjected Amir to regular surveillance and periodic arrests. From July 2005 until he fled the country later in the year, police threatened Amir with imminent execution.
• On March 15, 2005, the daily newspaper Etemaad reported that the Tehran Criminal Court sentenced two men to death following the discovery of a video showing them engaged in homosexual acts. According to the paper, one of the men confessed that he had shot the video as a precaution in case his partner withdrew the financial support he had been providing in return for sex. In response to the man’s confession, his partner was summoned to the authorities and both men were sentenced to death. As the death penalty was pronounced against both men, it appears to have been based on their sexual activity.
"These abuses have created an atmosphere of terror for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people throughout Iran," said Stern. "But arrest, torture and execution are not limited to gays and lesbians. Any group of people deemed ‘immoral’ becomes subject to state-sanctioned persecution and even murder."
In Iran, executions and lashings are regular means of punishment for a broad range of crimes, not merely same-sex acts. Judges often accept coerced confessions, and security officials routinely deny defendants access to counsel. Late last year, the Iranian judiciary, which has been at the center of many reported human rights violations, formed the Special Protection Division, a new institution that empowers volunteers to police moral crimes in neighborhoods, mosques, offices and any place where people gather. The Special Protection Division is an intrusive mechanism of surveillance that promotes prosecution of citizens for behavior in their private domain. Human Rights Watch called upon the Iranian government to decriminalize homosexuality and reminded Iran of its obligations under Toonen v. Australia (1994), the Human Rights Committee’s authoritative interpretation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is party. Toonen v. Australia extends recognition of the right to privacy and the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation throughout human rights law.
Furthermore, Human Rights Watch urged Iran to reform its judiciary in accordance with principles for fair trials enshrined in both the Iranian constitution and international human rights law. Finally, Human Rights Watch called upon Iran to cease implementation of capital punishment in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty, irreversibility, and potential for discriminatory application.