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New Play About the Two ‘Gay’ Iranian Teens Executed in 2005 Opens This Week in Chicago



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Haram Iran Anand Bhatia (left) plays Mahmoud; playwright Jay Paul Deratany (centre); and Matios Simonian who plays Ayaz.

CHICAGO, November 3, 2008  –  A play centred around Ayaz Marhouni and Mahmoud Asgari, the two Iranian teenagers executed in Iran three years ago and who were widely thought to have been gay, is set to have its world premier in Chicago this week.

Haram Iran, written by Chicago lawyer Jay Paul Deratany and directed by David Zak, is based on the true story about the trial of two Iranian teenagers in Mashad, Iran in 2005.

The play tells the story of two boys coming of age, and struggling with their identities as Arab Iranians, and as typical teenagers longing to discover their place in the world.

Ayaz Marhouni and Mahmoud Asgari, the two fifteen year old boys who may have been gay or may have been experimenting with their sexuality – like many teenagers do, get caught in a compromised position, publicly humiliated and tried in the Iranian legal system.

The story follows the boys’ passions – one for literature and the other for sports – and both for each other.  It takes the audience into the complexity of their relationship, and then the horrifying ordeal of being tried by an unforgiving Iranian legal system which misinterprets the Muslim law of Sharia.

“The dates, names and many of the facts are true, however the trial scenes and much of the side story of the boys is fictional since it is not known exactly what occurred during the trial,” playwright Jay Paul Deratany explains.

“What is known is that they were adolescents, who were tried and sentenced for the ‘sin’ of homosexuality,” he said.

Following their execution and the outrage in the international media, the charge was altered to the “rape of a younger boy”.

“I spent several months researching the boys, story, and there were a lot of conflicts,” he explained.  “However, sources such as UK Gay News, Direland and other news publications provided a rich source of information, and a common consensus developed.

“The bottom line is two young boys were killed for the ‘crime’ of being gay,” he said.

In Iran thousands of people, including children, are jailed or killed each year, some because they are women who have had pre-maritial sex, and others because they are considered to be homosexual.

The play involves some nudity, and violence, and a criticism of Iranian politics together with their very flawed legal system.

However, it does not critique or criticize Muslims, or the Muslim faith, which is a loving and peaceful religion, Mr. Deratany pointed out.

“In fact, to the contrary … it draws the distinction between a loving faith and some of its misguided extremist followers.

“This play is about exposing the human rights violations being committed on a daily basis, therefore I will be donating a significant portion of the of the profits from this play to Amnesty International for the aid and assistance to Iranians who suffer from torture and injustice,” he added.

Haram Iran opens at the Athenaeum Theater in Chicago (2936 N. Southport) on Saturday November 8 (Previews on November 6 and 7).  It continues to December 7.  Tickets are prices at $20 ($18 for students and seniors).  Click HERE for performance days/times and ticket details.  Tickets can be booked at TicketMaster.




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Iran Executes Two Gay Teens In Public Hanging Two gay teenagers were publicly executed in Iran on 19 July 2005 for the ‘crime’ of homosexuality.  The youths were hanged in Edalat (Justice) Square in the city of Mashhad, in north east Iran.  They were sentenced to death by Court No. 19. (UK Gay News, July 21, 2005)

Iran Executes 2 Gay TeenagersTwo 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. (Doug Ireland, July 21, 2005)

Two Boys Executed in Iran For Sexual Crimes.  By Mike Rogers.  Two boys, one aged 18 and one underage minor, were lashed 228 times before being hung by Iranian authorities in the northeastern city of Mashad.  (PageOneQ, July 21, 2005)

Iran 'Must Stop Youth Executions' By Steven Eke.  A US-based human rights organisation has called on Iran to end the execution of juvenile offenders. (BBC News, July 28, 2005)

Pictures From An Execution Come Into Focus.  By Philip Kennicott.  Not since they confronted snapshots of a slightly built young man named Matthew Shepard and the fence where he was left for dead in 1998 by two drug-addled no-hopers in Laramie, Wyo., have gay people been so agitated by a set of photographic images. Protesters brought black-and-white reproductions of the pictures -- which show the public execution last year of two teenage boys in Iran -- to a rally in Dupont Circle yesterday afternoon. The images were also used in other protests, at least 26 in countries around the world, according to bloggers involved in organizing them, and the images are displayed in the windows of Lambda Rising bookstore, near Dupont Circle.  (Washington Post, July 20, 2006)

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Posted: 3 November 2008 at 00:00 (UK time)


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