Holding Iran Accountable for Violating Gay Human Rights



by Paula Ettelbrick


■ Paula Ettelbrick




Paula L. Ettelbrick is Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)

NEW YORK, September 23 (IGLHRC News)  –  The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, joined the largest gathering ever of world leaders last week at the United Nations without one question being asked about his country’s continued violations of international human rights law. Iran has signed both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Both forbid the execution of any person under the age of 18 for any crime. Yet there has been a rash of public executions in Iran that have involved youth or were related to sexuality and gender identity.

We know from Iranian lesbian and gay people among us in many parts of the world, that treatment of homosexuality/gay/lesbian identity in Iran is horrific. For years, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has collected information about the conditions faced by LGBT people and people with HIV in 144 countries around the world. Among our findings in Iran are:

■  November 12, 1995: Mehdi Barazandeh is condemned to death by the Supreme Court of Iran for acts of adultery and the “obscene act of sodomy.” The court’s decree is carried out by stoning.

■  January 24, 2002: Le Monde reported that: “Between March 2001 and December 2001, twelve men, aged between 14 and 57, have also been stoned for homosexuality and sodomy…. Sixteen men were killed by stoning between March 2000 and March 2001, and ten between March 1999 and March 2000.”

■  May 13, 2003: Agence France Press quoted a judiciary official as stating: “An Iranian was beheaded in public and eight others hanged for offences ranging from rape and murder to kidnapping women and girls, homosexual acts, sodomy and fornication.”

A well-accepted principle of international law is that sodomy, even where criminalized, is not a crime appropriate for the death penalty. But the fear of punishment or death for gay men in Iran is so great that at least two Iranians who claimed to be gay and were denied asylum in the UK killed themselves:

■  April 20, 2005: The Daily Telegraph reported on the death in London of Iranian Hussein Nasseri: “A homosexual asylum seeker shot himself in the head at a children’s play center after his appeal to remain in the UK was rejected, an inquest heard yesterday.”

■  August 21, 2005: The Observer in London, reported that: “In September 2003, Israfil Shiri, a destitute Iranian asylum seeker, died six days after pouring petrol over his body and setting himself alight in the offices of a refugee charity in Manchester. He had fled Iran after the authorities obtained documented evidence of his sexuality.”

Under the Islamic Penal Code adopted in Iran, lesbians fare no better than gay men. Though documentation of punishments has not been as specific, the law provides that, “Punishment for lesbianism (Mosahqeh) is one hundred lashes for each party….If the act of lesbianism is repeated three times and punishment is enforced each time, [a] death sentence will be issued the fourth time…If two women not related by consanguinity stand naked under one cover without necessity, they will be punished to less than one hundred lashes.”

Stories, laws and practices in Iran point to some of the most egregious human rights violations based on sexuality. What is it that the LGBT community can do to bring these violations to light, to move our governments to respond? The US government has successfully whipped up so much anti-Muslim, anti-Arab hostility to justify the war on Iraq, that many Americans find it hard to distinguish among people from the Middle East. They think of all of them as enemies, just at a time when the most important thing we can do is to engage with Iranians who are committed to human rights—both LGBT and non-LGBT.

We must reach out to and work with our Iranian colleagues, both in the country and outside, and help move opinion leaders and international human rights experts to demand of Iran that it honor its commitments under international law to suspend use of the death penalty.

We need to engage world leaders to speak out against imposing the death penalty everywhere in the world in cases involving sexuality– whether consensual or not, since in either case, the punishment is certainly disproportionate to the crime.

President Ahmadinejad should have been among the first to receive this message last week at the UN. He did not. World leaders did agree last week, however, to create a new UN Human Rights Council. IGLHRC is calling for governments of the world to use this space so that a country like Iran can be called to account for its pattern of human rights violations.

■  The mission of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression, and/or HIV status. A US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), IGLHRC effects this mission through advocacy, documentation, coalition building, public education, and technical assistance.


Iranian Gays Live in Fear This is the full text of the press statement from PGLO (Persian Gays & Lesbians Organisation) received by email received at Outrage! in London.  Amir, a young Iranian homosexual, recently spoke out about the torture he has suffered at the hands of the Iranian authorities.

Iran: Gay Amir, Aged 22, Given 100 Lashes.  The bruised and bloodied body of a 22 year old gay Iranian, Amir, bears further witness to the brutality of the Ayatollah’s regime.  Yet many gay and human rights groups in “the West” are sweeping the matter under the carpet. (earlier today), Outrage! suggests. (September 20)

Iran’s Anti-Gay Purge Grows – Reports of New Gay Executions.  By Doug Ireland.  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.” (August 26)

While We Sit and Bitch, Gay Human Rights Abuses Continue We sit in our comfortable homes and ponder whether we should go partying in a gay nightclub, or just go for a quiet drink in our neighbourhood gay pub or bar.  Once a year we can frolic in the streets during our local “Pride” in a way that was unthinkable twenty years ago.

Hundred Protest in London Over ‘Gay’ Executions in Iran Over 100 people protested outside the Iranian Embassy in London today – coinciding with simultaneous US and European protests against Iran’s “tyrannical, homophobic, misogynistic and fundamentalist regime.” (August 11)

Five-City Protest Against Iran Executions of Gay Teens Dublin, London, Paris, Montpelier and San Francisco Stage Protests Tomorrow. (August 10)

Gay Media's Failure to Accurately Report Adds to Growing Hatred Towards Islamic World.  Op-Ed by Faisal Alam.  In the wake of the recent London bombings, the Western world has been propelled into another vicious cycle of revenge against Muslims and the Islamic world.  While mainstream media around the world have more accurately represented the outpouring of condemnation by Muslim organizations and institutions against the attacks in London, the gay and lesbian media in the U.S. has unfortunately succumbed once again to the false belief that Islam condones acts of violence including suicide bombings, executions of civilians and even the killing of homosexuals. (August 1)



International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission website

Outrage! website


Recent Articles

September 22: 
Amnesty Report Reveals Alarming and Widespread Police Mistreatment of Gays in USA.  In the most comprehensive report of its kind to date, Amnesty International (AI) reveals that police mistreatment and abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is widespread throughout the USA and goes largely unchecked due to underreporting and unclear, under-enforced or non-existent policies and procedures.
 Full statement by Dr.William Schulz,
Executive Director of Amnesty International USA

Russia:  Gay Russian Wins Employment Discrimination Case in Landmark Ruling - Court Rules Homosexuality Is Not a Mental Disorder.  In what is seen as a “landmark” ruling, a court in St. Petersburg has backed a gay man whose military record said he had a mental disorder, solely on the basis that he was gay.  The man, identified only as “Mr. VP”, had applied to the Russian State Railways for a job as a guard, but was deemed to be unfit for the job because of his “mental disorder”.

September 21: 
Ankara’s Deputy Governor Threatens to Close Down Gay Organisation.  The Deputy Governor of Ankara, Selahattin Ekremoglu, is calling for an LGBT group to be closed down, it emerged today.  Ekremoglu claimed last week that the group operated “against the laws and morality rules” and should be closed down.
Russia:  Poll Shows Majority Support Gay Rights in Russia.  For the first time ever, a clear majority of Russians say that there should be equal rights for gays in the country, a new opinion poll has found.

September 20
Iran:  Iranian Gays Live in Fear This is the full text of the press statement from PGLO (Persian Gays & Lesbians Organisation) received by email received at Outrage! in London.  Amir, a young Iranian homosexual, recently spoke out about the torture he has suffered at the hands of the Iranian authorities.

Iran: Gay Amir, Aged 22, Given 100 Lashes.  The bruised and bloodied body of a 22 year old gay Iranian, Amir, bears further witness to the brutality of the Ayatollah’s regime.  Yet many gay and human rights groups in “the West” are sweeping the matter under the carpet, Outrage! suggests.

USA:  New York’s Famous Gay Pair Call It a Day.  Commentary.  We all know that these days love often fades and couples, whether gay or straight, split up.  News came today via many British newspapers that Roy and Silo, arguably New York City’s most famous gay “item”, have decided to call it a day.

September 16: 
London’s Oxford Street Will Be Gay for EuroPride Next Year.  Two of the world’s most famous – and busiest – streets will be used for next year’s EuroPride Parade being staged in London.  The ‘dream’ of parading down Oxford Street and Regent Street will become a reality.

September 15: 
Russia/Komi Republic: 
Russian Gay Activist Accused of Breach of 1923 Convention Details of the criminal case against Russian gay activist Maxim Lazarev are emerging from the Komi Republic, some 1,500 kilometres north east of Moscow.

September 14: 
UK Civil Partnerships: What Gays Need to Know.  A new publicity campaign to tell gay people what they need to know about same-sex civil partnerships was launched by Deputy Equality Minister Meg Munn at Westminster Register Office today.

September 13:
Researchers Locate Army Document Ordering Commanders Not To Fire Gays.  Scholars in California studying military personnel policy have found a controversial regulation halting the discharge of gay soldiers in units that are about to be mobilized.

September 12: 
Gay Russian Activist On Website Porn Charges.  A gay activist from the Komi Republic in the Russian Federation has been charged with pornography on his non-pornographic website.  And other gay activists in Russia are fearing the start of a wide-ranging clampdown on gay websites and publications.

September 8
Cardiff Millennium Stadium Cancels Gay Concert on Saturday.  Statements from Millennium Stadium and Cardiff Mardi Gras Organisers

September 7
Gay Group in Nepal Gets Cash Boost From Elton John AIDS Foundation Nepal’s Blue Diamond Society (BDS) has been awarded a grant of £25,000 by the Elton John AIDS Foundation.  The money means that the BDS will be able to continue its work with those suffering from AIDS for a further year.

London Gay Group to Join Protest Against Sharia Law in Canada.  Human rights campaigners and refugees from Islamist persecution will protest against the introduction of Sharia law in Cananda, outside the Canadian High Commission, in London  tomorrow (Thursday September 8) from 12 noon – 2 pm. 

Canada:  Islamic Sharia Courts: Is Canada Next?  Azar Majedi On the Plan to Establish a Sharia Court in Ontario, Canada

UK:  Search For ‘Gay’ Faces of London EuroPride 2006 Do you want to be seen by thousands around the world?  EuroPride London is looking for a wide range of interesting ‘faces’ from the diverse LGBT community who fancy themselves on EuroPride posters, magazines, leaflets and on their  web site.

September 6
Moscow to Host First IDAHO Annual Conference During Gay Festival The first annual conference of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) will be held in Moscow as part of gay festival celebrations in May 2006 with many prominent Russian and foreign LGBT activists, academics and politicians.

Posted: 23 September 2005