Notes on August (2005) Iranian Case
> From: "Philipp Braun" <PhilippB@t-online.de>
> Date: August 12, 2005 2:02:57 AM EDT
> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: [chr] Doug Ireland: Iranian Sources Question Rape Charges in
> Teen Executions
> From: Al-Fatiha - LGBTIQ Muslims <email@example.com>
> Reply-To: al-fatiha-news-owner@yahoogroup
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: [al-fatiha-news] News: Protests Continue Against Iranian
> Executions; Rights Group Claims Two More Gays to be Hanged
> Date: Fri, 19 Aug 2005 11:38:03 -0700 (PDT)
> From the Washington Blade - August 19, 2005
> From: Paula Ettelbrick <email@example.com>
> Date: September 21, 2005 5:54:08 PM EDT
> To: CHR List <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: [chr] Fwd: IGLHRC Op-ED on Holding Iran Accountable for
> Violating Human Rights
>> I want to share with you an IGLHRC op-ed IGLHRC related to recent
>> executions of two young men in Iran.
>> IGLHRC's approach to this barbarous situation has been to seek
>> clarity about the facts (which may never actually occur) and to
>> pursue avenues for reaching out to and working with human rights
>> defenders in Iran and elsewhere. It is the standard way that IGLHRC
>> pursues it's human rights advocacy agenda: reaching out to our human
>> rights colleagues and advocates in the country at issue, taking care
>> that our work does not leave people in the country more vulnerable to
>> attacks and other human rights violations, and lending whatever
>> support we can to individuals and groups in that country as they take
>> on opposition to their government's policies and human rights
>> violation. As we all know, sexual rights advocacy is a dangerous
>> pursuit in Iran. Advocates risk exposure to arrest, criminal
>> convictions for "immoral" acts, and even death. In such dangerous
>> settings, as we have done many, many times in the past, we have
>> chosen a strategy that is consistent with our values of working
>> closely with human rights defenders throughout the world to build and
>> support strategies that work for THEM within their cultural,
>> political, religious, and social contexts. Often we are asked to
>> release action alerts and to campaign publicly to put pressure on the
>> government to change. Often we are specifically asked not to do so
>> for fear of putting them at further risk or complicating the
>> political situation presented by public pressure from external
>> sources, in particular the West. Despite that, however, IGLHRC's
>> developing work with international human rights monitors has opened
>> doors for us to report abuses directly to them - and to demand
>> accountability from Iran's President through channels other than
>> massive letter writing campaigns from outside of Iran. Our strategic
>> choices in combatting human rights violations vary tremendously
>> depending upon the context, as they must.
>> Others, such as OUTRAGE! in the UK, have chosen a full fledged public
>> campaign to draw attention to the dangerous situation for LGBT people
>> in Iran. I met last week while in London with Peter Tatchell from
>> OUTRAGE! to talk about our different strategies for pursuing change
>> in Iran, and elsewhere where execution of LGBT people is prevalent.
>> The end result: we simply use different strategies and operate from
>> different philosophies about how best to promote human rights.
>> Especially because this has been a widely circulated discussion, I
>> would welcome any feedback, thoughts, ideas, or connections that
>> anyone of you have that can help IGLHRC and our community move a
>> government like Iran's to refraining from such egregious violations
>> of human rights related to sexuality - whether consensual or not.
Holding Iran Accountable for Violating Human Rights
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.
Paula L. Ettelbrick is Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission