Iran Hacks Web Sites to Bury Pogrom

Persian, British political groups targeted in Internet sabotage drive

Web sites of gay Iranian organizations and of groups that support and advocate for gay Iranians were sabotaged and driven off-line last week by hackers for the Tehran regime. They remain off-line as Gay City News goes to press.

Among those sites shut down is the multilingual Web site of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization—PGLO, Iran’s largest gay group, with 29,000 people on its e-mail list and secretariats in four countries. The PGLO Web site has sections in Persian, English, French, and German, and contains a raft of documentation of the horrors the Islamic Republic of Iran is perpetrating against its gay citizens, including photos of its torture victims and their wounds.

The PGLO Web site also includes access to a monthly gay magazine in Persian, named Cheragh, and Persian-language streaming radio Web casts aimed at Iranian gays.

The PGLO’s Web site has been replaced by a page from a non-political commercial gay shopping service; in the upper-right hand corner of the home page displayed, instead of the PGLO’s editorial message, there is one that reads: “This domain is parked, pending renewal, or has expired.”

The hack attack has completely disrupted the PGLO’s communications, since the group’s officers and key activists all have e-mail addresses that function through their Web site, and depend on the Internet to communicate with gay Iranians inside and outside Iran. Reached by telephone in Turkey, PGLO human rights secretary Arsham Parsi, said the group is working to repair the site and hopes to be back online soon.

Also sabotaged at the beginning of last week and driven off-line was the Web site of the militant British gay rights group OutRage, which has been prominent in mobilizing global protest against Iran’s reign of terror targeting gay people—and which had just announced that it was about to release an important new report on Iran’s lethal anti-gay pogrom. This carefully documented and footnoted report, written for OutRage by Simon Forbes after a nine-month investigation, is based on public and press reports, official documents, interviews, and translations from the Persian. The coverage by this reporter in Gay City News about the repression of gays in Iran is cited at several points in that report.

Among the report’s conclusions: “The Iranian dictatorship now realises it is not good PR to execute people for merely being gay. That risks an international outcry. To pre-empt condemnation, the Iranians now craftily pin on same-sex lovers additional charges involving pedophilia, violence, and rape. It is a clever tactic that has hood-winked even some human rights groups… The regime clearly does not want its people to view same-sex relations as something a respectable person might engage in with consent. That could present Lavaat [the Persian word for sodomy] as something desirable and positive, and this might encourage tolerance—and even curiosity and experimentation. The clerical regime wants to depict sodomy in the worst possible light to deter and discourage its practice. To do this, it needs to present gay and lesbian people as repellent, dangerous individuals. In these circumstances, the mere charge of Lavaat is not sufficient. To prompt revulsion and support for executions, homosexuality needs to be associated in the public mind with violence and child abuse….”

To get around the hack attack, the first part of the report has been posted on the personal website of OutRage founder Peter Tatchell, at http://www.petertatchell.net/international/iranstatemurder.htm.

Tatchell said that this “is the first document in a series of documents that will be published by OutRage in the coming weeks and months. These documents expose the state-sanctioned torture and murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by the Iranian clerical regime. Mr. Forbes’ pioneering investigation is based on information from credible, verified sources inside Iran. It provides clear evidence of homophobic honor killings, arrests, torture, and executions.”

Web sites of other exile Iranian groups critical of the Tehran regime’s human rights record have also been sabotaged, including Iran Focus and the U.K.’s Ahwazi Friendship Society, which advocates for the 4.5 million Ahwazi Arabs who live in a formerly autonomous region in Southwest Iran.

Iran has a long history of Internet censorship, including the blocking, filtering, and sabotage of Web sites. Decisions on which Web sites should be targeted for government action are made by a secret five-member committee in Iran’s Ministry of Communication. This committee is dominated by officers from the Ministry of Intelligence and by members from the Organization for Islamic Culture and Communication, an ultra-conservative religious group which is mostly funded by the office of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s supreme leader, a constitutionally-established post held since 1989 by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, successor to the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The supreme leader is the highest-ranking political authority in the nation.

Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog at http://direland.typepad.com/direland/.

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