Marking A Year Since Iran Hangings

Global protests planned to commemorate executions of two gay youths last July 19

An appeal has been jointly issued by the militant British gay rights group OutRage and the Paris-based International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) for worldwide demonstrations on July 19, the first anniversary of the public hanging in Iran of two gay teens, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni.

Photos of the execution of the two youths, who were hanged in the public square of the city of Mashad last year, created international outrage when they were widely circulated on the Internet, and focused the world’s attention on Iran’s ongoing, lethal reign of terror targeting Iranian gays.

Protests have already been scheduled for the anniversary of the teens’ execution in a number of large European cities, including London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels.

In the U.S., the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has endorsed the global demonstrations, and is organizing one of its own in front of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations at 622 Third Avenue, at 40th Street, at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19. Local gay groups and an ad hoc U.S. committee have also scheduled events the same day in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, San Diego, and Provincetown.

The call for global demonstrations has also been endorsed by the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO), the largest Iranian gay group, which has secretariats in several European countries and Canada.

“We enthusiastically support the call for demonstrations on July 19, and we are very grateful to our brothers and sisters for organizing these demonstrations for our beleaguered Iranian gay people,” Arsham Parsi, human rights secretary of the PGLO, told Gay City News from his base in Toronto.

At the same time, a report on the hangings of the two Iranian gay teens, based on sources inside Iran, prepared by Simon Forbes, and issued by OutRage, further refutes the claims by the Islamic Republic of Iran that the boys were guilty of rape, and instead demonstrates that they were victims of a legal “honor killing” initiated by a family member of one of the youths who disapproved of their homosexuality. Gay City News also had refuted the Tehran regime’s claims about the rape allegations against the two lads in its reporting on the hangings last year.

“Local sources in Mashad state that Mahmoud and Ayaz were lovers, not rapists or child abusers—contrary to the homophobic propaganda of the Iranian regime,” says the OutRage report. “Witnesses report seeing them together and obviously in love at a private party in 2003,” the year before their arrest. “Mahmoud and Ayaz were charged with the capital crime of homosexuality after a disapproving family member reported their relationship to the police,” the report adds.

“In publicized executions of gay couples, the men are often accused of the kidnap and rape of a younger male,” commented OutRage founder and coordinator Peter Tatchell. “All such allegations need to be treated with extreme skepticism, as they tend to follow a suspiciously stereotypical formula.”

Tatchell added, “By instituting charges of kidnap and rape, the Iranian authorities apparently hope to discredit the victims, discourage public protests, and deflect international condemnation. They calculate that there will be little Iranian or international sympathy for people hanged for crimes like abduction and sexual assault.” Gay City News previously reported similar assessments from underground gay activists inside Iran.

As to the age of the two gay victims, “At first it was claimed by Iranian officials that they were aged 18 and 19, then that they were 19 and 21, then aged 18 and 20, and finally they made the claim that they were both above 18 at the time of their alleged crimes. However,” the OutRage report says, “the best evidence is that both youths were aged 17 when they were executed and therefore minors, aged 15 or 16, at the time of their alleged crimes. This execution of minors is in flagrant breach of international agreements the Tehran regime has signed.”

In calling for global demonstrations, the coordinator and founder of IDAHO, Louis-George Tin, a French university professor who is also a prominent black leader there, wrote, “Something special has happened since 19 July 2005: an international movement is emerging in solidarity with the two boys and all the victims of Iran’s homophobic regime. The political and religious authorities in Iran should understand that their homophobia is now regarded as an international scandal.”

Tin added, “On 19 July, we are standing for life, for liberty, and for love. We are standing in commemoration of Mahmoud and Ayaz and all the victims of Tehran’s homophobic tyranny. We also stand in hope, looking forward to a better future for the gays and lesbians of Iran.” (For a profile of Tin, see “Going Global on Gay Rights,” Gay City News, May 4-10, 2006 at http://www.gaycitynews.com/gcn_518/goingglobalongay.html.)

The joint IDAHO-OutRage appeal for international demonstrations, entitled “An International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran,” includes a five-point list of its goals:

“1. End all executions in Iran, especially the execution of minors.

“2. Stop the arrest, torture and imprisonment of Iranian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and repeal the Iranian penal code’s criminalization of same-sex relationships.

“3. Halt the deportation to Iran of LGBT asylum seekers and other victims of Tehran’s persecution.

“4. Support Iranians struggling for democracy, social justice, and human rights.

“5. Oppose foreign military intervention in Iran; regime change must come from within—by and for the Iranian people themselves.”

Although IGLHRC has called for a demonstration in New York, some U.S. gay activists are critical of the absence of the other national U.S. gay organizations from the July 19 protests.

“American gay rights organizations should devote more energy to tackling homophobic persecution beyond our borders,” said San Francisco’s Michael Petrelis, organizer of a demonstration scheduled there for 5 p.m. at Harvey Milk Plaza.

“The protests on July 19 are a step toward greater U.S. support for the global struggle for queer freedom,“ Petrelis said, adding, “Only one American city joined last year’s international protests against Iran’s hanging of the two gay teenagers. We hope more cities will join us and organize vigils for gay and lesbian Iranians.”

Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, athttp://direland.typepad.com/direland/.

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