Thursday, July 21, 2005

Iranian outrage: hanging of teens for gay sex + Newest British bomb attacks

Several other blogs, like the ever superb Direland are publicizing this, but after first reading up on it on Outrage! I had to post it as well to amplify the coverage. According to the Outrage! account, which is a translation of an original one by the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA), on July 19, 2005, the Iranian authorities in the city of Mashad executed two teenagers for the "crime" of homosexuality. More specifically, after having jailed them for over a year and giving them 228 lashes, the authorities hanged the two young men (see the horrific photo at right--there are others on the Outrage! site) as punishment for the conviction. That's right--after jailing and then nearly whipping them to death, the government hanged them!Execution

The boys were convicted perhaps a year ago and sentenced by Court No. 19 according to Sharia (Islamic) law, which criminalizes all gay sex (consensual or not) as a capital (death penalty) crime. One of the young men was 18 as of two days ago, while the other was a minor under the age of 18; according the boys were Ayaz Marhoni, 18, and Mahmoud Asgari, 16. To quote further from the Outrage! release (emphasis is mine):

"They admitted to having gay sex (probably under torture) but claimed in their defence that most young boys had sex with each other and that they were not aware that homosexuality was punishable by death.

"Prior to their execution, the teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten with 228 lashes."

"Ruhollah Rezazadeh, the lawyer of the youngest boy (under 18), had appealed that he was too young to be executed and that the court should take into account his tender age (believed to be 16 or 17). But the Supreme Court in Tehran ordered him to be hanged.

"Under the Iranian penal code, girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 can be hanged.

"Three other young gay Iranians are being hunted by the police, but they have gone into hiding and cannot be found. If caught, they will also face execution."
The official account claims that these two teenagers had had sex with another minor (age 13), but as the Outrage! account notes, this might be nothing more than a smokescreen, since it did not appear in the original indictment.

Given the recent election of extremist hardliner and former Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, what's most likely in Iran is that the social liberalization that has occurred under the politically ineffectual Ahmad Khatami will grind to a halt, while horrific punishments of the sort these two young men suffered, and which occurred under the Taliban in Afghanistan and still take place in Saudi Arabia, will increase. (Under Khatami, the Iranian authorities did execute people convicted of homosexual acts, but now that the mullahs are even more empowered, they will be able to stifle the more open public sphere that his governance permitted.) In fact, over 4000 lesbians and gay men or people convicted of gay sex have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979.

Peter Tatchell of Outrage! asks that Britons contact the Iranian government, now even more empowered since its chief threat in the region, Iraq, has been neutralized by the US, to protest. The US hasn't had diplomatic relations with Iran since the hostage crisis of 1979-1980, but Direland provides information on the Iranian embassy in Canada:

Embassy of Iran, 245 METCALFE ST.
TEL :2354726-2334726
FAX :2335712

I agree that raising a hullabaloo about this horrific and inhumane act--and the general oppression of women, LGBT people, and other religious, social, political and sexual minorities in Iran, is imperative. But anti-gay discrimination, taken to brutal extremes in this case, isn't just a problem in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other such states. We shouldn't forget that in early Colonial America (and across Catholic Europe and the Americas during the Inquisition), people were hanged, burned at the stake or exiled when convicted of gay crimes (among the first people in colonial New England executed for same-sex acts were a white man and an African slave), and that hostility towards and discrimination against LGBT people continues in US civil law, even though Lawrence v. Texas, decided in part by retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor, finally removed US criminal penalties for consensual adult gay sex. The current administration is still pushing to amend the US Constitution to ban gay marriage, an overtly anti-gay, anti-equal and human rights action, even as ally nations like Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain, once the most fanatically Catholic nation in Europe and one of the chief sites of the Inquisition's efforts to root out homosexuals, Jews, Muslims, lapsed Catholics, Protestants, and other kinds of religious dissenters, are moving in the opposite direction, towards greater social and political equality and freedom.

Finally, according to the PageOneQ account, the Iranian authorities are supposedly more upset that journalists were reporting the age of these young men than that they were reporting they had permitted this atrocious, heinous act of murdering two young people to occur!

Update: 2003 Iranian Nobel Prize-winner and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi has condemned the killing of the young men, focusing in particular on how this was a violation of two international conventions Iran signed onto, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

As you may have heard, there was another series of bombings in London this morning, three on the London Underground, and one on a bus on Hackney Road.

So far it looks like the bombs either didn't explode fully (only the detonators went off) and were smaller than the ones on 7/7, though the British authorities are saying the bombers "meant to kill." Only one person, possibly one of the bombers, was injured, but the subway bombs terrified riders, who were able to evacuate the cars quickly, and London residents, especially given that the 7/7 bombings are currently under investigation and the city and country are under a heightened state of alert.

Yahoo! News's report, by Richard Meares and Gerard Wynn, "Blasts hit London again, 2 weeks after bombing," says that police are hunting several fugitives. Meanwhile, Tony Blair gave a press conference in which he again denied any links between this and the prior bombing and Britain's support for W's war in Iraq. A poll has shown that over 2/3rds of the British public believe the bombings were linked to the UK's participation in the war.

As for the bombing, Yahoo! gives this account by a witness named Andrea:

"It sounded like a balloon had popped but a lot louder and then we all moved to one end of the carriage. There was something on the floor and you could see something had exploded.

"They opened the door so we could move through to the next carriage and there was a guy still standing in the carriage.

"And then we pulled into Oval, we all got off on the platform and the guy just ran and started running up the escalator.

"Everyone was screaming for someone to stop him. He ran past me and I kind of stood in one of the alcoves and he ran out of the station. In fact, he left a bag on the train."

Christina Springer reports in one of her trademark poetic entries that she and her family are okay.


  1. As life goes along and we get exposed to more and more, it sometimes seem we become more jaded. But, man, this story about the Iranian SGL murders, along with the recent news item about the Nigerian SGL sentenced to die by stoning is stunning.

    Dying for the crime of loving. Damn.

  2. It seems there is a lot of gay bashing going on across the globe at the moment. Read my post dated July 22nd - Ugandan government attacks lesbian activist.

  3. i read that post.... while i sometimes feel powerless when i learn of these, i have to stop to remind myself that at least, via the internet, we can keep one another informed and remain active and enagaged...

  4. Blackgriot and Owukori, thanks for the heads up on the situations in Nigeria (I posted on the linked site, Blackgriot) and Uganda. The deep thing to me is that same-sexual practices have existed since humans first appeared, and it is primarily religious ideologies, often introduced from outside cultures and cultural systems, that have led to the kinds of political and social oppression, leading to death, that history records and that these posts are calling attention to. I especially agree that we have to keep each other informed and remain active and engaged.