A Guide to the Iran Debate

BY PAUL SCHINDLER | During the last year—and particularly over the past four weeks—Gay City News has devoted substantial space and energies to the story of growing repression of gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals in Iran. We have done so because we think that LGBT people everywhere have a special responsibility to understand and work to improve the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world, and the reporting done by Doug Ireland has convinced us that the situation in Iran is dire and deteriorating.

The issue has also merited ink because of debate between Ireland, other journalists, bloggers, and activists, on one side, and leaders from Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, on the other, over whether specific instances of repression in fact took place in the manner they were reported and, more globally, whether the situation in Iran is in fact getting worse. That controversy also involves the important question of how activists outside Iran should behave in order to best help suffering LGBT people in that nation.

With three additional articles on the question this week, I felt it would be of service to our readers to recap and reference our reporting to date so that you can decide for themselves where the truth lies.

Doug Ireland’s Reporting and Perspective: Ireland has contributed more than a dozen reported pieces on the Iran situation during the past 13 months. That reporting can be accessed on the gaycitynews .com site by using the Google feature on the home page and employing the keywords “Ireland” and “Iraq.” This reporting came under sharp attack by Scott Long of Human Rights Watch two weeks ago and Ireland’s rebuttal last week can be found at gaycitynews.com/gcn_531/iransettingtherecord.html.

Scott Long’s Perspective: The critique of Ireland’s work can be found at gaycitynews.com/gcn_530/debatingiran.html.

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission’s Perspective: Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC, who has also disagreed with Ireland, has twice written about Iran and his reporting, in this issue (http://www.gaycitynews.com/gcn_532/humanrightsiniran.html) and last fall at gaycitynews.com.gcn_440/workingincoalition.html.

Paul Schindler’s Reporting and Perspective: I analyzed the ongoing debate three weeks ago in an Editor’s Memorandum, available at gaycitynews.com/ gcn_529/thebattleoveriran.html, and offered my own opinions on the debate last week, available at http://gaycitynews.com/george-w-bush-death-human-rights/.

Duncan Osborne’s Reporting and Perspective: Osborne, the newspaper’s associate editor, wrote the first news story last summer on the Iran situation (with Stefen Styrsky), available at http://gaycitynews.com/iran-executes-two-teens, and last week analyzed Human Rights Watch’s evolving posture on the question, which can be found at gaycitynews.com/gcn_531/arecrackdownandterror.html. In his role as an editor at the newspaper, Osborne also wrote a perspective piece, available at http://gaycitynews.com/defending-irans-gays/.

Mitra Roshan and Kourosh Shemirani’s Perspective: These two Iranian-American queer activists wrote an op-ed last week that largely challenged Ireland’s point of view and the work of other LGBT activists who have organized protests against the Iranian regime. Their article can be found at http://gaycitynews.com/people-people-dialogue-key-human-rights-progress/.

Larry Mass’ Perspective: This longtime gay and AIDS activist this week writes about his views of the Iranian crackdown on gays which he argues is of a piece with the regime’s desire to obliterate Israel and its vilification of the United States (http://gaycitynews.com/afraid-speak-iran/).

A Perspective from Within Iran: This week, also, the editors of MASHA, an underground gay ‘zine in Tehran, offer their opinion, reflecting the view that worldwide pressure on gay repression in Iran is helpful to those struggling on the ground there (http://gaycitynews.com/message-iran/).

The ball is now in your court to come to your own judgments on the appropriate way to think about the struggle for LGBT safety, dignity, and equality in Iran.