Letters to the Editor

Two Hangings and Iranian Homosexuality

August 5, 2006

To the Editor:

"I would like to draw attention to Doug Ireland’s assertion in his response to Scott Long’s criticisms of his reporting on the hangings of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni in Mashad last year (“Iran: Setting the Record Straight,” Gay City News, Aug. 3-9) that “the hanging of two minors for any reason is enough by itself to merit worldwide protest.”

Those who give weight to the rape charge need to address the question: Since when do human rights groups attempt to hush up, condone, or even begrudgingly accept the extended torture and public execution of criminals of any age, much less minors, for ANY crime? The executions were a direct violation of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child. Considering Human Rights Watch’s mission statement, which in part purports to be interested in “enlist[ing] the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all,” it is at the very least suspect that Long has gone to such extremes to ensure that Western activists do not speak out against this massacre.

It is glaringly evident that homophobia is responsible for the executions of the two boys, regardless of whether their crime was consensual homosexual sex or rape of a 13-year old boy. Consider for instance the case of Atefah Sahaaleh, a 16-year old girl who was hanged in a public square in the Iranian city of Neka on August 15, 2004 for “crimes against chastity.” When it was discovered that she had been raped several times by a former revolutionary guard, 51-year-old Ali Darabi, she was sentenced to death, while her rapist, Darabi, received 95 lashes for his crime.

Such cases abound when it comes to heterosexual rape in Iran, and they are proof that the Iranian government has less interest in punishing the crime of rape per se than it does in criminalizing all actions and behaviors perceived as a threat to its rigid and destructive notions of masculinity.

Consequently, the assertion that these executions were not intensely rooted in homophobia in one way or another is utterly and offensively outrageous.

Eileen McDermott


The writer is a periodic contributor to Gay City News.

August 1, 2006

To the Editor:

I watched in dismay when the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Watch’s Scott Long attempted to derail efforts by activists around the world (including members of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization) to protest the brutal murder of gays in Iran. I watched with horror as the regime’s “they’re rapists” flimsy case was thrown up as a defence by Long. I curled my lips with disgust when Long characterised gayness as an “imputed identity,” sounding more like one of the ex-gay “ministers” I encountered in my youth as a U.S. citizen growing up in the United States than a gay rights activist.

But now, Long writes, “Their lives should not be reduced to the agendas of well-meaning strangers in the West.” And indeed, they haven’t been, since people from around the world—including Iranian gay people—have expressed concern and taken steps, including lobbying for asylum reform in their countries of residence.

One gets the feeling that the “professional activists”—who lobby for a paycheck and prestige, rather than for nothing except a sense of moral commitment—are angry that they no longer own the bully pulpit, and that the grassroots are taking action without their “professional direction.” And that’s simply disappointing.

If Long and his (heterosexual) organization are so convinced that “strangers in the West” are hurting the prospects of gays in Iran, perhaps they should put their money where their mouths are by shutting down their group and renouncing their paychecks. Something tells me, though, that’s not going to happen. So just what is his point again?

Brian R. Miller



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