[Marxism] Gay Islamophobes campaign against Iran
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 8 09:19:43 MST 2006
Witnesses to an Execution
by RICHARD KIM
[posted online on August 7, 2005]
On July 19 in the northeastern city of Mashhad, Iran, two teenagers, Ayaz
Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari, were put to death for a crime involving
homosexual intercourse. Asgari, at least, was underage at the time of the
offense. Before the execution Marhoni and Asgari were detained for
approximately fourteen months and received 228 lashes each for drinking,
disturbing the peace and theft. Despite appeals from the defendants'
lawyers and protests by Iranian human rights activists such as Nobel
laureate Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Supreme Court upheld the verdict and
sentence, which was carried out by public hanging.
The hangings were first brought to international attention by the Iranian
Students' News Agency (ISNA), a state-controlled wire service. A brief
article posted on ISNA's website on the day of the execution included three
photographs of the youths. One depicts them blindfolded on the gallows with
two hooded men securing nooses around their necks. In another they are
visibly shaken and in tears as they are interviewed by journalists en route
to the hanging. Undoubtedly these searing photographs helped focus
international attention on the execution, but the text of the accompanying
article remains at the center of a dispute over the nature of their crime
and the role of Western gay and human rights organizations in publicizing
The dispute hinges on one question: Did Asgari and Marhoni engage in
consensual sex (either with each other or with others), or did they gang
rape at knifepoint (along with several other participants whose fates are
undetermined) an unidentified 13-year-old boy?
Organizations that mostly or exclusively focus on gay issues, including the
Human Rights Campaign, the Log Cabin Republicans and Britain's Outrage!,
have asserted that Marhoni and Asgari merely had consensual sex and have
denounced the executions as antigay persecution. Gay websites and bloggers
Doug Ireland and Andrew Sullivan repeated versions of this story, mostly
citing Outrage!'s report on the matter (in subsequent posts Ireland--a
longtime Nation contributor--has taken a more agnostic view).
Meanwhile, in light of evidence from within Iran that the teenagers were
convicted of rape, international human rights groups like Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Gay and
Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) have urged organizations to
refrain from casting the incident as a gay issue. While they leave open the
possibility that Marhoni and Asgari were hanged simply for engaging in
consensual homosexual sex, they have emphasized that the executions are a
violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Iran is a signatory
to both), which prohibit the execution of minors.
Regardless of which version of the story proves correct--if indeed the
truth is ever known--the execution of Marhoni and Asgari was a heinous act
that ought to worry all those concerned with human rights and opposed to
the death penalty. Human rights groups have documented numerous cases in
which Iran has executed its citizens on charges of sodomy and adultery.
According to Amnesty International, "so far this year, Iran has executed at
least four persons for crimes committed when they were children, including
one who is still a child."
In 2004, 97 percent of all known executions took place in China, Iran,
Vietnam and the United States; in the number of juvenile executions since
1990, Iran ranks second (fourteen) to the United States (nineteen) which
just this past March categorically banned the death penalty for those under 18.
There's no question that the executions of Marhoni and Asgari deserve
fierce condemnation. And it remains a possibility that this was, indeed, a
violation not just of human rights but of gay rights--though it is highly
unlikely that the two self-identified as gay. What's worth exploring is how
our perception of the case has been refracted through the prism of
ideological debates over the nature and danger of radical Islam, and how
assumptions about the "clash of civilizations" that supposedly pits
enlightened, secular, humane Western society against backward, theocratic,
oppressive Islamic society seem to have impaired our ability to get the
facts straight. The story also reveals much about the challenge of pursuing
gay and human rights in a political climate infused by the US-led global
"war on terror," anxiety over the recent election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as
president of Iran and growing fears about Islamic fundamentalism,
particularly in Europe, in the wake of the London bombings last month.
Here's how the story unfolded.
Shortly after the execution, the British gay rights organization Outrage!
posted a release on its website titled "Iran executes gay teenagers." Based
on a translation of the ISNA story by Outrage!, and reports from the
National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the website Iran Focus,
the Outrage! release stated, "Two gay teenagers were publicly executed in
Iran on 19 July 2005 for the 'crime' of homosexuality." Outrage! correctly
noted that under Iranian penal code, homosexual intercourse is punishable
by death. They dismissed the allegation of rape under two possible
scenarios: one, that it may have been a "trumped up charge to undermine
public sympathy for the youths," or two, that the 13-year-old boy was a
"willing participant but that Iranian law (like UK law) deems that no
person of that age is capable of sexual consent and that therefore any
sexual contact is automatically deemed in law to be a sex assault."
Peter Tatchell, a gay and human rights campaigner with Outrage!, was quoted
in the release saying "this is just the latest barbarity by the
Islamo-fascists in Iran...the entire country is a gigantic prison, with
Islamic rule sustained by detention without trial, torture and
state-sanctioned murder." Tatchell criticized the British Labour government
for "pursuing friendly relations with this murderous regime" and urged "the
international community to treat Iran as a pariah state, break off
diplomatic relations, impose trade sanctions and give practical support to
the democratic and left opposition inside Iran."
At about the same time, Andrew Sullivan posted an entry on his blog titled
"Islamists Versus Gays" that also claimed that the two teenage boys were
hanged by the "Islamo-fascist regime in Iran" for "being gay." He published
an e-mail from an unidentified gay soldier that read: "Your post on the
Islamo-fascist hanging/murder of the two gay men confirmed for me that my
recent decision to join the US military was correct. I have to stuff myself
back in the closet...but our war on terror trumps my personal comfort at
this point. Whenever my friends and family criticize--I'll show 'em that
link." Sullivan concluded his original post by saying, "I'm saddened that
more gay organizations haven't rallied to the war against Muslim religious
fanatics. This is our war too."
More information about the Marxism