[Marxism] Anti-Iran Protest (July 19) Misdirects LGBT Struggle, by Leslie Feinberg
steffie.brooks at gmail.com
Wed Jul 19 14:23:44 MDT 2006
Beware of pretexts for war
Anti-Iran protest misdirects LGBT struggle By Leslie Feinberg
Published Jul 17, 2006 7:38 PM
As U.S. and European finance capitalists rattle their high-tech sabers at
oil-rich Iran, the arrogant neocolonialist demand for "regime change" is
being echoed by a coalition of seemingly disparate gay political forces in
the citadels of imperialism. Their political campaign to "save gay Iranians"
coincides with the ratcheting up of economic and military threats against
Tehran by their own war-ready governments, which are ordering the formerly
colonized country to surrender its sovereignty and right to
A call for a political mobilization against Iran on July 19 is being
officially billed as the "International Day of Action Against Homophobic
Persecution in Iran." The title obscures the question: Is there a
widespread, state-sponsored pogrom against same-sex love in Iran? Event
organizers say yes. The facts, however, make the motivation for this
mobilization politically suspect.
The year-long charges of a systematic state pogrom in Iran against gays have
coincided with U.S.-led attempts to stop the sovereign country from
developing nuclear technology.
Taking the historic struggle to end oppression based on sexuality, gender
and sex out of the world context of today's battle by formerly colonized
countries against imperialism will not advance the goal of sexual and gender
liberation—here or in Iran—nor will it build genuine international ties of
solidarity. In fact, it misdirects the struggle into alignment with the
worldwide goals of imperialism.
July 19 is the first anniversary of the execution of two young men in
Mashad—the second-largest city in Iran. Those calling for the anti-Iran
event claim the two were hung for being "gay." The Iranian government says
they were involved in a gang rape.
Within hours after the July executions, gay neoconservative journalist
Andrew Sullivan—former editor of the New Repub lic magazine—obtained a photo
of the hanging to post along with his blog account entitled "Islamists
The London-based gay rights group OutRage!—which focuses its ire on
countries that are former or current colonies of England—also quickly posted
a media release stating: "Two gay teenagers were publicly executed in Iran
on 19 July 2005 for the 'crime' of homosexuality."
Gay political pundit Doug Ireland, a longtime journalist for the Nation
magazine, also hastened to declare in his blog headline: "Iran Executes 2
These and spin-off cyber reports in the days after July 19 circled the globe
while the truth was still lacing up its sneakers.
Since then, so many organizations and media have disputed that the
executions were based on consensual sex that it's almost unbelievable this
allegation is still circulating as currency.
Based on mistranslation
It turned out that OutRage! had based its charge that the two young men were
executed for consensual sex on a mistranslation of a July 19 Iranian
Students News Agency article and a report from the National Council of
Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Another name for NCRI is Mojahedin Khalq (MKO).
Although designated a "foreign terrorist organization" by the U.S. State
Department in 1997, this group was befriended by John Ashcroft when he was a
U.S. senator from Missouri. (Newsweek, Sept. 26, 2002)
The political wing of the NCRI has reportedly funneled information about
Iran to the Bush administration. Baruch College history professor Ervand
Abrahamian describes the NCRI as having as little credibility as Pentagon
puppet Ahmad Chalabi "and the Iraqi enthusiasts for liberation and
invasion." (Richard Kim, The Nation, Aug. 7, 2005)
Even the U.S.-based International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission
(IGLHRC), Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International—which are better
known for aiming their political fire at targets of imperialism—"urged
organizations to refrain from casting the incident as a gay issue." (Kim)
Human Rights Watch revealed that the rape charge had been mistranslated from
Farsi. Scott Long, the group's LGBT Rights Project director, stated, "There
is no evidence that this was a consensual act. ... A whole tissue of
speculation has been woven around mistranslations and omissions and this has
been solidified into a narrative that this is a gay rights case." (Kim)
Many other sources, none of them "soft" on Tehran, also reported that the
two young men were executed for taking part with at least three others in
abducting and gang-raping a 13-year-old boy at knife point. These included
the New York Times, Associated Press, Fox News Channel and Times of London
and Radio Free Europe.
Yet Andrew Sullivan, Doug Ireland and OutRage! still charge that two "gay"
youth were executed last July 19, and that this proves the basis of a
murderous pogrom in full fury in Iran.
'Anti-war' fig leaf
The London-based OutRage! and Paris-based International Day Against
Homophobia jointly called the July 19 anti-Iran event. IGLHRC and the Inter
national Lesbian & Gay Association have reportedly offered endorsements and
logistical support. Andrew Sullivan is the contact for the Provincetown
event; The New Republic researcher-journalist Rob Anderson is the contact
The event's "call to action" demands the following: An end to all executions
in Iran, "especially the execution of minors, [an end] to the arrest,
torture and imprisonment of Iranian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
people and repeal of the Iran ian penal code's criminalization of same-sex
relationships" and a stop to the deportation to Iran of "LGBT asylum
The organizers call for aid to the struggle of Iranians for "democracy,
social justice and human rights." That demand is certainly in harmony with
the seven-fold increase in "emergency" funds the White House recently
requested for political propaganda in its internal war to weaken Iran and
overturn its hard-won independence.
The last demand is a little fluttering fig leaf: opposition to foreign
military intervention in Iran. (Washington Blade, July 7)
Are the July 19 political forces really opposed to imperialist military
intervention? Listen to what they said in the first week after the
executions last summer.
Peter Tatchell, head of OutRage!, stated, "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." Sounding more Bush than Blair, Tatchell condemned
the British Labor Party for "pursuing friendly relations with this murderous
regime" and urged the "international community"—the imperialist powers and
those willing to line up with them—"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."
In essence, Tatchell is calling for economic warfare (sanctions); threat of
military action ("pariah state" status); abandonment of diplomatic pressure
(over Iran's right to develop nuclear energy); and regime change
(destabilizing the government from within). These are tactics that a wing of
the capitalist class in the U.S. and Europe would be more than willing to
back—if they would prove effective to re-colonize Iran.
Sullivan made his position sharply clear when he ended his blog entry with
the lament: "I'm saddened that more gay organizations haven't rallied to the
war against Muslim religious fanatics. This is our war too."
The Log Cabin Republicans lost no time in joining the fray in their July 26
statement that began, "In the wake of news stories and photographs
documenting the hanging of two gay Iranian teenagers, Log Cabin Republicans
re-affirm their commitment to the global war on terror."
The largest lesbian and gay organization in the U.S.—the Human Rights
Campaign—condemned the executions in a letter to the U.S. State Department,
which it hailed as part of "the world's greatest democracy."
Imperialist 'regime change'
The Iranian people have already experienced the pain and suffering of
imperialist- levered "regime change." In 1953, the CIA and British spy
agencies bribed a segment of the Iranian military, overturned the
progressive nationalist government of Mohammed Mossadegh, and seized Iran's
oil wealth. They installed the Shah on a royal throne—a truly fascistic
regime under which the Iranian people and the left-wing political movement
suffered terror and torture at the hands of SAVAK forces, trained by the
Widespread reports that the Shah was bisexual, his prime minister homosexual
and two men connected to the royal court were married in a symbolic ceremony
generated religious anger at an already despised U.S.-backed secular regime.
In 1979, the left had been decimated under the Shah, so it was Islamic
forces that filled the void, leading the anti-imperialist revolution that
kicked out the U.S. and British imperialists and took back the country's
Shortly after the revolution for independence, Ayatollah Khomeini called for
a death penalty for homosexuality. But over the last quarter century,
according to the publishers of MAHA—an Iranian Farsi-language e-magazine
dealing with same-sex love—things have changed.
In an on-line interview with Project GayRussia.Ru dated Aug. 25, 2005, the
MAHA representative explained, "The GLBT situation in Iran has changed over
the past 26 years. The regime does not systematically persecute gays
anymore, there are still some gay websites, there are some parks and cinemas
where everyone knows that these places are meeting places for gays;
furthermore it is legal in Iran that a transsexual applies for sex change
and it is fully accepted by the government. There are some medias which
sometimes (not often) write about such issues. Having said that, the Islamic
law, according to which gays' punishment is death, is still in force but it
is thought not much followed by the regime nowadays." (www.gayrussia.ru)
Today, Tehran offers more rights to transsexuals than any other government
on the planet, including low-cost government loans for surgery and free
hormones. Khomeini made the initial decision and it has since been
reconfirmed by many other Iranian clerics. Iran also leads in AIDS
prevention and treatment in the Middle East.
U.S. hands off Iran!
Imperialist-instigated regime change, invasion or occupation of Iran would
usher in neocolonialism—a form of enslavement that the 70-million strong
Iranian population as a whole would certainly fight with the same tenacity
as the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine.
The Pentagon is no vehicle for gay liberation. The CIA is using anti-gay and
anti-trans humiliation and rape—from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo—as bedrock
components of its science of torture.
And a two-year study released by Amnesty International of London on March 23
concluded that across the United States, "Beatings, sexual violence, verbal
abuse, harassment and humiliation by law enforcement officials against
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people take place on any given day in
detention centers, prisons, in the home and on the street."
Racism, immigrant-bashing, misogyny, youth homelessness, lack of jobs, no
health insurance, an economic draft, minimal Deaf and disabled
accessibility, apartments priced out of reach, anti-Muslim, Arab and South
Asian round-ups and forced deportations—and the domestic theo-cons behind
the neo-cons—these are the enemies of the LGBT population in the U.S., not
Iran. And the LGBT movements in the centers of finance capital need to build
genuine ties with working and oppressed peoples of all sexualities, genders
and sexes around the world who are in the economic, political and military
cross-hairs of these imperialist powers.
The good news is that so many people in the U.S. don't want a war against
Iran and sincerely want to see peace in the Middle East. Last year, after
the reported executions in Mashad made headlines in all the LGBT media, the
online lesbian and gay publication "The Advocate" conducted a poll. It asked
if the executions in Mashad would make respondents line up behind
Washington's objectives against Iran. More than 70 percent answered "no."
To find out more about how to help build the anti-war movement to defend
Iran against imperialism, visit www.StopWarOnIran.org.
Email: lfeinberg at workers.org <lfeinberg%40workers.org>
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