GLAA joins protest against Iranian persecution of LGBT people

Protest against Iranian persecution of LGBT people

Dupont Circle
July 19, 2006, 5:00 p.m.

Photo by Richard J. Rosendall

[Note from Rick Rosendall: An information table was set up on the south side of the Dupont Circle fountain, with posters of the 19 July 2005 hangings of Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari on display against the side of the fountain. The banner of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance was stretched on the ground below the posters, with a collection of candles below that. 58 people signed a petition expressing their solidarity with Iran's persecuted LGBT community, and many people filled a notebook with messages of support, which were to be transcribed into an email to be sent to the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization. After the spoken remarks, which are transcribed below, people lit candles and there was a moment of silence.]

Photo by Antonio Ruffini

Statement from "Mani"
Read by GLAA President Barrett L. Brick

The following is a statement made by a 24-year-old gay activist living inside Iran:

"In Iran, if a homosexual falls in love, he has committed a grave crime: here, homosexual love equals death, the gallows, and stoning. This is a major part of what I term the "condemned" life: he is oppressed and sinks into despair and self-hate and, in too many cases, ultimately opts for suicide.

"The best way for gays to meet in Iran is either via the Internet or at parties. Unfortunately, recently the Ministry of Intelligence has multiplied its monitoring of both. Private parties are constantly raided, and we have witnessed the disappearance of many gay people after they established contact with strangers via the Internet. Afterwards, they’re arrested and falsely accused of such crimes as transporting drugs, robbery, rape, etc., and then they are sentenced to death by a judge in a bogus court with false witnesses, without these executions being reported in any newspaper or in the news media in general. And as long as the ayatollahs’ constitutional Guardian Council exists in Iran and has its thumb on everything the government does, the situation will remain the same.

"[If the government found out about my gay activism] I would definitely be killed in the most horrendous way, and my family, too, would be harassed and persecuted. No physical sign of me would remain.

"You who live serenely and comfortably on the other side of Iran’s frontiers, be aware that those who think and feel and love like you do in Iran are executed for the "crime" of homosexuality, are assassinated, kidnapped, and barred from working in offices. You have festivals, but we have prisons. You select Mr. Gay of the Year, but we don’t even enjoy the right to have gravestones. Be fair and tell us what difference there is between us and you. Isn’t it time that all homosexuals around the world rise up and come to our defense?"

— from an interview by Doug Ireland in Gay City News, July 6, 2006.

Photo by Antonio Ruffini

Remarks by Richard J. Rosendall
GLAA Vice President for Political Affairs

At this hour, gay people and our allies are gathered in dozens of cities around the world to send a simple message: “Iran: stop killing gays! Stop killing kids!” Our presence here is evidence of the freedom that we enjoy, freedom that our brothers and sisters in Iran can only dream of. That freedom impels us to raise our voices in their defense.

Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari were murdered a year ago for how they loved. The regime that killed them in such a barbaric fashion calls itself an Islamic Republic, but we know that those monsters do not represent Islam, any more than Rev. Fred Phelps represents Christianity. Ayaz and Mahmoud, and far too many others, were killed by fanaticism. They were killed by medieval obscurantism. We are countering that obscurantism by shining a light on these crimes.

Let the world see what atrocities are committed against gay human beings in Iran. Let us wrap our arms around our courageous friends in the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization. And let us pledge to stand with them until the killing stops and all of Iran's children are free.

Photo by Antonio Ruffini

Remarks by Rob Anderson
Protest organizer

If we were gathered in Iran right now, we wouldn't be able to stay gathered for long. The police would have been notified of our rally, and we would be arrested for the "crimes" we are currently committing. What are our "crimes"?

First, we have gathered to dissent. We have gathered here today to speak out against a brutal, homophobic regime in Iran that imprisons, tortures, and executes its LGBT citizens. I must say: Dissent is not a crime.

Second, we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or we are straight allies of the LGBT community. I know I don't have to tell you this, but sometimes it does feel good to say out loud: Being gay is not a crime.

We single out Iran today because July 19 marks the one-year anniversary of the brutal, public executions of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni. At ages 15 and 16 they were known to be lovers. They paid the ultimate price for that indiscretion.

These two boys are not the only LGBT Iranians who have suffered because of their sexual orientation. Every month we receive more reports from LGBT Iranians: someone else has disappeared, someone else has been tortured, someone else has been executed. Along with these reports, LGBT Iranians tell us two other things: thank you for your support, and please help us now.

The founders of this nation designed our Constitution so that we would be guaranteed the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are engaged in a bitter battle here at home to defend those rights. And we will win that battle. But we must also recognize our responsibility to extend those rights to others. The right to live an open and honest life should not stop at the borders of the United States.

Many countries around the world need to be told that being gay is not a crime: Iran, yes, but also Poland and Russia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iraq. We have the right to speak up. We have the ability to organize. The questions are: Do we have the will? And do we care enough about our brothers and sisters abroad? These are questions only you can answer.

Photo by Antonio Ruffini

Links to related sites:

Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization

Michael Petrelis

Doug Ireland

Peter Tatchell

Andrew Sullivan (I)

Andrew Sullivan (II)

Indymedia Ireland

Pictures From An Execution Come Into Focus (The Washington Post) 07/20/06

Open Letter to IGLHRC from Andy Humm