Gay Iranians praise world support

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An underground gay Iranian magazine has expressed thanks for the “solidarity” shown by other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups in highlighting their cause.

MAHA, an e-magazine for LGBT Iranians, called for “support at every level” and particularly highlighted the importance of lobbying the United Nations, the European Union and national governments.

The publication’s editors said: “International pressure on the Iranian authorities regarding human rights and LGBT rights is effective and we welcome it.

“Portraying homosexual rights in Iran only as a socio-cultural issue is harmful for our unity and the success of our struggle. It is our view that LGBT rights are about social, cultural, economic, legal and political justice. One cannot fight for LGBT people but ignore discrimination in the law and the fact that the Iranian authorities have made sexual orientation a political issue by denouncing and outlawing same-sex relations, and by punishing LGBTs with imprisonment and violent abuse, including torture and hanging.

“We do not agree that the LGBT issue in Iran is purely a cultural matter. LGBT rights are a political issue too. Achieving LGBT rights in Iran demands hard work, both socio-cultural and political – changing laws and institutions, as well as changing people’s values and attitudes.”

They compared discrimination in Iran to slightly more tolerant attitudes in other Muslim countries, “Iranian homosexuals are oppressed by the authorities. But in some other Muslim countries, like Lebanon and Turkey, LGBT people are able to form their own organisations, organise conferences and publish their information. This shows that greater liberalisation is possible in a Muslim country.

“That is why, we strongly believe that in the current situation, the central obstacles against homosexual rights in Iran are the anti-homosexual laws. That is why the removal of discrimination against LGBT people in the country’s penal code is vital. It would pave the way for a significant improvement of LGBT people’s lives by changing the law and removing the threat of arrest and other abuses. We also need democratic, reform-minded people to lead the country and to secure changes in the education system and the media to combat homophobic prejudice and to promote understanding and acceptance of LGBT people.

“Due to the current homophobic repression in Iran, we are unable to openly express our demand for LGBT human rights. That is why international LGBT pressure on the Iranian authorities, in solidarity with Iranian LGBT people, is most vital and welcome.

Last month, 25 protests were held worldwide to mark the first anniversary of the alleged hanging of two gay teenagers in Iran.

In London Labour MP Chris Bryant announced that an early day motion condemning the executions of lesbian, gay, bisexual. transgender people, women and other vulnerable groups – especially, minors – in Iran had been signed by 100 MPs.

Ramzi Isalam of gay rights group OutRage! Said: “We mourn the many lesbian and gay victims of Iran’s homophobic regime, and express our solidarity with all Iranians who are working for social justice, democracy and human rights,” said “We stand united with our gay brothers and sisters in Iran who face the threat of arrest, imprisonment, flogging, torture and execution.

“OutRage! urges the British government to give a public undertaking to halt the deportation of Iranian asylum seekers who have fled persecution. Deportation is a potential death sentence,”

MAHA added, “For the record, we believe the two teenagers were hanged because of their homosexuality. The authorities are well-known for pinning false charges on the victims they execute. We urge people to never take at face value the charges claimed by the courts and newspapers. They are not reliable.

“We express our appreciation and admiration for the united efforts worldwide on July 19 in support of Iranian LGBT people, against homophobic oppression and all executions in Iran. These efforts gave us Iranian LGBTs hope and inspiration. It is good for our morale to know that people in other countries care about us and are pressing the Iranian authorities to halt their homophobic persecution.

“Some prominent authorities here in Iran publicly condemned same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage, following last year’s international protests against the Mashhad hangings. This shows that your protests are having an effect. The authorities in Tehran are concerned about the bad publicity they are getting all over the world. Please do not stop. International protests are effective and we urge all groups around the world to work together for the common good of LGBT Iranians.

“There is growing activity by Iranian LGBTs, both inside and outside Iran, to enlighten people about sexual diversity and respect for individual sexual orientation. Our E-magazine is part of that process.

“The Iranian LGBT community in exile plays an important role in the struggle for LGBT rights in Iran. We believe that unity and cooperation between all LGBT Iranian activists is vital and important and we advocate this unity.