Comment: Why LGBT people should oppose the Iran nuclear deal

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Benjamin Weinthal writes for PinkNews on why LGBT people should oppose the Iranian nuclear deal.

The United Kingdom along with other world powers reached an agreement last month in an effort to curb Iran’s drive to build nuclear weapons. The deal is bad for LGBT people in Iran, as well as the global LGBT community.

While non-nuclear issues were discussed at the talks in Vienna, there was no mention of linking the abolition of Iran’s death penalty for gays and lesbians with the nuclear accord.

According to a 2008 British WikiLeaks dispatch, Iran’s regime had executed “between 4,000 and 6,000 gays and lesbians” since the Islamic Republic was founded in 1979.

Amnesty International noted last month: “Iranian authorities are believed to have executed an astonishing 694 people between 1 January and 15 July 2015.” The figure is expected to rise to more than a thousand by year’s end.

Executions have increased since Iran’s allegedly moderate president Hassan Rouhani replaced his openly homicidally homophobic predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The gay Iranian poet Payam Feili was right when he predicted that Rouhani’s election in 2013 did not bode well for his countrymen: “Nothing essential has changed. The structure is still the same. It’s a play, a comic and ugly performance. They’re relying on the naïveté of people to be able to succeed,” said Feili.

A year later, Feili was forced to flee Iran because he experienced grueling detentions, harassment and a writer’s blacklist. Iran’s security forces held him for 44 days of captivity in a shipping container. In Kermanshah, the same western Iranian city where Feili lived, authorities arrested straights and gays at a birthday party in 2013. “At least 17 people who had tattoos, make-up, or were wearing rainbow bracelets were blindfolded and taken to an unknown location,” the Guardian reported.

Making matters worse, European companies are flocking to Iran to sell “dual-use” equipment that can be used for military or civilian purposes.

The CEO of the Austrian crane manufacturer Palfinger AG said last week that Iran is a “promising market,” where there is a strong demand for cranes as there is no domestic production. After a human rights group in Vienna circulated a photograph of an Iranian man hanged using a Palfinger crane, a company spokesman walk-backed the CEO’s interest in re-entering that market.

Sadly, some prominent gays have profoundly misjudged the terror of Iran’s regime. The acclaimed American poet Allen Ginsberg regretted his initial support for the Islamic Revolution. In the 1980’s he said, “I shouldn’t have been marching against the shah of Iran because the mullahs have turned out to be a lot worse.” Ginsberg rejected the shah’s monarchy but later recognized the birth of religious fascism in Iran. He told the Progressive magazine in 1994, “They all want to eliminate or get rid of the alien, or the stranger, or the Jews, or the gays, or the Gypsies, or the artists, or whoever are their infidels. And they’re all willing to commit murder for it, whether Hitler or Stalin or Mao or the ayatollah…”

The US Congress is slated to vote on the Iran deal next month. Leading Democrats such as New York’s senior Senator Charles Schumer oppose the deal. Sadly, President Barack Obama has posited a false dichotomy between rejecting the deal and war. Even members of his administration disagree with his either-or formula. The next step is to renegotiate the agreement and secure better terms to halt the Iranian nuclear weapons program and stop the regime from killing members of its LGBT community.

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal