(photo credit: JPost Staff)
BERLIN – Gay Iranians jump-started a Facebook page “we are everywhere” to show that same-sex, bisexual and transgender relations exist in the Islamic Republic.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the presence of gay Iranians in a 2007 address at Columbia University in New York.
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The Iranian leader’s remarks triggered scorn and controversy when he told the American students that “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country.”
Iran’s government has launched an intense wave of executions and imprisonments targeting sexual minorities. The Facebook page “we are everywhere” was first reported on Sunday in the British paper The Guardian.
Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, an expert on minorities in the Islamic Republic and a senior fellow at the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy, told The Jerusalem Post
on Tuesday that “in Iran all homosexuals are treated as enemies of the state because of their sexuality,” adding that gays are persecuted even if they are not politically active.
According to Islamic law in Iran, same-sex relations are illegal, and the death penalty is codified in Iran’s penal code to punish gays.
Wahdat-Hagh said that on September 4, in Karoun prison in the city of Ahvaz, six people were hanged because of “sodomy.” Section 108 of Islamic law in Iran says that “Sodomy is sexual intercourse between men.”
Wahdat-Hagh told the Post
that “In Iran the state determines how one should behave sexually,” and “the dimension of the totalitarian regime” in Iran can been clearly observed in the treatment of homosexuals. The prominent New York-based bi-weekly paper Gay City News has extensively reported over the years on Iran’s lethal homophobia.
The German-Iranian scholar Wahdat-Hagh analyzed and translated Persian-language videos on the Facebook website “we are everywhere.”
He said that on the Facebook site “Iranian gays are drawing attention to their problems.”
“For example, one contributor says, ‘Saalam, my partner and I must leave Iran at once. Who can help us?’ A second contributor writes, ‘after a gay refugee is recognized, who can tell us in which country a gay person can best live?’” Videos of gay Iranians are also posted on the Facebook site. One video participant, who fled Iran, wrote on cleaning paper, “I am an Iranian gay. I fear to show my real face, I fled Iran, I escaped from my own family, I was driven away from my country. Now, I am a gay refugee in Turkey and count the days, we are everywhere. Every day.”
A second video shows a man named Mehdi who posted his video from within Iran. He says, “As a gay person, my biggest problem in Iran is that I cannot be my real self. I always have to play a role. I always have to suppress my own existence and part of my identity and hide myself in fear from the society and potential problems that I might face.”
Mehdi disguises his face in the video and explains that “Like this video, I always have to hide a part of myself from others in my life.”
Meanwhile, Fox News reported – based on a September 10 article in the Columbia University student newspaper The Spectator – that Ahmadinejad plans to dine with members of the Columbia International Relations Council and Association.
The Spectator wrote, “According to an e-mail from the club’s listserv, members are invited to a private, September 21 dinner in midtown with the man whom University President Lee Bollinger introduced as ‘a petty and cruel dictator’ when he spoke on campus in 2007.”
CIRCA vice president Tim Chan said in The Spectator, “everyone was really enthusiastic,” and “they’re thrilled to have this opportunity.”
According to The Spectator, a member of the CIRCA has a direct relationship with Iran’s ambassador. Chan subsequently denied the assertion of a direct link. He said the meeting with Ahmadinejad is not definitely fixed.
The Spectator noted that “Members of the group were informed over the summer that they might have the opportunity to bring 15 students to dinner with the head of state, whose views on Israel, human rights and homosexuality have drawn sharp criticism.”
Chan said there were no objections from members of CIRCA about meeting with Iran’s president.