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Monday 08 November 2010

Iran: Homophobia and Injustice

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 11th October 2010

Ebrahim Hamidi (18) is a young Iranian man who is not gay. He has been sentenced to death for lavat, or sodomy in his native Iran due to the subjudicial concept of "judge's knowledge". This legal loophole allows for subjective judicial rulings where there is no conclusive evidence, which renders due process and critical evidential assessment a travesty in this society.

In 2008, Hamidi was arrested in Tabriz in the East Azerbaijan province, after he had a fight with members of another family. Three friends were also involved in the incident and were arrested as well. Later, the four were accused of "gay rape".

Hamidi confessed to the “crime” under torture. His friends were cleared of all charges when promised by officials that they would be freed if Hamidi was incriminated by them.

In July 2010, Hamidi's alleged “victim” admitted that his parents had forced him to perjure himself, and retracted his accusation of sexual violence. Nevertheless, East Azerbaijan's Provincial Court has insisted that Hamidi should be executed, even in the absence of any “crime!”

The Iranian Revolution occurred in 1979 because of the anachronistic absolute monarchy of Shah Reza Pahlavi, but Unfortunately, only the Shia umma (clergy) had the necessary legitimacy and infrastructure to provide the necessary leadership and direction when the antiquated pretence foundered on the rocks of western recession, diminished oil revenue and economic turmoil.

What emerged was an equally flawed state of affairs. While there was a democratically elected President and Majlis (Parliament), there is also an unelected Supreme Leader (of the Shia umma hierarchy), a Board of Guardians from the umma appointed by the Supreme Leader, and the corrupt Revolutionary Guard. These can overrule democratic civil liberties and human rights if they are found to 'conflict' with their interpretation of Islam.

The umma have proven quite pragmatic when it comes to needle exchanges and HIV/AIDS prevention in that context, and have taken a compassionate stance when it comes to state-subsidised reassignment surgery. Contraception is also provided for married couples. Moreover, there are other surprises- illicit satellite television, runaway urban heroin addiction and high levels of youth emigration, for example.

Iran has pursued a canny foreign policy since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, shortly after the long stalemate of the first Gulf War, fought against Saddam Hussein, Iran's former rival for local dominance of Southwestern Asia. After seven long years of war, it ended in a virtual stalemate, and Iran needed time to rebuild. Thanks to the Iraqi dictator's megalomania and pragmatic presidential leadership, there was a breathing space, although Iran also provided covert assistance to Shia satellite movements like Palestine's Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah, as well as to its ally Syria. With Iraq devastated after the first Gulf War, Iran rebuilt and prospered.

However, the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khameini), Board of Guardians and Revolutionary Guard weren't happy with that, and as a result of their manipulation of democratic procedures, arch-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected in 2003. Moreover, the Majlis itself fell under conservative domination in 2004, after a deeply suspicious parliamentary electoral process. During the Ahmadinejad administration, there have been repeated bribery and corruption scandals, the aforementioned questions of electoral fraud and his infamous outburst related to Holocaust denial. Moreover, he is also prone to exaggerating his role in the US Embassy hostage crisis of the early eighties and the Gulf War against Iraqi forces. Most recently, he outraged the UN General Assembly with his conspiracy theories about 9/11.

As for the plight of lesbian and gay Iranians, it is dire. According to the current interpretation of sharia law. In Iran, lavat (sodomy) carries the risk of corporal and capital punishment. If a man or woman is convicted of lavat, they can be lashed, hanged or stoned to death. Iranian criminal law includes several penalties for different “acts”. They include ninety-nine lashes if two unrelated males sleep “unnecessarily” under the same blanket – even without any sexual contact. Abhorrently, any boy raped by an adult male pedophile would also be lashed if the court decided that he had “enjoyed” his ordeal.

While this legalised homicidal violence against lesbians and gays is horrific enough, there are other victims. Since the Iranian Revolution (1979), the “Islamic” Penal Code has allowed stoning, which is a brutal and sadistic punishment inflicted through the necessary use of small stones which can take half an hour to kill women, usually buried to their waists. Moreover, the victims of these ordeals are usually illiterate rural women coerced into signing bogus confessions and trials are held under the aegis of male jurists only.

Somalia, Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan are the only Islamic societies that still carry out stoning of ‘adulterous' women, probably because liberal Muslim opinion is aghast at the practice.

Apart from this, Iran executed 388 people in 2009, more than any other country except for China. The death penalty is used against those who commit moharebeh (”Enmity Against God”)- Iranian feminists, trade unionists, Kurdish and other ethnic minority rights activists, journalists and teachers who criticise the Ahmadinejad regime.

There is a petition against the planned execution. As international pressure forced the cessation of execution for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashitani, a battered woman who killed her brutal husband, it may well pay dividends to protest this injustice in Hamidi's case as loudly.

Saeed Kamali Deeghan: “Iran set to execute eighteen year old on false charge of sodomy” Guardian 08.08.10: Petition:

Craig Young - 11th October 2010

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