Monday, 29 September 2008

Stop press: There are gay people in Iran (but only a few)

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Via a news release from Peter Tatchell, I was intrigued to learn that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just told American news show Democracy Now that there are indeed some gay people in Iran: "There might be a few people who are known. In general, our country would not accept it."

But President Ahmadinejad, didn't you say only last year that there are no gay people in your country?
"I didn’t say they don’t exist; I said not the way they are here. In Iran, it’s considered as a very unlikable and abhorrent act. People simply don’t like it. Our religious decrees tell us that it’s against our values, and all divine laws, actually, believe in the same. Who has given them permission to engage in homosexual acts? It’s considered as an abhorrent act. It shakes the foundations of a society, the family foundation. It robs humanity. It brings about diseases."
While this doesn't exactly amount to a huge advance, prominent gay rights campaigner and New Humanist contributor Tatchell does see in Ahmadinejad's words some signs of progress:
“This about-turn shows that Iran realises its gay-denial stance has been widely condemned and ridiculed. The fact that the President has moderated his ‘no gays’ position since last year is evidence that global gay protests are having an impact on the regime in Tehran.”
However, Tatchell goes on to dispute Ahmadinejad's claim that in Iran "people are free to do what they like in their private realms" and that there is no death penalty for Iranian homosexuals:

“This is complete nonsense. Iranian law stipulates the death penalty for homosexuality, whether in public or private. People suspected of being gay have their homes raided. Private, discreet gay parties have been busted by the police and the party-goers arrested, tortured and flogged. Years ago, some of those arrested at private parties simply disappeared. They were never seen again. It is presumed they were secretly executed.”

You can see the interview with Ahmadinejad through the Democracy Now website.