TV & Radio
Murder and abuse of gays is becoming endemic
Persecutions are spreading in countries like Iran, says Glen Murray
Mar. 26, 2006. 01:00 AM Toronto Star
Imagine waking up in the middle of the night, the police breaking down your door. You are hauled off to jail, subjected to horrific torture, then a secret trial with little chance of any outcome but your execution. The crime? Being gay.
According to Rev. Brent Hawkes of Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, there are 58 countries in the world where you can be incarcerated for life or worse for being identified as gay, for intimacy with someone of the same sex or even associating with "homosexuals."
The murder and abuse of gay people is reaching epidemic proportions. From Uganda to Iran, imprisonment, torture or state-sanctioned executions are increasingly common.
In Iran, article 111 of the code of Islamic Punishments states that lavat (intercourse between men) is punishable by death so long as both partners are of sound mind and have acted of free will. Foreplay between men is punishable by 100 lashes for each party and lying naked together is punishable by 90 lashes. This is a country whose leader is a Holocaust denier.
Homan, the exiled Iranian lesbian/gay rights organization, states that that since 1979 the Iranian government has executed at least 4,000 "homosexuals."
In Iran, reports of these executions in the popular media are rare. Yet last March the Iranian newspaper Kayhan reported the hangings in Gorgon of Mokhtar N., 24, and Ali A., 25, for the crime of lavat. Similar state-sanctioned executions were reported in the semi-official newspaper Etemad in Tehran.
Article 427 of the Afghan penal code of 1976, reinstated after the fall of the Taliban, prescribes long prison sentences for individuals who are convicted of having homosexual relations.
In 2004, with little press coverage, an American adviser to the Afghan government was arrested and sent to prison under this law for his relationship with an Afghan man.
This is the country that feels Abdul Rahman's choice of the Christian faith is so heinous a crime that only a plea of insanity may spare him from the death penalty.
This horrendous systemic persecution of gays and lesbians is not only ignored by the western world. Some countries like the United States and Britain have been complicit in refusing to offer safe haven to gay and lesbian refugees or denying status to gay and lesbian organizations at international tables.
In fact, earlier this year the U.S. government sided with a majority of states to dismiss the application for consultative status for the International Lesbian and Gay Association before UNESCO's non-governmental organization committee.
This reversed the long-standing position of the U.S. to recognize these mainstream gay organizations at the UN. Moving to smother the voices of gay and lesbian international organizations in the face of these horrors is unfathomable.
Only a few voices in the gay media are reporting these murders and western indifference.
The most recent issue of the British gay news magazine Attitude reported on the suicide of Hussein Naseri, 26, who shot himself in the head while seated in his car. Beside him was a 2-week-old order deporting him to Iran. Israfil Shiri, who received the same news, poured petrol all over his body and set himself on fire. He died an awful death but his actions did not spur a change in the British government.
The article describes humiliating and homophobic comments by a British judge in the deportation hearing of another young gay man and the brutal prison assaults, rape and torture of gay men who survived incarceration in Uganda's prisons.
Human Rights Watch is leading a campaign to stop the government of the usually liberal Netherlands from lifting the moratorium of sending back to Iran gay and lesbian asylum seekers.
Some 65 years ago, pink triangles were sewn onto the clothes of gay men as they were sent to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps. We can't ignore the fact that some states are executing gay people with no more justification than Hitler required.
At what point does our indifference make us complicit?
Glen Murray is a former Winnipeg mayor and urban strategist. gmurray @ navltd.com.