TV & Radio
Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July, 2005, 08:59 GMT 09:59 UK
Sex education 'is a legal right' - BBC
Parents should be forced by law to teach their children about sex, teachers are expected to argue.
Too many teenage girls are becoming pregnant because of lack of knowledge, the Professional Association of Teachers' annual conference will hear.
Tony Reynolds, a teacher from Cambridge, said many parents did not deal seriously enough with children's sex education.
The UK has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in western Europe.
'Taking the blame'
Mr Reynolds, from Over Community Primary School, said a family in Derby, where three sisters aged 12, 14 and 16 were mothers, showed the seriousness of the situation.
Their own mother, Julie Atkins, blamed their pregnancies on schools for not teaching children enough about sex, he added.
Mr Reynolds said: "We don't need to go into the rights and wrongs of this case as to me it is clear that schools cannot and should not be left in a position where they may take the blame for the current situation.
"The delivery of sex education has to be the joint responsibility of both the home and the school.
"Of course, there will be too many parents unwilling or unable to do this at present.
"Therefore the government must ensure via legislation that parents have their responsibilities clearly set out."
Peer pressure meant many pupils were afraid to ask questions about sex when it is covered in class.
Meanwhile, many parents were too embarrassed to tackle the subject at home, he said.
The conference is debating Mr Reynolds's motion demanding new laws requiring parents "to take more responsibility for teaching their children about sex and morality".
Mixed reports on Iran teen hangings
Watchdog groups dispute claims two were executed for being gay
By ELIZABETH WEILL-GREENBERG | Jul 28, 1:49 AM - Blade
A photo of two teenaged males being hanged in Iran last week swept across the Internet with claims they were executed for being gay.
Two Iranian teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, were hanged last week in Iran, sparking an international outcry, but international human rights groups believe the two were not executed simply for being gay. (Photo by AP)
The Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.-based gay rights group, released a letter this week to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeating the allegations and urging her to intervene. The U.K.-based gay rights group Outrage, as well as Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht, condemned the hangings.
But the circumstances that triggered the executions are now being questioned by several human rights groups, which claim the teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, may not have been killed for being gay.
Research conducted by the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International has found, so far, that the teenagers were convicted of and executed for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old male, a crime that occurred when the two teens may have been minors.
Asgari's lawyer, Rohollah Razaz Zadeh, told the Associated Press that Iranian courts are supposed to commute death sentences handed to children to five years in jail.
"The judiciary has trampled its own laws," Razaz Zadeh told AP.
But the lawyer said Iran's Supreme Court upheld the verdict and allowed the execution despite his objections.
It appears that reports claiming the boys were executed for being gay originated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group that is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Accounts of the executions on gay news Web sites referenced reports by the group and its English language news site, www.iranfocus.com.
IGHRC, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have not yet uncovered evidence that the charges were trumped up, officials with those groups said. Asgari and Marhoni also reportedly received 228 lashings while in detention for drinking and theft.
The human rights groups note that Iran's execution and torture of the teenagers remains appalling, no matter the circumstances.
"It was not a gay case," said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, taking issue with the Human Rights Campaign's statement that was quick to condemn the execution as anti-gay.
"We would welcome HRC's involvement in demanding that our government speak out on human rights violations. It was just the wrong case," she said.
Ettelbrick said she was also disturbed by the racially charged language used by some gay rights groups to condemn the execution, such as when Peter Tatchell of Outrage said in a statement, "This is just the latest barbarity by the Islamo-fascists in Iran."
HRC received their information on the executions in Iran primarily from news reports Thursday and Friday, according to Steven Fisher, the group's communications director. An investigation to determine the truth is still needed, he said.
"We don't give one of the most secretive, aggressive nations the benefit of the doubt," Fisher said. "We would be relieved if reports are erroneous that these young Iranian men were punished for something that should never be a crime in any nation."
Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House International Relations Committee, blasted the executions as violations of Iran's obligations under international law and signs of bias against gays.
"This sickening episode shines a bright light on the severe shortcomings of the Iranian legal system," Lantos said in a statement. "No matter what legal sources or traditions a country bases its law upon, there is no justification for whipping and executing people amid an angry mob — particularly not when the convicts committed offenses while they were minors, who are specifically protected under international law.
"And in this case, authorities apparently chose to play on deep-seated feelings of bigotry toward homosexuality, which can carry the death penalty in Iran," he added.
Noel Clay, a State Department spokesperson, said Wednesday afternoon that there were no plans to release an official statement about the executions.
But Michael Petrelis, a San Francisco-based gay activist who has focused his blog on the case of the Iranian executions, said he was read the following statement on Wednesday by State Department spokesperson Edgar Vasquez:
"We remain concerned about Iran's judicial process. Defendants are not receiving due process of law, and trials lack procedural safeguards.
"As noted in our country reports on human rights practices, the judge and the prosecutor are the same person, trials are frequently held in closed sessions without access to a lawyer and the right of appeal is not often honored.
"We call upon the government of Iran to vigorously pursue prison reform, cooperate with international investigations of human rights cases and respect international human rights law and practice," the statement concluded.
Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human rights advocate, said on July 23 that as a result of the executions, her Center for the Protection of Human Rights will intensify its fight against the use of the death penalty in Iran on minors.
"My calls for a law clearly banning execution of under-18s has fallen on deaf ears so far but I will not give up the fight," Ebadi told the Associated Press.
Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Project, said the public hangings were a "horrific human rights violation," whatever the alleged crimes. One of the boys was a minor when the alleged crime was committed. The International Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Iran is a signatory, forbids the execution of juveniles.
There is also uncertainty about the exact ages of Asgari and Marhoni, according to Long. Marhoni may have been 19, which means he was not a juvenile when the alleged crime was committed about 14 months ago, he said. Some news outlets reported that Asgari and Marhoni were 16 and 18 respectively when they were executed.
"We hope that the gay community won't simply turn away from it if it may not be a 'gay rights' case," Long said.
According to Human Rights Watch, local Iranian news reports tell a detailed story of the alleged crime, including interviews with the victim's father and a description of how the 13-year-old's bike was stolen before he was abducted and sexually assaulted at knifepoint.
While there are serious doubts about whether consensual gay sex was the crime at issue in Iran, the story has sparked debate about gay rights in that country and elsewhere.
In Iran, homosexual intercourse between two men is punishable by death and homosexual acts that do not involve intercourse are punishable by 100 lashes, according to Hadi Ghaemi, Human Rights Watch's Iran researcher.
Several countries in Africa, the Asia Pacific, the Americas and the Middle East outlaw homosexuality, including U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, according to the International Lesbian & Gay Association Web site.
In about 70 nations, homosexuality is criminalized and in 12 countries, it is punishable by death, said Ariel Herrera, acting director of Amnesty International's OUTfront! program. In Saudi Arabia, some gays who are convicted of homosexuality are flogged with 2,000 lashings, he said. Five years ago, two men were beheaded in a Saudi public square for engaging in gay sex.
Some countries that criminalize homosexuality charge the person with rape or molestation. That is often the case in Iran, according to "Dan," an Iranian gay man who was granted asylum in the United States. Dan spoke to the Blade on condition that his full name not be disclosed.
Dan, now 30 and living in the Washington, D.C., area, said he witnessed two public hangings of gay men in Iran. He speculates that Asgari and Marhoni were hanged for consensual sex but the government said otherwise to squash public outrage.
"The Shariah [Muslim] law says the person needs to admit to an act of homosexuality," he said. "Even if you don't admit, they torture you to make you confess."
When Dan came out, Iran's volunteer military that enforces Islamic law came to arrest him, he said. He ran away, and eventually escaped to the United States.
Iran "hunting more gay teens" - Gay.com UK
Imperial succession proposals in conflict
By SHINYA AJIMA
The government's interim report on Imperial succession Tuesday offers two conflicting proposals, despite its earlier enthusiasm to make history by backing the idea of a reigning female monarch.
The advisory panel to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in the report that Japan should accept female monarchs or allow male members of former Imperial branch families to return to Imperial status through adoption or marriage to ensure a "stable succession."
The Imperial House Law allows only males to reign, but no male heir has been born to the Imperial family in the last 40 years.
"This report does not mean we are moving toward one certain result," said Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, a former University of Tokyo president who heads the 10-member panel.
The comment marked an apparent step back for Yoshikawa, who initially indicated he was determined to bring reform to the Imperial succession process.
"We will address this issue while saying to ourselves that we are going to make history," Yoshikawa said when the panel was launched six months ago.
In March, he said there was no reason for Japan to stick to the current system, which allows only male heirs from the male line in the Imperial family to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.
"There are no proper historical documents that clearly explain why the male line has been favored," said Yoshikawa, who also studies robotics.
But contrary to his comments, the interim report gives consideration to various views.
The interim report came after the panel's hearings in May and June, at which eight experts on Imperial affairs expounded their views.
Five supported female monarchs, two were opposed and one declined to take a position on the issue.
One of the opponents, Hidetsugu Yagi, an associate professor at Takasaki City University of Economics, said that succession only along the male line, supposedly dating back 26 centuries, is part of Japan's "irreplaceable culture."
Of the 125 reigning monarchs in Japanese history, including those of legend, there were eight females between the sixth and 18th centuries. Two of them reigned twice under different names.
But historians say they were enthroned to prevent a break in the succession in emergencies, such as when a crown prince was too young to reign or was forced to postpone enthronement for political reasons.
Emperor Akihito and other Imperial family members have no say in the ongoing discussion by the panel because the Constitution bans them from undertaking any political activities.
Instead, the Imperial Household Agency, a government body responsible for the personal, ceremonial and official affairs of the family, has paid close attention to the discussion.
"If we are to maintain the current succession system, it will put an end to the Imperial family," a senior agency official said on condition of anonymity. "We want the panel to understand this and discuss how to address such a situation, rather than just arguing what is correct or wrong."
The issue of whether to allow the Imperial family to continue to exist remains contentious in Japan after World War II, giving another twist to debates on Imperial succession.
Yasuhiro Okudaira, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, criticized the panel, saying, "People can easily guess how the panel will conclude its discussions."
The legal expert is critical of those who blindly opt to enable females to succeed to the throne in a bid to maintain the Imperial system.
"People should discuss the question of whether the Imperial system itself should exist before they discuss if a female monarch is to be allowed," Okudaira said.
Some Japanese are strongly opposed to the maintenance of the Imperial system, mainly citing the late Emperor Show, known in the West as Hirohito, whom they see as responsible for Japan's militarism before and during the war.
Meanwhile, Hiroshi Takahashi, a professor at Shizuoka University of Welfare, said the panel is "largely" inclined to allow a female monarch.
"We have Princess Aiko. It is unrealistic to adopt a boy to preserve the male line of descent by disregarding her," said Takahashi, one of the five experts who approved of a reigning empress at the hearing.
The 3-year-old princess is the only child of Crown Prince Naruhito, who is first in line to the throne, and Crown Princess Masako.
The little princess has been increasingly exposed to public attention, especially since the panel was launched.
Princess Aiko cannot succeed to the throne under the current Imperial House Law and neither can her future children -- regardless of their gender.
The panel's final report, to be issued by late fall, might allow the enthronement of a person who has emperors only on his or her mother's side.
This story would be more complicated because Japan has never had such an emperor in its history. All of the past eight reigning empresses were related to emperors through their fathers' lines.
"Now the focus is shifting to how public opinion reacts to the panel's interim report," Takahashi said.
The Japan Times: July 28, 2005
After 26 centuries, is Japan finally fit for a queen? - CS Monitor
World > Asia Pacific
from the July 28, 2005 edition
After 26 centuries, is Japan finally fit for a queen?
By Bennett Richardson | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
TOKYO – Japan's monarchy is so woven into the island nation's traditions that it survived defeat in World War II and invasion by the Mongols, and predates the introduction of rice. Now, a 3-year-old girl may be about to bring 2,600 years of male-dominated tradition crashing down.
After months of deliberation and official hearings, an advisory panel to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recommended Tuesday that women be allowed to ascend Japan's imperial throne.
The move was precipitated by a dearth of male heirs in the royal family and reflects changing perceptions of women in Japanese society. Gender roles changed abruptly after the war when women got the vote and a constitutional guarantee of equality. Attitudes have shifted to such a degree over the past couple of decades that many Japanese women are now spurning marriage and other traditional roles altogether.
Debate surrounding the possibility of a female monarch has grown since 2001, when the birth of Princess Aiko spotlighted the fact that the Chrysanthemum Throne was fast running out of male heirs. Aiko is the only child of the current heir Prince Naruhito and the Harvard-educated Princess Masako.
Naruhito's younger brother Prince Fumihito is second in line for the throne, but beyond him there are only a few elderly uncles and doddering male cousins in the wings. No boy has been born into the family since 1965. Aiko and any of her future offspring are barred under law from becoming monarch because she is a girl. Royal watchers have thus grown anxious that the dynasty could die out unless women are allowed to take the throne.
"People need to wake up to the fact that if the present system continues as it is, there is a real danger of the line ending altogether," says Koichi Yokota, a constitutional law professor at Ryutsu Keizai University near Tokyo.
But a 26-century habit is hard to break - especially in Japan. The panel that will decide the future of the family and the fate of young Aiko is made up of both progressives and conservatives. The progressive camp says the situation leaves no choice but to allow an empress to ensure a stable succession. Furthermore, they argue, Japan has had eight female rulers in the past.
But purists say that these women were simply caretakers and were always succeeded by heirs in the male line of descent, not their own children. "They were extremely unusual cases," says Yasuo Ohara, an expert on religious culture at Kokugakuin University, the school charged with educating the royal family.
The problem will arise, conservatives say, not if Aiko takes the throne, but if her child (presumably fathered by a commoner) becomes ruler. This would transfer succession from the male line to the female line for the first time.
"The tradition of the male line taking priority is a very important historical precedent," Mr. Ohara says. "We have a major responsibility not only to our ancestors, but also to future generations to preserve that."
Although the Japanese Emperor's role as head of state is mainly ceremonial, many still hold the imperial family in awe as an entity that unites the country and makes it uniquely Japanese.
Rather than allowing an empress, the conservatives want to expand the royal family back to its pre-war size. When the current Imperial House Law was enacted in 1947 under US occupation, it not only barred women from the throne but also reduced the royal clan from 14 families to three. By allowing some families to become royalty again, traditionalists hope to ensure a new crop of eligible males.
Such a plan might be accepted over allowing a female ruler. Although the decision-making process has been set in motion, all options remain on the table until a final report that may come as late as November. Details remain to be worked out such as the exact rules of succession, including whether younger males should take precedence over older sisters.
The knight in shining armor that may save Aiko from relegation behind an obscure male cousin is the Japanese people themselves. The panel has said it will base its final decision on three factors: the likely stability of the system, tradition, and public opinion. And public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of allowing a woman to rule.
Polls generally show such support topping 80 percent. In one survey taken by Nippon Television Network, 92 percent said they thought having a woman on the throne would be desirable while only 5 percent were opposed. Ohara says these numbers are simply due to the fact that Aiko turned out to be a girl, as well as the existence of female monarchs overseas and in Japan's past. "I think the support levels will probably change,"he says.
But even before Aiko was born, support for changing the system to allow for a female ruler was around 70 percent. If the system has to undergo unusual modifications in order to ensure a male ruler, people will simply question what is so essential about having a man on the throne, says Yokota. "It would be very difficult now to build public support for any system other than allowing a female monarch."
Opinion: Time for princess power in Japan
Japan may allow women rulers
米大統領、最高裁新判事を指名――「玉虫人事」民主分断も狙う（ニュースの理由） (日本経済 2005/07/28夕刊)
July 27, 2005
As religious extremism flourishes in Iraq, particularly in the south, more and more women are finding themselves under intense pressure to wear the hijab (GHAITH ABDUL-AHAD/GETTY IMAGES)
The Iraqi women who fear that democracy will crush freedom
From James Hider
Oppression and inequality may be enshrined in the new constitution
SUHAIDA MAYA never used to wear a hijab, the headscarf that Muslim women don as a mark of religious modesty. An English teacher from Shattra, a town in central Iraq, she always wore whatever she wanted.
Now she and her daughter both cover up for fear of the rising number of Islamist puritans in the south.
“We have to cover up. The Islamic parties even come into schools’ sports lessons and tell girls that they have to wear skirts over their tracksuits. It’s like being in Iran,” she said, her defiance shown by the bright pink of her unwanted hijab, and the women’s rights group she runs.
Many women in Iraq, especially in the Shia south, are increasingly concerned that Islamic parties are imposing their strict religious ways on women who once enjoyed some of the most liberal rights in the region.
Leaked drafts of Iraq’s forthcoming constitution bear out fears that restrictions on their rights may soon be enshrined in the law. The latest copy of the charter, due to be finalised in three weeks, revealed wording that could roll back a 1959 secular law that enshrined women’s equality.
Article 19 of the draft states that “the followers of any religion or sect are free to choose their civil status according to their religious or sectarian beliefs”. In other words, domestic issues, including the issues of divorce and women’s inheritance, could fall under Islamic codes that human rights advocates say would make women second-class citizens.
Under some rigid interpretations of Islamic law, a husband can divorce his wife merely by stating three times in front of her that their union is terminated. Women’s testimony in court is also given less weight than men’s, at a time when rights groups say domestic violence is rising rapidly. Obtaining convictions in rape cases would be particularly difficult, analysts say.
Another problem would be that many Iraqi marriages are mixed, and it was not clear who would decide which sectarian law would resolve domestic disputes. “These are the dark days we are going through,” Yennar Mohammad, the head of the Baghdad-based Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, said. “Imagine you have a committee where half the constitution writers are Islamist groups and some of them are nationalist groups with a tribal mentality. We are looking at a committee, or selected misogynist group, that have only one thing in common . . . that they want to keep women in an inferior status in this society.”
A serious concern for Ms Mohammed is the possibility of young girls being married off. She said: “Under Islam, when the Prophet married his last wife, she was nine years old. In the United States they give a name to this kind of sexual union. Under Islam this is legal and anyone can do it.”
The issue is symbolic of the dilemma facing Western diplomats, who insist that Iraq has the democratic right to write its own constitution, but worry that dominant religious conservatives may use that very freedom to crush democratic development.
Zalman Khalilzad, the new US Ambassador to Iraq, voiced his fears for women’s rights. “A society cannot achieve all its potential if it does things that prevent — weakens the prospects of — half of its population to make the fullest contribution that it can.”
Not all women want equal rights, however. Ethar Moussa, the editor of the magazine Our Eve, sponsored by a leading Shia Islamist party, argues that there is no equality in divine law, and creating it could lead to corrupting Western influences.
“When we come to have outright equality, the door would be wide open for many liberties that are basically unacceptable,” she said, her face veiled and her body covered. “The Islamic principle states that there should be justice, not outright equality between men and women . . . all we want is justice and this is enough.”
That is not enough for Ms Mohammed. She said: “We are practically being turned into slaves by the constitution, by admitting that Islam is the formal religion of the country, and by handing over the writing of it . . . to a bunch of religious bigots who want to see women inferior in society.”
Women’s advocacy groups have started demonstrating publicly, but they fear that their lobbying is being overshadowed by more pressing issues. “Unfortunately we don’t have a militia,” Masoon al-Denuchi, the Deputy Minister of Culture and president of the Iraqi Women’s Group, said bitterly. “The only thing we can do is lobby and talk and talk and talk.”
A LAW UNTO THEMSELVES
- Islamic law, or Sharia, (which means “the way to the water”) is enforced in various forms in the Middle East, most notably in Saudi Arabia, where amputations, flogging and the death penalty are variously used for crimes such as rape, drug smuggling, murder or renouncing the Muslim faith
- The laws of the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam are based principally on the Koran, but differ in their use of supplementary religious sources compiled after the death of the Prophet Muhammad
- Sunni law draws also on the Hadith (collected sayings of the Prophet), the ijma (consensus of the community), and qiyas (the various forms of reasoning)
- Shia law is also founded on anecdotes from the lives of the 12 imams that followed the Prophet, but the code also has roots in local customs
- Under Shia law, daughters inherit everything their parents leave. Under Sunni rules, daughters share their inheritance with uncles, aunts and grandparents
- Shia Islam allows temporary marriage, in which a man can marry a woman for a short period of time while away from his usual family. Sunni law does not allow the practice
［エイズ・アジアの今］（５）ワクチン臨床試験、思わぬ効果（連載） (読売 2005/07/27朝刊)
［エイズ・アジアの今］（４）感染女性が自ら情報普及（連載） (読売 2005/07/20朝刊)
2005年07月28日00時11分 - 朝日
Web posted at: 10:11 JST
Iran "hunting more gay teens"
Ben Townley, Gay.com UK
Wednesday 27 July, 2005 12:23
The Iranian government is apparently hunting more gay teens, after publicly executing two boys for having sex with each other last week.
According to campaigners, police officials are searching for three boys connected with the “crimes” of Mahmoud Asgari (16) and Ayaz Marhoni (18), who were hanged last week.
An international protest is being urged in response to the hangings, which were conducted in accordance with the ultra conservative Sharia law.
Campaigners across the globe are calling for more action to be taken against the Iranian government for its actions.
The boys being hunted are thought to have been named by the hanged boys under torture, the Outrage! group claims. They have since disappeared.
It is thought that Asgari and Marhoni were subjected to more than 200 lashings during their 14 months in prison and forced to confess to crimes they may have not committed.
They were also accused of raping a 13-year-old boy, although the majority of press reports have dismissed this charge as an attempt to avoid any censure from international governments or human rights bodies.
"This is just the latest barbarity by the Islamo-fascists in Iran,” Outrage! campaigner Peter Tatchell said today.
"The entire country is a gigantic prison, with Islamic rule sustained by detention without trial, torture and state-sanctioned murder.”
"According to Iranian human rights campaigners, over 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979. Altogether, an estimated 100,000 Iranians have been put to death over the last 26 years of clerical rule.”
A London protest has been organised next month outside the capital’s Iranian embassy.
The protest will take place on 11th August between 1-2pm. Those who cannot attend are being urged to email and phone the Iranian Ambassador.
Campaigners across the globe may well join the protest, after action was taken globally on the hangings.
In the UK, the government was criticised for attempting to forge closer links with the Iranian government, while in other European countries gay groups called for an update to asylum legislation regarding lesbian and gay people fleeing conservative regimes.
In the US, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was urged to publicly denounce the killings.
Details of the protest:
Protest on 11 August, Iranian Embassy, 1pm to 2pm
Iranian Embassy, 16 Prince's Gate, London SW7 (near Royal Albert Hall).
Iranian Ambassador details:
Tel: 020 7225 3000 Fax: 020 7589 4440
Iranian Ambassador Embassy of Iran 16 Prince’s Gate London SW7 1PT
An interview with gay activists in Iran - ILGA and Gay Russia
An interview with gay activists in Iran
Some are denying that the boys were persecuted because of being gays and put more emphasis on the boy’s crime
ILGA publishes press releases and statements as submitted by its members. Conflicting information has been circulated around this information: it is argued the two boys were hung for having raped a 13 years old boy. The main French LGBT-community magazine "Têtu" has reported that according to the lawyer of the two Iranian boys recently executed in Iran, the boys did not know that homosexual relations and alcohol consumption were illegal. "Homosexuality is a crime in Iran, but the death penalty is usually reserved for cases of rape, armed robbery, adultery, drug trafficking, and renouncing Islam." A third boy, 13 years old, who was with them, was not prosecuted because Iranian law does not consider that a person of that age can consent to sexual acts. This means that any type of sexual contact with a 13 year old is considered rape, and it is for this reason that the two boys were executed.
"The judiciary has trampled its own laws," one of the boys' lawyer, Rohollah Razez Zadeh, was quoted as saying to Irin (a UN news agency), explaining that Iranian courts were supposed to commute death sentences handed to children to five years in jail, but the country's Supreme Court allowed the hangings to proceed.
On this case, apart from this interview below, please also read the statement from other ILGA members IGLHRC, Outrage and COC.
Following, ILGA publishes an interview of MAHA, an LGBT group in Iran. Project GayRussia.Ru conducted the interview with the publishers and distributors of MAHA, Iran’s Homosexual E-Magazine in Persian (it also means “We” or “Us” in Persian language). They are located in Iran and they gladly answered to our questions about the situation of homosexuals in Iran as well as the perception of the recent event that sparked international outrage with Iranian policy.
Can you tell us a bit about the situation in Iran in terms of access to the information for sexual minorities? And also we would like to know about your own MAHA magazine.
Last year, the Persian Internet operator company shut down 15 gay websites in Iran. To strike back and to provide information about GLBT rights in Iran, and to help to create a nationwide network for GLBT in the country, a few gays decided to start publishing a newspaper without a website, as they knew that the authority would close down their website, so they decided to publish a PDF format magazine and send it by email to their readers.
After 8 months of hard work, 8 issues and 4 supplements appeared, covering issues such as gay and family, depression among GLBT, a report about lesbians in Iran, etc. MAHA also publishes a separate supplement for gay aid and to help GLBT to find a friend. Today MAHA has two editors, one gay and one lesbian, and MAHA’s readers are all over the country and even some Iranian GLBT in exile. Currently 600 subscribers receive our magazine and we know that more than 1000 people are reading it. This number is growing every day!
PGLO (Persian gays and lesbians organisation) is an Iranian GLBT organisation working from abroad. They publish a PDF format magazine and most important they send a weekly radio program by email to people inside Iran.
Do you have any further details on what happened on July 19th except what was published in the international media?
Unfortunately not much. The authorities try to give as little information as possible about issues which may cause international reaction. And as you may know there is already a worldwide reaction and protests against the execution of the two boys.
We know that the two boys (with the names of Mohammad Askari and Ayad Marhuni) belonged to Iran’s Arab minority, which live in Khuzestan province, a province bordering Iraq. During the 8 years war between Iran and Iraq, the Arabs were forced to leave their home and some of them went to Mashhad in North East of Iran. The two boys were from one of these families.
We also know that the authorities have been giving conflicting messages. Some are denying that the boys were persecuted because of being gays and they put more emphasize on the boy’s crime (allegedly they have raped a 13 years old boy), but according to the boys lawyer the boys had said that they did not know that such acts (sexual relations with the person of the same sex) were punished by execution. It shows that the boys were executed because of having same-sex intercourse.
The problem in Iran is that there is no harmonised authority in the country and one local authority sometimes makes a decision contrary to the other part of the country.
Do you see a possible link with the killing and the result of the recent presidential elections?
It’s hard to say and it’s too early to see such a link. We know that the newly elected president is a conservative hardliner, we know that while he was a mayor of Tehran he was very much against cultural activities (such culture activities that promote modern western life style). But we also know that he could not resist the democracy movement and NGO, as we would like to do as the desire for democracy, freedom and separation of religion from politics is indeed strong in Iran.
Was this execution event reported in the media in Iran or not?
Yes, it was reputed and even some of international reaction to the event was reported but as you can guess the media is controlled by the regime to a large extent.
However, inside Iran, there is a large number of NGO like children’s rights, women’s rights, human rights groups etc. but also Ms. Shirin Ebedadi (peace Noble prize winner) protested against the execution. The situation in Iran is so that no one can talk openly about GLBT rights so those who protested, they protested against execution of children (one of the boys was clearly under 18 years old). The other problem is the conflicting messages from authorities, so no one wants to defend someone who raped a young 13 years old boy, as authority claims now.
What is the situation of gays in Iran? How can gays live in the atmosphere of constant fear?
The GLBT situation in Iran has changed over the past 26 years. The regime does not systematically persecute gays anymore, there are still some gay websites, there are some parks and cinemas where everyone knows that these places are meeting places for gays, furthermore it is legal in Iran that transsexual applies for sex change and it is fully accepted by the government. There are some medias which sometimes (not often) write about such issues. Having said that, the Islamic law, according to which gays punishment is death is still in force but it is thought not much followed by the regime nowadays.
You may remember the Soviet days, there was not much info about homosexuality in your country, families and the society could not accept it and the regime did not allow GLBT to have their organisations or to spread info about the issue. The situation is pretty much the same in Iran today. But thanks to Internet and contact with the International community, people get the info and Iran society has changed a lot and support for GLBT rights is growing in Iran though we still have a long way to go.
In the recent elections there was a candidate who put “RESPECT FOR DIFFERENT LIFE STYLES” in his program. And it was something new. We do not know if he really meant gay life but we know that his front is not anti gay. In addition there is a famous political person, Mr. Akbar Ganji, who also openly talks about RESPECT FOR DIFFERENT LIFESTYLES. Add to that GLBT which is still in the beginning of its journey but it is young and determined to fight for GLBT rights. There are also opposition political groups in exile and some of them voiced their support for GLBT rights in their program.
So, on the whole, we are optimistic about the future as Iran’s situation can not continue like that and people are pushing for reforms and changes.
How do Iranian gays live knowing that they fear death penalty in their motherland and that in other countries same sex marriages are already allowed?
Life is not easy, it is mixed with fear, uncertainty and self oppression. The biggest problem we are facing is that GLBT do not have info about their sexual desire. They simply can not find explanation to it. Why they feel as they feel (feeling for persons of the same sex), they do not know what it is. What it’s called etc. but when they get the knowledge, then it is becoming much easier. Not all Iranians have access to the Internet, there are no gay bars or clubs, so creating a network of GLBT is very difficult. Bear in mind that after 8 months of publishing MAHA, still a great number of GLBT people have not got the news.
Many GLBT people are living with denial of their own sexuality, or they get married in hope to disguise and hide their deep homosexual desire or in hope to be cured of it.
What can we do from abroad to help you?
You have already done too much for us and we are very thankful for it. Iran’s GLBT struggle is in its beginning and no doubt that we have a lot of challenges in front of us and there are a lot of obstacles we have to overcome. The authorities are not going to accept our right easily. And they may even take a hard stand against us. So we are indeed in need of International GLBT support. Please do keep an eye on Iran and demand a better life and respect for Iranian GLBT. Your support means a lot for us and gives us energy and encouragement. Despite the fact that you may not hear from Iran GLBT regarding your support, please rest assured that we hear about it and we welcome it but sometimes it is not easy to work and be in touch with our friends abroad. We would like to take the opportunity and via you say a big THANK YOU to ALL GLBT groups and individuals worldwide who are thinking of us and supporting us.
GayRussia.Ru, interview conducted by Nikolai Alekseev
Project GayRussia.Ru asked people to sign the letter to the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran and to the Russian President Vladimir Putin against barbarism that took place in Iran, the execution of two young gays on 19 July 2005. The letters were sent last Saturday. When we ask people to support and join our actions and when we ourselves responded to the international appeal of the British gay group Outrage!, we also have the obligation to provide you with some follow up and further investigation into what happened. Here now we offer you the testimony of our contacts inside Iran. For their own safety, we will not publish their photo or contact details. But if you want to send a message to them please e-mail to email@example.com and we will forward your message to Iran. Our contacts in Iran also collect information on the actions of support from different countries connected with the executions of teen gays. Please send us the information you published or campaigns you conducted locally or internationally. We will transfer everything to our contacts in Iran. After that they will be able to include all the information concerning support in the next issue of their electronic magazine. It will show to local Iranian gays and lesbians that they are not alone as they do not have much information from other sources! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
«Gardez un oeil sur l'Iran!»
Entretien avec l'un des responsables du journal LGBT iranien Maha, moins d’une semaine après l'exécution de deux adolescents pour «sodomie».
EU criticizes Iran for executing gay teens - AP