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Reuters - Wed Jul 27, 2:43 PM ET
A demonstrator holds a banner reading 'No to the assassins of the gay' as demonstrators protest against the hanging of homosexuals in Iran, in front of the Iranian embassy in Rome July 27, 2005. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Iran 'must stop youth executions' - BBC
Transgender Golfer Still Faces Barriers
After Forging Identity, She Struggles With LPGA Policies and Critics of Her Unusual Sexual Identity - ABC News
Jul. 28, 2005 - A year ago, Mianne Bagger made history by becoming the first transsexual woman to ever play in a professional golf tournament.
"That was huge," she told "Primetime" correspondent Jay Schadler of her appearance in the 2004 Women's Australian Open. "It's like I get there and I'm on the course side of the ropes. I'm here. I'm playing. It was like, wow!"
Around the same time, the Olympics and the Ladies European Golf Tour opened the doors to athletes like her, changing their rules to allow transgendered athletes.
However, the Danish-born 38-year-old still has obstacles to face: The LPGA, the body that governs the American tour, won't let her play. It says only natural-born women are allowed.
Ty Votow, the LPGA's outgoing commissioner, says the rule is based on the belief that allowing transsexuals to compete against natural-born women "would create an unfair effect on the competition."
A Radical Change
However, Bagger says the physical advantages she had as a man have actually disappeared thanks to the female hormones she has taken since before undergoing gender reassignment surgery. She actually has less testosterone in her body now than many women, she said, and she has to rely more on accuracy and less on strength.
"The physical changes are, you lose muscle mass and testosterone," she told Schaedler. "You lose overall strength … I certainly wouldn't be out there playing if I felt I had an unfair advantage."
Bagger, who refuses to divulge her birth name, said she never considered herself a male, even when she was still a teen. She didn't tell anyone about how she felt until she was 18, but she says the experience was unbearable.
"I got thoroughly depressed. I got suicidal," she says.
She had gender reassignment surgery in 1995. She had no doubts, she said. "That feeling of laying on the hospital bed just going in for surgery was like, 'My God, I can't believe this is finally about to happen.'"
Supporters and Critics
The LPGA membership is currently reconsidering its policies on transgendered athletes.
LPGA pro Christina Kim said she wouldn't mind playing with a transgender individual: "You know, if you can play, come out and bring it is the way I see it," she said. "As long as you have a love for the game, I can respect that."
Beth Daniel, a veteran LPGA pro, said "I think the tour in general, if the research showed that there was reason to change the rule, would be more than willing to change the rule."
However, the woman who was considered a pioneer for transgendered athletes, Dr. Renee Richards, said "the LPGA may be smart in holding to their ideas about this."
After undergoing a sex-change operation, Richards fought for and won the right to be allowed to compete in the U.S. Tennis Open and on the women's tennis circuit in the 1970s. But she is ambivalent about her actions today.
"At the time I thought it was my right to be allowed to play as a woman. Maybe it was too much for me to ask," she said. "Maybe I shouldn't have been allowed the same rights and privileges that a natural-born woman had."
She believes transsexual women maintain a genuine physical advantage over natural-born women, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
"I will tell you that if Tiger Woods were a true transsexual, had the operation, he would still be too much power for the women on the LPGA," she told Schaedler.
Richards said "there are a lot of similarities" between her and Bagger. "She's a facsimile … We're the best women that we can be, but we're imperfect women."
Bagger is more assertive about her identity, however. "You know in this society, you have either got to be a man or a woman, male or female. And I'm certainly not male. So I'm a woman."
Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures
News from the Baltic Times
Riga City Council rejects attempt to remove chief executive
By TBT staff
RIGA – City Council members on Thursday rejected a proposal by the opposition to remove Eriks Skapars, the city’s chief executive, for the scandal surrounding the gay parade.
Council members decided to leave Skapars in post with 27 votes against nine.
Ainars Slesers, transport minister and one of the leaders of Latvia's First Party, said Skapars should be removed.
Lujans gives up deputy mandate over gay parade
By TBT staff
RIGA – Riga Deputy Mayor Juris Lujans decided to give up his mandate, citing indignation over the recent gay parade that took place in Riga July 23.
“I am putting down my mandate after this emergency meeting [of the Riga city council],” said Lujans, who is leader of Latvia's First Party, one of the four ruling coalition parties.
Lujans denies that the decision had anything to do with general elections in the fall of 2002, as the media has speculated. He stressed that he made the decision based solely on his evaluation of New Era’s decision to allow the gay march to take place.
“We are speaking about the scale of values here. They have no moral standards,” he said, speaking of the right-wing New Era.
Amnesty International blast Kalvitis
By TBT staff
Kalvitis and radical nationalist Leopolds Ozolins, an MP, about the recent gay parade in Riga could encourage intolerance and hatred.
“Amnesty International fears such comments from the authorities may encourage a climate of intolerance and hatred, and that they may incite verbal and physical attacks against gay and lesbian persons, such as those that took place on 23 July 2005 during the Gay Pride march,” the organization said in a statement.
“In light of the initial ban on the march, Amnesty International would like to remind the Latvian government of Latvia's international obligations, under international human rights law and standards,” reads the statement.
Court fines Respublika for anti-Semitic artices
By TBT staff
A Vilnius court on Wednesday handed down its first ruling in an administrative case over a series of anti-Semitic articles that were published in the Respublika daily last year.
The court fined Algis Kalanta, editor-in-chief of the Russian-language version of Respublika, 1,000 litas (290 euros).
Rimvydas Valentukevicius, prosecutor of the Special Investigation Division of the Prosecutor General's Office, told the Baltic News Service that a minimum fine was imposed in view of the fact that the accused had not been the author of the articles but had agreed to publish them.
The series of publications were described by observers as instigating anti-Semitism and intolerance of gays.
Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July, 2005, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Iran 'must stop youth executions'
By Steven Eke
A US-based human rights organisation has called on Iran to end the execution of juvenile offenders.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Iran was in breach of international agreements it had signed up to.
The call follows last week's public hanging of two youths convicted of still unclear sexual offences.
Iran insists the youths were convicted of raping a younger boy. However gay rights organisations say the youths were executed for being homosexual.
The case has had considerable global resonance.
Leading European and US gay organisations and publications have already launched letter-writing protest campaigns, and plan to hold demonstrations outside Iranian embassies over the coming weeks.
In a statement issued on Thursday, HRW said Iran was one of only five countries to continue executing juveniles and called for an end to what it called an inhumane punishment.
The Iranian judiciary has reacted angrily to the international outrage surrounding the public hanging of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, whom rights activists claim were aged 16 and 18.
Officials said they had been sentenced to whipping and hanging for rape, drinking alcohol and disturbing public order, and deserved the punishment they got.
Rare, close-up pictures of the execution were rapidly published on the internet. In them, officials can be seen placing nooses around the necks of the two obviously distressed, young men.
Public executions are not unusual in Iran but the execution of juveniles often attracts international opprobrium.
The case has been adopted as a cause celebre by gay rights groups.
They say the majority of media reports suggest the official charges were fabricated to reduce any public sympathy for the youths and that the real reason was the youths' sexual orientation.
Homosexuality is illegal in almost all Muslim countries, and punishable by death in many of them.
But gay and human rights groups say Iran's record is particularly shocking, having executed possibly thousands of gay men since the Islamic revolution.
Iran: End Juvenile Executions - Human Rights Watch
Posted 7/26/2005 7:33 PM
If 'Roe' were overturned
By Laura Vanderkam
So far, most senators are withholding judgment in the battle to confirm Judge John Roberts, nominated by President Bush to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, but that hasn't stopped everyone else from trying desperately to discern the nominee's views.
Pundits are making a mini-scandal over whether Roberts was ever a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Ralph Neas, president of the liberal People for the American Way, is fretting over Roberts' "sparse public record." James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, told supporters, "We need to be in prayer that Judge Roberts' true colors will become apparent before a final confirmation decision is reached."
The real issue at hand
On both sides, people talk broadly about wanting to know Roberts' views because the next judge will shape the "direction" of the country, but let's not mince words. Most of this angst is about one issue: abortion. Liberal groups are terrified that Roberts will bring the court one vote closer to overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that overturned state laws banning abortion. Pro-life groups hope, fervently, that he will.
I don't know whether the Supreme Court, with Roberts, will overturn Roe. I do know it won't matter much if it does.
You see, for all the rights rhetoric, abortion is not an abstract concept. It's a medical procedure requiring a doctor willing to perform it. In states where abortion is frowned upon — the states likely to ban abortion if Roe is overturned — abortion providers are already more rare than purple Volkswagen Beetles. Most abortion providers, understandably, prefer to practice in states where people support them, i.e., states where abortion won't be banned.
This reality means that however much energy is spent on Supreme Court nominee battles, a Roe reversal wouldn't change the country's total number of abortion providers much. In fact, a year after Roe is overturned, it would be the rare woman who would notice any difference in her life at all.
In the past year, as passionate people on both sides have dug their Supreme Court battle trenches, a few pro-choice organizations have attempted to rally supporters with reports on which states would ban abortion if Roe fell. Shortly before the 2004 election, for instance, the Center for Reproductive Rights announced that 21 states were highly likely to ban abortion and nine somewhat likely.
The problem with these calculations is that they tend to include pre-Roe abortion bans still on the books. Roe superseded these laws in practice. In theory, some bans would immediately become law if Roe were overturned. But this theory implies that legislators and voters in these states wouldn't be able to debate and pass laws saying otherwise.
Given the split in U.S. politics, many would do just that. Of the 21 states the Center for Reproductive Rights claims are most likely to ban abortion after Roe, seven have Democratic governors. These governors would not be able to preside over new post-Roe abortion bans without risking a party revolt. Of the other 14 states, one (Rhode Island) votes consistently Democratic in presidential races. Though not all Democrats support abortion, it's unlikely that the 60% of Rhode Island voters who chose Sen. John Kerry last fall would be inspired to support a ban.
Another state, Ohio, is too much of a political tossup to count in the ban camp. Colorado might vote "red," but the state's recent election of a Democratic senator and new Democratic majorities in its statehouse implies that the politics are pretty split.
That leaves us with 11 states. According to data from The Alan Guttmacher Institute, these states had 122 abortion providers in 2000. That's less than 7% of the 1,819 abortion providers — a fluid number, to be sure — in the USA. Most of those 122 providers (65) are in Texas. If pro-choice forces can hold on to Texas (not unlikely, given the feisty Democratic minority's tendency to flee to Oklahoma to deny the Legislature a quorum when its members are miffed) we're down to 57 providers. If the Democrats controlling the Alabama and Arkansas legislatures decided to act like Democrats, not Dixiecrats, that total could fall to 36. Spread across eight vast states, that's low enough to be useless to an average woman seeking an abortion.
In Mississippi, Kentucky and the Dakotas, 98% of counties have no abortion providers; in Missouri and Nebraska, 97% lack them. In these Roe-unfriendly states, women already have to travel hours to obtain abortions; in a post-Roe world of crossing state lines, that story wouldn't change.
Even if all three of the only "somewhat likely" states with Republican governors, legislatures and voting tendencies (Indiana, Idaho and Georgia) banned abortion, that would affect just 48 providers. In a "worst-case scenario" (for pro-choice types) that included a Texas ban, overturning Roe would affect a maximum of 170 providers, less than 10% of the U.S. total.
What are they fighting for?
In their zeal to fight over the Supreme Court, though, neither side of the abortion debate has absorbed these numbers. Few pro-life groups realize they've fought a 30-year battle to put just a handful of doctors out of business. Pro-choice forces haven't grasped that the millions they'll spend lobbying to block Bush's nominees could tip a lot of legislative races in places such as Kentucky and Texas. Or, for that matter, build a lot of clinics near the borders of states likely to enact or keep abortion bans.
Instead, over the next few years, the two sides will fight the political equivalent of World War I trench warfare — bloody contests over 6 inches of turf. Millions will be spent. Nominees will suffer the same "Borking" fate as Judge Robert Bork did in the 1980s. The filibuster might melt with the "nuclear option."
Yet in the end, a post-Roe world will look a lot like a Roe world — except we'll like each other a lot less, thanks to the battles.
New York City-based writer Laura Vanderkam is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.
Iran: End Juvenile Executions - Human Rights Watch
(New York, July 27, 2005) — Iran’s execution of a juvenile offender last week violated international law, Human Rights Watch said today in letters to the president and head of the judiciary.
Two youths, aged eighteen and nineteen, were put to death on July 19 after they were found guilty of sexually assaulting a thirteen-year-old boy some fourteen months earlier. One of the youths was seventeen at the time of the offense.
“Death is an inhumane punishment, particularly for someone under eighteen at the time of his crimes,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Iran researcher for Human Rights Watch. “All but a handful of countries forbid such executions. Iran should as well.”
Before the two youths were put to death, each also received 228 lashes for theft, disturbing public order, and consuming alcohol.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of eighteen. These treaties also prohibit the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishments. Iran has ratified both treaties.
Iran is thought to have executed at least four other juvenile offenders in 2004, and at least thirty juvenile offenders are on the country’s death row. Human Rights Watch has confirmed the names and ages at the time of offense of five juvenile offenders under sentence of death in Iran: Milad Bakhtiari, 17 years old; Hussein Haghi, 16 years old; Hussein Taranj, 17 years old; Farshad Saeedi, 17 years old; Saeed Khorrami, 16 years old.
Elsewhere in the world, only China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, and the United States are known to have put juvenile offenders to death in the past five years. The United States executed nine juvenile offenders during this period; the other countries are each known to have put one juvenile offender to death. The U.S. Supreme Court declared the juvenile death penalty unconstitutional in March 2005.
Iran’s Majlis has for four years considered legislation that would amend the civil code to prohibit executions for crimes committed under the age of eighteen. Human Rights Watch, which opposes capital punishment in all circumstances, urged Iran’s leadership to support the change and to prohibit the imposition of amputation, flogging, and stoning as criminal penalties.
" Death is an inhumane punishment, particularly for someone under eighteen at the time of his crimes. All but a handful of countries forbid such executions, Iran should as well. "
Hadi Ghaemi, Iran researcher for Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch Letter to Iran's Head of Judiciary
Letter, July 27, 2005
Update on Executions in Iran - International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Update on Executions in Iran
Date: July 28, 2005 Asia & Pacific » Iran » Action Alert - International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Since last week, IGLHRC has learned more facts about the public executions which took place in Mashad, Iran on July 19, 2005. The most accurate information we now have has come from our colleagues at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
The two young men publicly hanged in Iran were convicted of sexually assaulting a thirteen-year-old boy. They were in held detention for 14 months prior to the execution, where they were also subjected to 228 lashes each. For more information and current updates on the facts of the case, please see Amnesty International’s Public Statement below and the Human Rights Watch website at: Human Rights Watch News
Despite reports circulated by numerous groups throughout the past several days, and the recent condemnation by some governments, including the Netherlands, of the executions of “two gay teenagers”, there is no conclusive information which suggests that the two young men were put to death based on consensual homosexual sex.
However, the fact of the public executions of the men, at least one of whom is reported to have been a minor at the time of the crime, is a violation of human rights law. Iran, a state party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is obligated to refrain from the execution of any person under the age of 18 for any crime. Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi has also publicly called for Iran to implement laws that clearly ban the execution of minors.
IGLHRC will continue to monitor this situation. IGLHRC also calls on the government of Iran to uphold its obligations under international law to refrain from any future imposition of the death penalty as punishment for crimes committed by juveniles. Human Rights Watch has prepared a letter to the President of Iran which is below.
Amnesty International Public Statement:
AI Index: MDE 13/038/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 199
22 July 2005
Iran continues to execute minors and juvenile offenders
In the wake of the execution of three persons for crimes committed when they were children (under 18), including one who is still a child, in less than a week, Amnesty International today urges the Iranian government to put a final stop to these executions.
On 19 July 2005, an 18-year-old, identified only as A. M. and a minor, Mahmoud A, were publicly hanged in the north-eastern city of Mashhad. According to reports, they were convicted of sexual assault on a 13-year-old boy and had been detained 14 months ago. Prior to their execution, the two were also given 228 lashes each for drinking, disturbing the peace and theft.
Prior to this, on 13 July 2005, Ali Safarpour Rajabi, aged 20, was hanged for killing Hamid Enshadi, a police officer in Poldokhtar. Amnesty International recorded his death sentence as having been passed in February 2002, when he was 17 years old, and believes his crime may have been committed when he was only 16 years old.
As a state party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Iran has undertaken not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under the age of 18.
For the past four years, the Iranian authorities have been considering legislation that would prohibit the use of the death penalty for offences committed by persons under the age of 18. Under Article 1210(1) of Iran's Civil Code, the ages of 15 lunar years for boys and nine lunar years for girls are set out as the age of criminal responsibility.
In January 2005, following its consideration of Iran's second periodic report on its implementation of the provisions of the CRC, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee), the body of independent experts established under this Convention to monitor states parties' compliance with the treaty, urged Iran:
"to take the necessary steps to immediately suspend the execution of all death penalties imposed on persons for having committed a crime before the age of 18, to take the appropriate legal measures to convert them to penalties in conformity with the provisions of the Convention and to abolish the death penalty as a sentence imposed on persons for having committed crimes before the age of 18, as required by article 37 of the Convention."
So far this year, Iran has executed at least four persons for crimes commited when they were children including one who is still a child.
Amnesty International has recorded 42 executions so far in 2005, but the true number could well be higher.
It is now imperative for Iran to stop sentencing children to death,
to end the executions of children, and to halt all forms of violence against children.
Human Rights Watch: Letter to the President of Iran and the Head of the Judiciary
July 27, 2005
His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahroodi
Justice Ministry Bldg.
Pazdah-Khordad (Ark) Sq.
By fax: 98 21 222 90 151
We write to express our grave concern over the July 19 public hanging in Mashhad of two people for crimes they were found to have committed while at least one of them was under the age of eighteen. The continued practice of executing juvenile offenders—as well as the imposition of sentences of flogging, which constitutes torture—places Iran in violation of its international legal obligations. We urge you to bring an end to these practices and to support legislation barring the execution of sentences of death on people for crimes committed before age eighteen.
Two young men, Mahmoud A. and Ayaz M., were hanged in public in Mashhad on July 19, 2005. Press reports indicate that they were executed for sexually assaulting a thirteen-year-old boy fourteen months earlier. One of the accused was seventeen years old at the time of the alleged crime; the other was apparently seventeen or eighteen. Each victim also received 228 lashes for theft, disturbing public order, and consuming alcohol.
The practice of executing people for crimes they committed while juveniles remains common in Iran. In 2004, Iran executed four people for such crimes, and there are currently at least thirty juveniles facing sentences of death. Human Rights Watch has confirmed the names and ages at the time of offense of five juvenile offenders under sentence of death in Iran: Milad Bakhtiari, 17 years old; Hussein Haghi, 16 years old; Hussein Taranj, 17 years old; Farshad Saeedi, 17 years old; Saeed Khorrami, 16 years old.
Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its cruel and inhumane nature. Human rights principles and protections are founded upon respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings and the inviolability of the human person. These principles cannot be reconciled with the death penalty, a form of punishment that is unique in its barbarity and finality. The intrinsic fallibility of all criminal justice systems assures that even when full due process of law is respected, innocent persons may be executed.
In particular, in imposing sentences of death on people for crimes committed before the age of eighteen, Iran flouts clear and specific human rights obligations. Article 6.5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) bars the imposition of the death penalty for such offenses. Article 37(a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child contains the same prohibition and also bars the imposition of life sentences without parole for juvenile offenses. These provisions reflect the reality that children are different from adults. They lack the experience, judgement, maturity, and restraint of an adult.
Iran is a party to both treaties—it ratified the ICCPR without reservation and the Convention on the Rights of the Child subject to a general reservation of " the right not to apply any provisions or articles of the Convention that are incompatible with Islamic Laws and the international legislation in effect."
Both treaties forbid the imposition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes that children have the right to protection from all forms of violence. It is not clear that Iran interprets its reservation to apply to these provisions, but to the extent that it does, the reservation is invalid. A state may not formulate a reservation that is incompatible with the object and purpose of a treaty. As the Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly emphasized, both the juvenile death penalty and corporal punishment in the penal system are incompatible with the convention. Accordingly, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its January 2005 review of Iran's compliance with the treaty, urged the government
"to take the necessary steps to immediately suspend the execution of all death penalties imposed on persons for having committed a crime before the age of 18, to take the appropriate legal measures to convert them to penalties in conformity with the provisions of the Convention and to abolish the death penalty as a sentence imposed on persons for having committed crimes before the age of 18, as required by article 37 of the Convention".
It has also called upon Iran "to take all the necessary measures to ensure that persons who committed crimes while under 18 are not subjected to any form of corporal punishment and to immediately suspend the imposition and the execution of sentences of amputation, flogging, stoning and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
Iran 's Majlis has for four years considered legislation which would amend Article 1210 of the civil code to prohibit executions for crimes committed under the age of eighteen. We urge you to support such legislation and to end all forms of torture, including amputation, flogging, and stoning, imposed as criminal penalties.
Hadi Ghaemi Michael Bochenek
Iran Researcher Counsel
Middle East and North Africa Division Children’s Rights Division
Mixed reports on Iran teen hangings - Blade
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