Saturday, September 29, 2007

Being Gay in Iran

The insipid comment by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University insisting there were no gays in Iran was probably the one comment that received any derision while he was speaking there. All the rest of his drivel was lapped up by the imbeciles in attendance.

Well, despite his absurd claim, there indeed are gays in Iran, and some have gone on record, anonymously, of course, since the penalty for being gay in Iran could well be death (see photo).

Maybe that's why Ahmadinejad claimed there were no gays. Perhaps he'd figured they'd all been murdered in the "peace-loving" nation.

Despite Denials, Gays Insist They Exist, if Quietly, in Iran
When Reza, a 29-year-old Iranian, heard that his president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had denied in New York that homosexuals were in Iran, he was shocked but not surprised. Reza knows the truth. He is gay.

Leaning back in his black leather desk chair at home in Tehran, he said there were, in fact, plenty of gay men and women in Iran. The difference between their lives and those of gays in Europe and North America is one of recognition and legitimacy.

“You can have a secret gay life as long you don’t become an activist and start demanding rights,” he said, speaking on the condition that his family name not be used because he feared retribution.

Reza, who shaves his head and often wears an earring in his left ear, has lived in Europe extensively. Gay life in Iran, he said, “is just complicated in the same way that it is for other groups, like workers and feminists, who don’t have many rights.”

Since Mr. Ahmadinejad uttered his words at Columbia University last Monday, discussion of homosexuality has been stifled here. Sociologists and other analysts normally willing to discuss such issues on the record with a reporter suddenly were not.
Hmm. I wonder why?
But, speaking anonymously, several said that the president had clearly been caught off guard by the question because no one at an Iranian university would have dared to ask him such a thing. They also argued that it was probably better for Iranian gays that Mr. Ahmadinejad denied their existence since that made it likelier that they would be ignored and let alone.

For a country that is said to have no homosexuality, Iran goes to great lengths to ban it. Gays are punished by lashing or death if it is proved that they have had homosexual relations. Two gay teenagers were executed in 2005 in Mashad, a northeastern city.

Fear of persecution is so strong that some gay men and lesbians have sought and received asylum in Western countries.

The Iranian Student News Agency reported in 2005 that a lesbian had been killed in prison by other inmates whom, it was alleged, she had forced to have sex with her. Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, said in May in an interview on state-run television that the police were looking for men who dressed and looked like homosexuals.

But Iran has also taken the unusual step of encouraging sex change operations for those with homosexual tendencies. While religious authorities here view homosexuality a clear sin, transsexuals are considered ill and in need of the help that such an operation can provide.
Although they're often monitored, gay websites have become more popular and accessible.
The Internet has made socializing easier for gays in the past several years, according to those interviewed, who said they had found many gay friends online.

There are dozens of gay and lesbian Web sites and chat rooms, which the authorities monitor and block. But ways around the bans are found, and new Web sites are opened. [warning--graphic content there --ed.] invites gays to find their “Iranian dream date.”

Gays say the key to living in Iran without government interference, even as couples, is keeping a low profile. Some have been arrested for looking “too feminine” but are generally fined and released.

Tehran has several famous areas, like Karim-Khan Street, or Mellat, Laleh and Daneshjoo parks, where gays meet and where gay prostitutes seek customers. “It does not take them even 10 minutes to get picked up,” said Amir, 24, a graphic designer who is gay. “There are men from every class,” he said. “Some of them are bisexual and call it being naughty.”
Read the rest.

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