PBS Frontline: Protecting Rights of Gay Citizens in Iran

by Rasheed Abou-al Samh in Brasília

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In land where homosexuality can yield the death sentence, little hope that regime will heed a recent U.N. appeal.

…"The government of Iran will perhaps continue to ignore the committee's recommendations," said Hossein Alizadeh, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator at the IGLHRC in New York. He said Iran had already notified the committee that they believe the LGBT issue is beyond the mandate of the ICCPR, and that they are not obligated to discuss this issue.

Iran is not alone in this respect. Over the past few years, a growing number of countries at the U.N., especially members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the African Union, have said they are opposed to any discussion of the LGBT issue in the framework of human rights, arguing that homosexuality is irrelevant to their cultural and religious values. "Both Iran and Saudi Arabia have used their cultural relativism argument to walk away from their responsibilities in regard to LGBT human rights," explained Alizadeh…

…"Although the Human Rights Committee does not have an enforcement mechanism, their frequent reference to LGBT rights and their repeated emphasis on states' responsibilities to respect the human rights of consenting individuals who engage in same sex practices can in the long term serve as a source for international standards in addressing LGBT rights violations."…

…"One of the issues that has been frequently raised by various U.N. bodies, [and by] U.N. Special Rapporteur on Iran Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, are the extremely high number of executions in Iran in the past year," said Alizadeh. "There have been cases of executions for sodomy, including three cases in September 2011 in Ahwaz, a city in the southwest of Iran, that is populated mainly by ethnic Arabs. Although later, we had reports indicating that those executed in Ahwaz were political activists and the sodomy charges brought by the government were bogus."…

…"Gay men can rent a room with their partners without raising any suspicions. But at the same time, this free-style bachelor life has a limit: There is no legal protection in case people find out about the true nature of the relationship between the 'roommates,' and so they live in constant fear of being discovered," explained Alizadeh. "If LGBT individuals choose to hide their identity and live their entire life in the shadows, they may be safe. But this is not what we as human rights activists advocate for. No one should be forced into hiding and become invisible just because of their sexual orientation and gender identity."…

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