Roundtable Examines LGBT Rights in Iran at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York

Discussion at CUNY graduate school on LGBT rights in Iran

On October 12, OutRight Action International held a panel examining LGBT Rights in Iran at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. The panel included a professor, doctor, UN rapporteur, and lawyer who each offered their unique perspective on the state of LGBT rights in Iran. The event had a huge turnout with every seat being occupied.

The roundtable discussion was based on our recent publication: “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Iran: Analysis from Religious, Social, Legal and Cultural Perspective.”

The discussion revolved around the limitation of the internet freedom in Iran and its impact on LGBT community members, the role of religion in oppression or supporting LGBT rights, and the right violations of LGBT individuals in Iran because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The panel included Dr. Arash Naraghi, an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Moravian College, Rose Parris Richter, a Special Assistant to the UN Rapporteur, and Mani Mostofi, Director of Impact Iran and Iranian-American lawyer. It was moderated by Hossein Alizadeh, our Regional Program Coordinator for the MIddle East and North Africa at OutRight.

Mani spoke on the importance of internet access in Iran and its positive impact on LGBT individuals. Iranians only learn negative connotations about LGBT people in school, by politicians and in media. "Once LGBT Iranians discover the Internet, it unlocks things they've never known before. What starts as access to information suddenly becomes a tool for expression and assembly” said Mani Mostfi.

Dr. Naraghi touched on how the Qu’ran treats “homosexual” relations among men and women differently. He argued that despite the current hostility of Islamic scholars towards homosexuality, it is quite possible to re-examine the question of sexual minorities in Islam to provide a theoretical framework that tolerates or even supports gays and lesbians.

Ms. Richter touched upon UN findings about systematic abuse and discrimination of individuals (both by the government and the society) because of the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity. She also brought up transgender rights within Iran, reminding the audience that while homosexuality is a punishable crime in Iran, sex-reassignment surgery is legal and even in some cases the Iranian government will pay for your sex reassignment surgery. Iran has one of the highest sex change operation numbers in the world. She added that nonetheless, transgender community in Iran suffers from social discrimination and domestic violence, without receiving support from the authorities.

Check out some photos from the event here!

For those who would like to read our publication check it out here!