For the first time, Iran has been called to account for its repression of LGBT people at the United Nations.
In the Concluding Observations [PDF] on November 3 from its 3rd periodic review of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has made clear that the government’s conduct amounts to a violation of the international laws that it has agreed to uphold.
“As a state that prides itself in tradition and morality, Iran must now take immediate action to ensure its definitions of tradition and morality are in accordance with the fundamental principles of international human rights law,” UNHRC said.
“For years, Iranian authorities have committed atrocities against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, incited violence by others, and refused to admit that LGBT Iranians exist,” said Hossein Alizadeh, Regional Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).
The UNHRC meets three times a year for four week sessions to consider the five-yearly reports submitted by 162 UN member states on their compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (ICCPR).
The Committee has asked the Iranian government to widely circulate their Concluding Observations to the Iranian judiciary, government and civil society. After consulting with civil society, the government must submit a progress report about the implementation of the recommendations included in the Committee’s Concluding Observations. The Committee has specifically asked the Iranian government to include detailed information on the enjoyment of Covenant rights by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in its next periodic review.
The Committee urged the government of Iran to repeal or amend legislation that “could result in the discrimination, prosecution and punishment of people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” There is a range of discriminatory laws in Iran, among them laws criminalizing homosexual sex and punishing it with death.
The number of executions of gay people in Iran is opaque because trials on moral charges are usually held on camera, so it is difficult to determine, Human Rights Watch said in a report last December, what proportion of those charged and executed for same-sex conduct are LGBT and in what proportion the alleged offense was consensual. The Iranian government maintains that “most of these individuals have been charged for forcible sodomy or rape.” However, in just one report, by Doug Ireland in December 2009, twelve men were facing execution for sodomy and a joint appeal had been made for them by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), and COC of the Netherlands. Iranian media reported the execution of three men for sodomy in September.
The Human Rights Committee said, however, that:
“Even one person incarcerated [on account of freely and mutually agreed sexual activities or sexual orientation] constitutes a violation of fundamental rights to privacy and non-discrimination.”
The questioning of whether LGBT people actually are executed — or even persecuted at all — has led those judging Iranian LGBTs seeking refuge in Western countries to argue that it is possible to ‘live discreetly’ there without suffering consequences.
IGLHRC and the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) submitted a joint Shadow Report to the UNHRC entitled Human Rights Violations on the Basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Homosexuality in the Islamic Republic of Iran and testified before the Committee.
In September, Saghi Ghahraman of IRQO wrote:
Right after the revolution, execution of Gay and Transsexuals began, by the ruling clergies, illegally; it was legalized in 1995 – two decades after the revolution – when Shari’a law, Islam’s Code of Conduct, legally replaced Iran’s penal code.
Article 110 – executions based on sodomy; Article 130 – executions based on lesbianism; Article 220 – granting fathers the right to kill their children, recognizing fathers as blood-owners of their own children, turned State and Society, equally, into executioners of gays, lesbians, bi, and transsexual population, and also the heterosexuals; clergies have used sodomy laws against those prisoners who couldn’t be executed or persecuted otherwise.
Shari’a law is not only responsible for killing of LGBT members of society in Iran, it is also the basis of generations of LGBT’s lack of parenting, education, carrier, housing, and overall security and safety.
The fact that no LGBT Iranian dares to introduce themselves as L, G, B or T by their own voice, face, name is because of the fear-mongering articles of Shari’s sodomy law.
Living as a Queer woman over 50 years, a Queer poet over 20 years, directing a LGBT advocacy organization over five years, I have been witness to the horror the community in Iran goes through, everyday, not only by way of murders and executions but in everyday life of Not Living a simple, decent, dignified life human beings deserve in the realm in the Age of Democracy and Human Rights. And I am not talking only about those of our children who are disadvantaged and deprived, but also about gay professors, TS engineers, lesbian and gay specialist medical doctors, gay and lesbian poets, writers, artists, journalists and more, of highly accomplished status, all working inside Iran, who are victims in the hand of a hostile set of laws, and are most vulnerable.
I would like to offer the government of Iran to give account and explanation for violations of LGBT human rights. Or, to replace the primitive penal code of Shari’a law with constitutions based on 21st century human rights. Or if either is not doable, I would like to suggest that Mr. Ahmadinejad, the head of state of Iran, in his trips to the UN, travel to the USA on the back of a camel. After all, we, the LGBT of Iran shouldn’t be only ones treated with the mind-set of the dark-ages of 1400 years back in history.
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