Activists promoting the rights of gays and lesbians suspect that a recent news story about four Iranians sentenced to death misrepresented the crime they were convicted of committing.
An Iranian activist said the actual crime was rape, not consensual sodomy. His account:
The four individuals … come from the same tribe. They’re among the thugs in the area. About 2 and half years ago, they have “cornered” a young man of 18-19 and raped him. After a complaint to the police in the area, all four have been arrested and jailed and have tried and sentenced to execution based on Rape with Force. The sentence has been endorced by Criminal Court in BoyerAhmad province. The place of the crime is Charam.
Based on the original news accounts, online news media from Huffington Post to the Advocate said the defendants were gay men. The EveryOne human rights organization launched an online petition opposing the execution under the headline “Iran: urgent appeal to save the lives of four gay men.”
If the convicted men are thugs rather than innocent gay men, one LGBT activist commented, “This type of carelessness does a good deal of damage to the credibility of LGBT rights advocacy. ”
Scott Long at A Paper Bird wrote that “HRANA’s information is probably pretty fragmentary,” although “that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”
But the speculation in the West has an effect back in Iran, he said:
Invisible capillaries carry information, words, fantasies across borders these days; and some of this language starts to bleed back into how the story is represented in Iran. By today, the story’s been picked up across the Farsi blogosphere. The HRANA article is, so far as I can see, the only source any of them have. But an inflection from the US articles starts creeping into the story: the headline changes. “Risk of imminent execution in Iran for four homosexuals [hamjensgara]“ one Farsi account reads, and others echo it. …
Marking them “gay” means they are not “innocent,” not in the Iranian judiciary’s eyes….
Demonstrations and banners may cap off the news articles. And the men will die. Whether all these voices chanting that they’re “gay” will contribute to their deaths depends on how loud they grow, and whether the Iranian authorities are paying attention.
But the ease with which we attach identities to people we’ve never seen and know nothing of — only because they’re there, not here, only because they are malleably foreign and employable to us, only because they’re in Iran and we need to affix a certain narrative to both violence and victims there — is overwhelmingly distressing.
— May 16, 2012, with additional material from “A Paper Bird” on May 17.
(This blog’s original news article from May 12 is below.)
An Iranian court has sentenced four men to death by hanging for sodomy, Gay Star News reports.
The men are from the town of Choram, in the rural Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province in southwest Iran, near the Persian Gulf.
The Human Rights Activist News Agency in Iran said the men will be hanged for violating sharia law against sodomy.
Their names were given as Saadat Arefi, Vahid Akbari, Javid Akbari and Houshmand Akbari.
Gorji Marzban, chairperson of the Austrian-based Oriental Queer Organization, said:
The recent death sentence for the four Iranian men is a shocking reality and demonstrates the discrepancy between Western and Islamic perception of queer life. …
The death penalty has failed to eradicate homosexuality from Iran but it was successful to force queer people into the closets. Sooner or later any Islamic community is obliged to integrate queer people. We believe that Iranians should gain more gender equality and rights and wholly condemn such an archaic sentence to murder, which is inherently un-Iislamic.
Human Rights Watch noted in a report last year that, because trials on moral charges in Iran are usually held in closed sessions, it is hard to know how many cases involve gay sex and how many involve consensual sex.