Group calls Iran’s UNHCR response hypocritical, irresponsible

Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), an organization supporting the Iranian LGBTI community, requested we share with our readers their summary review of Iran’s response to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the United Nations’s  Human Rights Council (UNHRC). We provide IRQO’s statement here, very slightly edited.

UN Human Rights Council Chamber (Photo courtesy UNHRC)
UN Human Rights Council Chamber (Photo courtesy UNHRC)

IRQO regards Iran’s response to the UPR recommendations hypocritical and irresponsible

Iran’s response to recommendations at the 20th UPR session, pointing at violations of LGBT rights, is hypocritical and irresponsible.

The excuse offered by Iran is that “Western countries, too, violated homosexuals’ right up to recent years.”

Very well, we say; since Iran relies on the West’s recent homophobic and transphobic approach on LGBT rights, are we wrong if we anticipate Iran would be following the West’s path in the coming years, and honor LGBT human rights?

Iran’s answer to recommendations pointing at LGBT conditions in Iran is in two halves. The first half, apparently, is responding to recommendations conveying Stop Persecution of LGBT:

“According to the Islamic norms and the laws of Iran as well as cultural principles advocated by the people on the importance of the family, sexual relations between individuals is only allowed in the framework of wedlock. Moreover, the law forbids any form of persecution and maltreatment of an Iranian citizen regardless of their physical and psychological status, and offenders are dealt with in accordance with the law. In addition, according to Islamic laws, meddling in private affairs of individuals without any discrimination is forbidden.”

It seems to be carefully worded to dodge any commitment to stop persecution of homosexuals and Transgender people.

Still, because it is vague, we wonder whether the wording of these phrases could mean that if a neighbor, a coworker, a parent, spouse, an offspring, reported or exposed to authorities (“physical status” could refer to homosexuals, and psychological status transsexuals, or vice versa) a homosexual or transgender, the informant would be treated according to the Law?

The second half of the response deals with concerns over sex reassignment surgery : “There are considerable requests even from foreign nationals to these operations in Iranian hospitals due to advance medicine and low coast of operation, in order to have the possibility of a better life.”

We would like to remind Iran that UPR recommendations are concerns over human rights of transsexual individuals and shouldn’t be mistaken with considerations on medical tourist attraction and economic boosters.

This answer doesn’t assert or even imply any commitment in monitoring the quality of the surgeries, providing much needed medical and psychological support and care before and after the surgery, or enforcing any monitoring to confirm the voluntary and informed decision making on the part of the transsexual individual.

Furthermore the wording of the response, the use of people in place of individual creates doubt on Iran’s understanding of the importance of the transsexual individual to voluntarily, and based on reliable and sound information provided, to undertake the operations. We’re concern that by using the term people, Iran might consider parents, siblings, medical authorities or state/religious authorities to request these operations rather than the transsexual individual, or doesn’t fully understand that it is an individual issue and only the individual should be making the decision to undergo sex change reassignment.

Under the circumstances, it would hardly considered a surprise if Iran doesn’t commit to its own proposition “despite of sexual orientation”. The same conditions apply to the proposition “reparative same sex reassignment” in # 138.135. Same goes for # 138.282.

What IRQO deems hypocrisy and irresponsibility of a member state in the presence of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council is based on the manner in which Iran first accepts to pursue a package heavily loaded with LGBT related recommendations, then dismisses all the ones related to LGBT and provides comments instead of a response.

However, in a realistic approach, IRQO would also like to interpret Iran’s eagerness to choose to responds to heavily loaded with LGBT related recommendations as a sign of the path the state would be willing to take in the near future.

You may also read the entire statement in Persian, click this link.

The full 10 page review of Iran’s response to the UPR, with a glance at the turning points in Iran’s LGBT movement dating back to 1972, is not presently available at IRQO’s website. Contact IRAQ directly for further information.


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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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