Editor's note: This report was first published on GayMiddleEast.com.
The Prosecutor General Office of Khuzestan Province, Iran announced in a press conference that three people were hanged at Karoun prison in Ahwaz city, for sodomy on early Sunday, Sept. 4, along with three other men.
Khuzestan/Al-Ahwaz is a mostly Arab province in Iran and has the highest amount of executions in the country.
The two articles that were used in the judgment were: 108 "Lavat is an act of congress [vati] between males whether in [the form of] penetration or of tafkhiz (the rubbing of thighs/of the penis against thighs)” and article 110 stating: ”The hadd [punishment] for lavat where penetration has occurred is death and the method of execution is at the discretion of the Sharia judge".
The state-run Iranian Students News Agency ISNA identified the three as: "M. T.", "T. T." and "M. Ch." (ages not mentioned).
The three other men who were executed committed different crimes. Two committed a robbery at a home of a (straight) couple, where while the husband was tied up his wife was raped. The third for drug trafficking.
According to spokesperson Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam of the Iran Human Rights (IHR), executions only for sodomy are rare. Iranian authorities usually present such cases as rape (in order to legitimise the case for execution). “This of course contradicts the infamous statement of Ahmadinejad that gays do not exist in Iran”, he added in a conversation with GME’s editor.
Mohammad Mustafaei, the famous Iranian Human Rights lawyer (whose more known defense cases were Ashtiani and Ibrahim Hamidi), now exiled in Norway, wrote an open letter to President Ahmadinejad in protest of the execution of the three. He called the execution arbitrary and demanded further clarifications: “Were the cases approved by the Supreme Court and given a hearing as well as permission for execution?” “Were the three represented by lawyers, and what are their names?” are some of the questions he posed.
“Three men under the pretext of being ‘gay’ and committing sodomy were sentenced to death and executed,” he insisted. Mustafaei further highlighted that they may have been tortured by the authorities to confess for the “crime,” which indeed is a very common in Iran. “Mr. President,” he protested, “you have blood on your hands.”
Daniel Brett, director of the Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network, stressed that:"We do not know the background to the cases, so cannot make a judgment on the trials of those who were executed ... Sometimes these charges are leveled at members of families who are involved in commercial or land disputes with families with a modicum of political influence. Al-Ahwaz has the highest rate of executions in Iran, partly due to the persecution of the local Arab population and partly because prisoners from other parts of Iran are transported to the city, particularly the notorious Karoun Prison where hangings are carried out in secret."
In some cases, there is a dispute whether the accused has actually committed a sexual act or it is a mere accusation. Even in the cases where the same sex act has happened, often it is not clear whether the individuals involved are actually gay or it is an occasional act of fun for them.
Soheila Vahdati, an independent human rights defender based in San Francisco stresses: "The fact that the two genders are strictly segregated and prohibited from socialising together increases the tendency for same-sex acts among the youth." Indeed this happens throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
"Ahmadinejad may have been right claiming that there are no gays in Iran because nobody dares to choose gay lifestyle due to the severe punishments, including the death penalty," Vahdati said. "In our view, it really does not matter whether the people involved are gay, or straight. It does not even matter whether they have committed the same sex act, or it is a mere accusation. The underlying assumption in all cases is that homosexuality is a 'crime' and punishable by law, and this is what we strongly oppose. Sexual rights are human rights and all individuals are entitled to enjoy them with mutual consent and as there is no violence involved. We strongly oppose labeling same sex as a 'crime' as much as we oppose punishing gays."
GME completely condemns and rejects capital punishment for LGBT people, or for any other issue: We stand for sexual rights. LGBT sexualities/identities are NOT a crime, and their use as labels for punishment (whether real or as a tool for other means) must end. GME calls upon the Iranian Authorities to strike off articles 108-134 of the Iranian penal codes that pertain to LGBT people as well as end capital punishment. LGBT rights are inseparable part of human rights!
GME has already noted how people are being put to death by the Iranian authorities based on mere false accusations and rumors of rape or attempted rape between men. Is this case signaling and even more brutal policy of the Iranian judiciary? Many executions of LGBT people occur in Iran each year for bringing “shame” and “dishonor” to families and communities(so called honor crimes), often without being reported. Many more suffer from lifelong harassment, blackmail and even rape by agents of the Basij and the Sepha. We call upon the international community to campaign against such horrible practices as punishing people for their sexualities and capital punishment.