A website called Iran Focus reported Nov 14 that “a gay Iranian man was hanged in public in the western city of Kermanshah on the charge of sodomy.”
The report said “Shahab Darvishi was charged with organizing a ‘corruption ring,’ deliberate assault, and ‘lavat,’ which means homosexual relationship between two men or sodomy.”
The report credited the official state controlled news agency Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) as a source for the story.
The IRNA report said the Kermanshah Province Justice Department Communications Department said Darvishi was “found guilty of forming a coterie of corruption rings, physical assaults and the despicable act of sodomy.”
IRNA said the death sentence was issued by the Second Court of the town of Sahneh, and upheld by the Second Appeal Court of Kermanshah and the 27th Branch of the Supreme Court.
“Hundreds of Kermanshah’s residents were present at the scene of the execution,” IRNA said. “They were supportive of the judicial system’s decision and called for adopting a tough stance against criminals and disturbing elements.”
Iran’s interpretation of Islamic law does prescribe execution as a punishment for gay sex, and many human rights activists say, with varying degrees of certainty, that the nation has executed numerous men for the crime since the 1979 religious revolution.
But it is notoriously difficult to fact-check news that comes out of Iran, and skepticism of any one report is always warranted because Iran does not have a free press and the theocratic government is ruthless in quashing dissent.
On Nov 15, Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Jessica Stern sent an e-mail to Xtra West which said, in part: “We are concerned with the charges in the case and by the case’s lack of information. One or two sources should be considered inconclusive, especially in reporting on a case of this kind… We strongly urge caution until more information is known.”
In the same vein, the secretary general of the Iranian Queer Organization, formerly called the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization, commented: “Similar to the Mashad incident last year, it may be extremely difficult to firmly establish why this man was hanged, or whether the charges were fabricated. Whatever the truth is, the Iranian government must be stopped from killing people for sex-related crimes.”
On Jul 19, 2005, two teenage boys, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, were publicly hanged in Mashad, and graphic photos of the executions circulated on the web. Some Iranian and foreign media said the teens’ crime was being gay lovers. Other Iranian and foreign media said they had raped a boy. International human rights groups say they have been unable to determine which version of the story is true.
Nonetheless, “the death penalty is on the books for gay sex [and] it’s at least sporadically enforced,” said Scott Long, HRW’s LGBT program head, in a Nov 16 interview.