3 min

What about Iran?

The British gay group Outrage has compiled a “special investigation” that reveals that Iran may be killing even more gay men than previously thought, London’s Pink Paper reported April 20. The nine-month investigation concluded that many executions are carried out in secret.

You may recall last summer’s photos of lovers dangling at the end of a rope while authorities insisted they weren’t killed because they were gay, but because they had kidnapped and raped another.

Outrage documents a series of other cases involving men executed under bogus rape and kidnapping charges.

But the Outrage investigation goes further. They’ve found that executions often take place secretly in prison. And that they use a method of hanging that’s intended to ensure a slow, agonizing strangulation. So-called “honour killings” of gays by their families were documented in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

We’ve been down this path before. Think Afghanistan.

For years, we read reports of the Taliban’s oppression of average Afghanis. We read about girls not being allowed to go to school, women forced to wear veils, the end of music and dancing. And of executions of people accused of being gay.

I used to wonder why we didn’t invade Afghanistan and free people from this yoke. Then we did, after 9/11. Even as we (and by “we” I mean Canada and not just the usual suspect to the south) went to war in that mountainous land in revenge for the deaths in the Twin Towers, our politicians used the human rights record of the Taliban as cover.

Canada is now fully committed to war, not peacekeeping, in Afghanistan, and what has it got the average Afghani? Warlords still run the country and even serve in their legislature. Teachers are being executed for daring to educate girls. Women are again being forced out of jobs. The new constitution gives full power to sharia law. In short, the religious zealots are once again consolidating power. And this time, they’re under cover of an international force — and the only objection heard from Western leaders occurs when a convert to Christianity is charged with a capital offence.

George W Bush and Tony Blair are escalating the rhetoric about this member nation of the “Axis Of Evil” over a certain nuclear energy program that might be providing cover for a nuclear weapons program. Tony Blair last week fired his foreign minister, Jack Straw, whose main offence seems to have been to call the idea of waging nuclear war against Iran “inconceivable” and “nuts.”

Iran is in a delicate balance right now. Religious zealots eked out a win over more moderate and relatively progressive forces in the most recent election. Muslim clerics hold much power. But the Persian tradition of progress is also still strong there, particularly in the cities. There’s a growing middle class of people with views not so different from those of middle-class citizens around the world. They could emerge with their hands on most levers of power over the next decade — if the rest of the world doesn’t cause Iranians to rally around their religious leaders.

But meanwhile, there’s this outrageous matter of killing gays and clamping down on women’s freedoms.

So, what do we do, what are we to advocate, those of us who care deeply about the state killing our kind?

How about endorsing a statement put together by the Campaign For Peace And Democracy. It’s titled “Iran: Neither US Aggression Nor Theocratic Repression — A Call For A New, Democratic US Foreign Policy In The Middle East.” Endorsed by the likes of Noam Chomsky and gay intellectuals Larry Kramer, Edmund White and Martin B Duberman, the statement doesn’t pull punches on the human rights violations of the Iranians, but neither does it fall for the seductive myth that the West can solve it by invading.

“We… care very much about the ability of the Iraqi and Iranian people to control their own societies, about civil liberties and the rights of women, gays, workers and ethnic minorities there,” reads the statement. “That is why we raise our voices against the current threats to Iran and call for immediate withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq.

“We too would like to see a regime change in Tehran, but one brought about by the Iranian people themselves, not by Washington.”

The statement goes on to outline and condemn the treatment of gays, women, unions and others.