Report: Iran Executes 3 for Being Gay

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday September 8, 2011

Iran has executed three men for gay sex, according to a Sept. 7 report in Irish newspaper the Independent.

The executions were carried out by hanging. The three men put to death for reportedly being gay were executed along with three other men, whose crimes were rape, robbery, and drug trafficking, the article said.

The Independent reported that Iran applies a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, which dictates death for gays. Intense stigma surrounds the issue of homosexuality, the article noted, and families are usually reluctant to speak out when a relative is killed by authorities for being gay.

That makes the news from Iran harder to verify, the Independent said. The newspaper's account was drawn from a story carried by the Iranian Students' News Agency. The names of the three gay men were not revealed.

The executions took place on Sept. 4. The Iranian news source "quoted Abdolhamid Amanat, an official at the prosecutor office in Khuzestan Province, as the source of the announcement" regarding the killing of the three gay men, reported The Prophecy Blog on Sept. 8.

The Iranian legal system often cloaks the executions of gay men in charges of rape, or "coercive sodomy," the Independent article said, noting that the executions of two teenaged boys, one 16 and the other 18, that sparked an international outcry in 2005 had been carried out after the boys were convicted of coercive sodomy.

But that was not the case with regard to the three purportedly gay men. The courts convicted them of sodomy, but with no charge of coercion. Under Iran's interpretation of Sharia law, even consensual sex between people of the same gender is punishable by death.

"Iranian authorities have previously presented such cases as rape, in order to make the execution more acceptable and to avoid too much international attention, but this time the news is not presented as rape," noted Iran Human Rights' Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.

"This case is the only one in recent years where the only basis for the death sentence has been a sexual relationship between two men, with reference to the articles 108 and 110 of the Islamic Penal Code," Amiry-Moghaddam, who has been looking into news of the executions, told the Independent. "These articles are very clear."

"Section 108 defines sodomy under Iran's interpretation of Sharia law and the latter rules that the punishment for lavat (sodomy) is death," the Independent article noted.

"The three were judged in the revolutionary court of Ahwaz city, section 17 (behind closed doors)," a Sept. 7 article at reported. "The ruling was approved by Section 14 of the Iranian Supreme Court. At this point we do not know if the courts allowed proper legal representation."

The report that the three men were executed under charges of gay sex might well be true, but that does not mean the men actually had sex or were even gay, noted Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network's Daniel Brett.

"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," Brett said.

In any event, the reports drew rebuke from around the world.

"Were the cases approved by the Supreme Court and given a hearing as well as permission for execution?" demanded exiled Iranian lawyer Mohammad Mustafaei, an advocate for human rights, in a letter addressed to Iranian President Ahmadinejad. "Were the three represented by lawyers, and what are their names?"

"In our view, it really does not matter whether the people involved are gay, or straight," declared San Francisco-based human rights advocate Soheila Vahadati.

"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," Vahadati added. "We strongly oppose labeling same sex as a 'crime' as much as we oppose punishing gays."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.