February 11, 2011

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Says Homosexuality Goes ‘Against Human Spirit And Humanity’

Jerusalem Post
written by Benjamin Weinthal
January 31, 2011

Human Rights Watch criticized for ignoring anti-gay violence in Iran.

BERLIN – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is continuing to vilify homosexuals, according to the Islamic Republic’s statecontrolled ILNA news agency.

“They asked me [at Columbia University in 2007] why you crack down on homosexuals in Iran?” Ahmadinejad said in Yazd last Thursday. “I answered we don’t have so many homosexuals in Iran because we believe this act is against the human spirit and humanity.”

During his speech at Columbia, the Iranian leader said, “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”

Teheran has outlawed all same-sex activity, punishing male same-sex intercourse with the death penalty and lesbian sex with 100 lashes for the first three instances, and execution after that.

Six Iranians were hanged on Monday, four of whom were executed for alleged sexual offenses. Iranian experts say such offenses can include homosexuality or adultery.

While Teheran also applies capital punishment for adultery, it has intensified its violent anti-gay strategy over the past six years. In 2005, two allegedly gay teenagers were publicly hanged.

Many in Iran’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community fled to Turkey in 2010 because of the persecution.

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, criticized Human Rights Watch for neglecting the persecution of the Iranian LGBT population.

“Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s most recent inflammatory and hateful rhetoric is indicative of the severe lack of human rights and poisonous atmosphere for Iran’s LGBT community, Steinberg told The Jerusalem Post. “In their obsessive targeting of Israel, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) division largely has ignored this and other human rights abuses in the region. As HRW founder Robert Bernstein repeatedly has noted, HRW has abandoned its mission of demanding the opening of closed societies, and helping individuals in those societies to fight for their rights.”

The New York-based biweekly Gay City News, the US’s most prominent LGBT publication, has reported exhaustively on the persecution of the gay Iranians over the past six years in a series of investigative reports.

In last week’s edition, veteran reporter Doug Ireland noted: “Publication of the HRW report on persecution of Iranian queers had been promised by the organization’s former director of LGBT affairs, Scott Long, as long as four years ago. During his five-year long campaign of attacks on the UK’s iconic gay and human rights activist, Peter Tatchell, who had spearheaded global protests against the 2005 execution of two presumably gay Iranian teenagers on concocted charges of ‘rape.’” Long has since resigned from HRW, and Kenneth Roth, HRW’s executive director, issued a public apology to Tatchell last year, saying, “We recognize that personal attacks have no place in the human rights movement.”

HRW’s Global Advocacy Director Peggy Hicks told the Post “HRW has spent years working on human rights abuse of Iranians persecuted for their real or presumed sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression, and released a 100-page report on the subject in December 2010. We have also done extensive reporting on Egypt’s abuse of those suspected of homosexual conduct, and the murder, kidnapping and torture of gay men, and men presumed to be gay in Iraq. The only reasonable explanation for NGO Monitor’s remarks on this subject is that facts are irrelevant to them when they don’t fit into the false narrative they are pursuing about HRW and our work.”

Responding to Hicks on Tuesday, Steinberg said, “HRW does not like NGO Monitor because we are the only research organization that denies the ‘halo effect’ to expose the contrast between their lofty words and the reality of their activities.”

He added, “The evidence clearly supports Mr. Bernstein’s conclusion about HRW’s lack of moral clarity.”

Last December, HRW issued a 104-page report titled “We Are a Buried Generation: Discrimination and Violence against Sexual Minorities in Iran.” The report was based on interviews with more than 100 Iranians.

“Iran’s security forces – including police and forces of the hard-line paramilitary Basij – rely upon discriminatory laws to harass, arrest and detain individuals whom they suspect of being gay,” the report concluded. “[It] also documents instances in which police and Basij allegedly ill-treated – and in some cases tortured – real or suspected LGBT people, both in public spaces and detention facilities. Several individuals interviewed made allegations that members of the security forces had sexually assaulted or raped them.”

Steinberg said HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division heads, Sarah Leah Whitson and Joe Stork, are “partisan ideologues, and not advocates for universal human rights.

“As a result, in 2010 MENA issued 51 total documents related to Israel – the highest for any country in the region. Yet, Israel is a vibrant democracy with the most rights for the LGBT community in the region,” he said.

“Instead of obsessing over Israel, MENA should refocus its moral compass and devote the necessary resources to address the many troubling humanrights grievances throughout the Middle East. HRW’s new chairman, James Hoge Jr., has the opportunity to implement the much delayed revamping of the MENA division in order to end the inherent bias and lack of credibility.”

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