Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Iranian Authorities Arrest More Than 80 Suspected Gay Men

Iran remains one of the world's most oppressive countries in terms of ongoing persecution of LGBT people. The Islamic Republic's penal code calls for the execution of anyone found guilty of sex with a person of the same-sex. Iranian authorities routinely conduct raids on parties and other gatherings attended by gay men, lesbians and cross-dressers.

The Toronto-based Iranian Queer Organization reported police arrested more than 80 people last Thursday at a birthday party in Isfahan. IRQO Executive Director Arsham Parsi said in a press release authorities continue to torture those it took into custody and refuses to allow their families to visit them in jail. One man, whom IRQO identified as Peyman, said he found police cars outside the home where the party had been held after he turned onto the street.

"All my friends were arrested while seven or eight policemen beat them with batons," he said. "Fearing the usual punishments for attending a party, two had jumped from the second-floor window and were in a bad condition."

This arrest is the latest in a series of raids and executions that continue to highlight the brutal oppression LGBT Iranians continue to endure in their own country. Gay City News contributor Doug Ireland reported last month many Iranian gay men undergo sex-reassignment surgery to avoid government persecution . The same reporter documented the British government's decision to ignore a gay Iranian's asylum application after authorities arrested him on April 20. Another Iranian asylum seeker committed suicide two years earlier after British authorities also denied his request. The hanging of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni in 2005 also sparked outrage among international LGBT activists.

Some dispute claims as to whether authorities executed the two teenagers because of their homosexuality. But nobody can dispute the severe oppression LGBT Iranians continue to face in their country. Iran has a long history which spans thousands of years. The country also lays claim to a rich and diverse culture. Yet the government's continued oppression of its LGBT citizens remains a shameful blemish to an otherwise proud tradition.

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