IGLHRC Condemns Iran's Continued Use of Sodomy Laws To Justify Executions and Arbitrary Arrests

July 18, 2007
For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Hossein Alizadeh, 212-430-6016, halizadeh@iglhrc.org

(New York, July 18, 2007) - Despite a widely publicized outcry two years ago when Iranian authorities executed two young men in the northeastern city of Mashhed, the government continues to target, arrest, prosecute, and execute individuals under its sodomy law. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) condemns Iran's violations of human rights law and asks that human rights groups around the world work to support those targeted by the government.

Two years ago, on July 19, 2005, two teenage boys, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, were hanged in public for their alleged involvement in sodomy and rape. Both teenagers were juveniles at the time of the offense, and one was believed to have been a juvenile at the time of his execution. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Iran is a signatory, forbids the execution of juveniles.

Despite public responses from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and human rights groups, the Iranian government has continued to arrest, prosecute, and even execute people on sodomy charges. Just weeks after the above executions, two young men in the northern city of Gorgan were executed for allegedly engaging in same-sex sexual conduct in violation of Iran's sodomy law. On November 16, 2006, the Iran's State-run news agency (IRNA) published a story about the public execution of man convicted of sodomy in the western city of Kermanshah.

In May 2007, the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) was the first to report that the police forces in the city of Esfahan had raided a birthday party and arrested more than 80 people. The police apparently suspected that the attendees were gay and were possibly engaged in sodomy, though nor proof of either has been established. Later, police unconditionally released most of those arrested, but required substantial bail for 17 of the arrestees. A judge told the families of those set free on bail that they would be tried on sodomy charges. Based on IRQO's reports and IGLHRC's investigation, some of the detainees were severely tortured while in custody. In the last two years, IGLHRC has worked with IRQO to find refuge for a number of gay Iranians forced to leave their country and who have applied for refugee status, many of whom faced arbitrary arrests, police brutality and even lashings for being gay.

The Iranian media regularly publishes stories about the execution of alleged criminals on sodomy-related crimes. Just a week ago the Spokesperson for the Iranian Judiciary announced that in the next few days some 20 criminals will be hanged in Tehran on a variety of charges, including sodomy (ISNA News Agency, July 10, 2007).

The Iranian authorities continue to use execution as a form of punishment for a variety of crimes, including sodomy, adultery and rape. Recently, Mr. Mohammad Javad Larijani, the top advisor to the Iranian Justice Department and the head of the Iranian Human Rights Committee, told reporters that "Iran's international obligation doesn't prevent it from execution and stoning" convicts. (ILNA News Agency, July 1 http://ilna.ir/shownews.asp?code=433448&code1=15)

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission condemns the prosecution and execution of individuals for consensual sex, including sodomy. "Executions, in and of themselves, constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law, particularly in the context of consensual sexual conduct," stated Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC. "But the added problem in these cases is that Iran seems to be arbitrarily targeting individuals perceived to be gay for these forms of heinous abuse. The systematic use of torture, forced confessions, and the inhumane treatment of detainees discredits Iran's criminal and judicial systems."

The refusal of the Iranian authorities to allow independent investigation to examine the human rights situation in Iran makes it impossible for IGLHRC and other human rights organizations to verify many of the charges against alleged perpetrator and to monitor their access to fair trials.

Iranian criminal law continues to refer to "sodomy" as a serious crime, punishable by death. This violates international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iran ratified in 1976. Articles 2 and 26 of the ICCPR affirm the equality of all people before the law and the right to freedom from discrimination, while article 17 of the Covenant reiterates freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors states' compliance with the ICCPR, determined in 1994 that sodomy laws violate international human rights.

IGLHRC calls upon human rights defenders to join the efforts by Iranian LGBT communities to support Iranians who are targeted for persecution because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity in the following ways:

1-Support Iranian LGBT groups, such as Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO). IRQO is a volunteer-based group of Iranian activists who try to reach out to LGBT population in Iran through publication of monthly magazines, phone counseling, and podcasts, educating the Western media about the situation in Iran, and helping Iranian LGBT asylum seekers outside the country. Find out more about IRQO by visiting their website: http://www.irqo.net/

2- Ask your own government to take action in one of the following ways: a) Send a letter to your government's foreign ministry recounting these incidents and asking them to expressly call on the Iranian government to abide by its international treaty obligations by halting the abuse and prosecution of people who are or are perceived to be LGBT. b) Ask that your government's immigration service adopt policies to provide refuge to individuals who fear persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity. As with all refugees, housing, food, and financial resources are needed to sustain them during the often lengthy process of establishing asylum or other legal status.


The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in San Francisco, Johannesburg, and Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org for more information.

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