July 22, 2006
Updated: LATVIAN GAY PRIDE MEETING UNDER SIEGE IN RIGA TODAY BY FASCISTS, VIOLENCE USED
Today in the Latvian capital of Riga, a crowd of fascists laid siege to and attacked a meeting called by the Latvian gay organization Mozaika at the four-star Reval Hotel to celebrate Gay Pride, after the Pride March planned for today in Riga was banned on Wednesday this past week by the Riga City Council, a ban upheld on Friday by a Latvian court. But anti-gay fascist protesters laid siege to the hotel where some 100 gays and lesbians were meeting, and assaulted those trying to leave. The gay meeting attracted many journalists, who have also been targeted for assault by the protesters, who pelted them with eggs, bottles, and water. [For background on today's siege, read my article for Gay City News earlier this week on the ban on the Latvian Pride March by clicking here,.]
Nicolas Alexeyev of GayRussia.ru -- who was the organizer of the banned Moscow Gay Pride March, during which he was arrested (Alexeyev at left in photo of his arrest), a demonstration that was also broken up by fascists on May 27 -- had gone to Riga in solidarity with Latvian gay activists to protest the ban on the Latvian Pride March, and Alexeyev this morning has been e-mailing a series of reports on the ongoing siege of the hotel and the assaults, which were continuing as of the receipt of his latest dispatch at 9:09 AM EST. "Protesters are targetting anyone going out of the hotel. Speeches continue inside the hotel quietly, as planned," wrote Alexeyev in his latest e-mail message.
"Today, Latvia does not show the face of a modern and democratic country. Instead, Riga is showing the face of homophobic facism, threatening its citizens and their guests, including members of the European Parliament," wrote Alexeyev.
"Around a dozen of the gay pride supporters, including a pastor, Juris Calitis, who led the service and remained in the church after most of the congregation had slipped out, were hit by eggs and bags of excrement as they left," according to the AFP dispatch.
July 21, 2006
AN OPEN LETTER TO I.G.L.H.R.C. FROM VETERAN GAY ACTIVIST ANDY HUMM
Andy Humm is a veteran of more than three decades of gay activism. A former member of New York City's Human Rights Commission, Andy (right) is a gay journalist who, as a volunteer, has for two decades hosted the Gay USA cable news program (now seen in dozens of cities via the Free Speech Network's satellite.) I've known Andy since the early days of the modern gay liberation movement at the beginning of the 1970s, and I've long deeply appreciated Andy's steadfast and evergreen activist spirit, which is reflected not only in his activist life but in his reporting and writing, and on the TV show he co-hosts with Ann Northrop, because Gay USA serves as a regular megaphone for militant gay and AIDS public actions and those who organize them. He is currently circulating a letter to the executive director of IGLHRC (the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission), Paula Ettelbrick, about IGLHRC's 11th-hour decision to withdraw from sponsoring and organizing the New York City demonstration at the Iranian Mission to the U.N. as part of the July 19 International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran. When IGLHRC withdrew from organizing and sponsoring that demonstration, Andy -- with his typical dedication -- stepped forward to fill the void and pull it together. Andy's letter to Paula and IGLHRC raises some very important questions about the nature of gay activism and the responsibilities incumbent on the leaders of gay institutions, and here it is:
I wrote [in my report on the NYC July 19 demo]that you "dumped" sponsorship of the vigil at the Iranian mission at the 11th hour, despite the fact that it had been advertised for weeks in the Gay City News and on our cable show, "Gay USA." Your left us no time to tell our readers and viewers that you had "revised" your plan. So we took it upon ourselves to step in and preserve the vigil in solidarity with activists in 27 other cities. What, after all, were the people who had planned to go to the vigil and did not have the benefit of being on your e-mail list supposed to do when they arrived at the mission? Fend for themselves? Who was there to take responsibility and deal with the police if they got difficult?
I had always intended to go to the mission under your sponsorship and to be in solidarity with the worldwide protests. I remain mystified why you sponsored the vigil in the first place and would appreciate your explaining to all of us why you felt it was an important and good thing to do up until late last week. It would also be helpful if you told us how much organizing you did to achieve a big turnout at the mission prior to bailing out of that action.
Having advertised the action at the mission, the least you could have done if you desperately needed to revise your plan was to go to the mission where some people were bound to appear, explain why you had changed your mind at the last minute, educate us about the complexities of the issue, and have your forum at a time when people who participated in the vigil could also go.
As it was, an impressive crowd turned out for the action at the mission, the kind of people you could tap for ongoing actions. [For a report on how the New York demonstration went, click here.] But I must say, I virtually never get advisories from ILGLHRC on actions, here in the home of the United Nations where there would seem to be endless opportunities to protest anti-gay governments at their missions. Public protests are not the only or always the best way to work for change, but they can if handled properly be a very good way to draw public attention to an overlooked issue. If you are not willing to make public demonstrations part of your repertoire, there needs to be a group formed that does.
At the very least, I hope that IGLHRC will start sending our weekly action alerts to the community and press about what actions we do need to take to address anti-gay repression around the world. You have our attention, now put forward the game plan. Engage the community. Without a large degree of community organizing, our mutual goals are not going to be advanced. There certainly can be inside and outside strategies, but please don't tell me there is not at least one action a week that it would be good for your supporters to take on behalf of our brothers and sisters around the world.
We only started building the action at the mission on Saturday, four days before the event, and did it almost entirely via the Internet. We didn't have time to convene meetings and make sure that the diversity of our community was represented. But there was a fairly good political diversity there and, especially with the participation of Jonathan Tasini [the anti-war Democratic primary candidate against Senator Hillary Clinton], our anti-war message could not have been clearer.
We all worked without pay to put this together and lots of people took over from their paid work to attend the vigil. We are not asking for your agreement with our politics or actions, but for respect and engagement as people with a sincere commitment to the LGBT movement worldwide. You have the resources to make use of this engaged constituency, but that means that you have to step forward and lead and lay out as clearly as possible what we all need to be doing. From the excerpts of the forum that I watched on line, I did not get a clear sense of what you want us to do. We will not settle for being told to leave it to the experts or just to donate to organizations. We are activists.
In the struggle, Andy
RELATED READING: Paul Schindler, the editor of Gay City News (New York City's largest gay weekly) has written an "Editor's Memorandum: The Battle Over Iran" in the latest issue of GCN dissecting the debate over the July 19 Day of Action and the IGLHRC-HRW-sponsored forum in New York. To read Paul's report, click here.
LATVIA BANS GAY PRIDE MARCH as U.S. Christian Right Envoys Fan Flames of Hate In The Country
The following is an updated version of an article I wrote in this week's Gay City News -- New York's largest gay weekly:
A Latvian court today upheld a ban on Latvia's Gay Pride March. Following threats of violence from ultra-right political and religious groups, Latvia’s second Gay Pride March, scheduled for this coming Saturday, July 22, was banned this week by the City Council in Riga, the nation’s capital, in a vote taken as an anti-gay demonstration of some 100 people gathered outside chanting homophobic slogans. (Photo right, anti-gay leaflet distributed Wednesday outside Riga City Council meeting which banned the Pride March)
The first-ever Pride March last year drew 30 participants--and thousands of onlookers, many of whom shouted insults and spat on the hardy band of courageous marchers. The ban on this year’s Pride demonstration comes on the heels of rising political homophobia in the country, including the Latvian Parliament’s decision last month to defy a European Union directive by removing sexual orientation protections from an Anti-Discrimination Law it passed. In June, members of Latvia’s ruling Christian Democratic Party, which leads a minority coalition government, had demanded the deletion of the sexual orientation clause, calling homosexuality “sinful” and “degenerate”. Latvia is the only EU member state without legislation specifically outlawing discrimination at work and in housing on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Latvia has been awash in anti-gay hate-mongering of late, including threats of violence against the planned Pride March. An ultra-right nationalist organization, National Power Unity, declared recently on its Web site that its members and supporters “are prepared to use not just nonviolent forms of protest to protect our children and fellow human beings from the amoral forced sexualization of society.”
On July 7, the popular folk singer Kaspars Dimiters (photo left), who was one of the main anti-Pride activists last year and who led efforts to use civil disobedience to disrupt that march, published an advertisement in several Latvian newspapers with the headline “Don’t sleep at home—lie down in the streets!”
“We don’t have to tolerate the deceit, lies, psychological violence and aggression with which the sodomites want to achieve their goals,” said Dimiters in the ad. “Pride is a provocation of intolerance” and permitting it to take place would “psychologically facilitate local terrorism in the future,” the singer’s ad proclaimed.
A united front of extreme-right organizations, including Against the Current, Klubs 415, and NoPride, supported Dimiters’ efforts and collected over 17,000 signatures on a petition demanding suppression of the Pride March.
Even more disquieting, a member of the ruling coalition government—Latvia’s hard-right, nationalist First Party—had been leading the charge to ban the Pride March. Last week, Dzintars Jaundbeikars, the interior minister from the First Party who was the lead campaigner against the Pride March last year, declared that his Interior Ministry would not be able to provide adequate security during this year’s Pride March, calling it the “largest security risk” since Latvia gained independence.
The Riga City Council justified its decision to ban the Pride March by invoking threats of violence received from extremist groups and the police’s inability to guarantee security and order during the event. But, according to city officials, the information about these threats is classified as a state secret, and will not be made public for five years.
Last Friday saw the conclusion of an international evangelical Christian conference in Riga that fanned the flames of anti-gay hate. Called “Let Your Kingdom Come,” the conference was attended by homo-hating pastors and missionaries from the United States—more evidence of increasing attempts by the U.S. Christian right to globalize Christian fundamentalist homophobia. American speakers at the conference focused on the struggle against the “oppressive power” of the gay rights movement. Scott Lively, president of the California-based Abiding Truth Ministries, said, “A war has begun between Christians and homosexuals.” Lively is co-author of the anti-gay book “The Pink Swastika.” The mission of Abiding Truth Ministries and its affiliated Pro-Family Law Center is to “oppose the ‘gay’ movement and its destructive agenda by providing essential pro-family information and resources,” according to Lively, who also leads the American Family Association of California. In 2004, Lively’s Pro-Family Law Center brought suit to have San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome removed from office for performing “illegal” gay marriages.
The fundamentalists’ international conclave in Riga was organized by the New Generation megachurch, whose pastor, Aleksey Ledyaev (photo right), has been a leading voice in Latvia’s anti-gay backlash. During the conference Ledyaev, who has previously declared “war” against gay rights in Latvia, described homosexuality as “parasitical” and the “death of civilization.”
“Homosexually oriented people want children, but they plan to take them away from normal families,” said Ledyaev. Christian right TV programs spewing such homophobia are popular in Latvia.
The permit for the banned Pride March had been requested by Mozaïka (translation: Mosaic), the Latvian LGBT association, and by the gay rights organizations International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) Latvija and Rïgas Praids (Riga Pride).
“We are shocked by the City Council’s decision [to ban the march], which we view as not only an unacceptable restriction of the freedom of assembly, but a major blow to democracy in the face of terrorist threats,” said Mozaïka board member Linda Freimane.
In a press release, Mozaïka said the City Council’s decision set a precedent that was “extremely dangerous, because it demonstrates that the use or threat of force against a particular group is effective in winning the support of state organs in restricting the rights of this group. No resident of Latvia will be able to feel confident that at some point similarly undemocratic methods will not be used against him or her.”
The gay group said it expected at least 20 foreign officials to arrive in Riga this week to participate in the march, including members of the Swedish, Danish, Austrian, and European Parliaments.
The day after the Riga City Council voted to ban the Pride March, Latvian President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga (photo left) issued a strongly worded statement that, while not mentiontioning the gay event by name, declared: “Departure from any of the principles of democracy destroys democracy itself...[The] Constitution guarantees to the residents of Latvia the right to the freedom of speech and assembly, which means guarantees of free expression of one’s views.”
Mozaika announced it will appeal the judicial approval of the ban all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary, and the gay group is considering what kind of public event it will stage tomorrow in lieu of the banned march.
July 20, 2006
July 19 Day of Action on Iran: A REPORT FROM NEW YORK CITY (plus, a report from Washington, D.C.)
July 18, 2006
COME OUT TOMORROW TO SUPPORT PERSECUTED GAY IRANIANS
A reminder: Tomorrow (Wednesday, July 19) is the International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran, called on the first anniversary of the public hanging of two teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, for homosexuality.
There will be vigils and demonstrations on July 19 in 25 cities around the world -- including 10 in the U.S. The five-point liist of demands for these events is:
“1. End all executions in Iran, especially the execution of minors. (Photo below, the teens Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, Mashad, Iran, July 19, 2005)
“3. Halt the deportation to Iran of LGBT asylum seekers and other victims of Tehran’s persecution.
“4. Support Iranians struggling for democracy, social justice and human rights.
“5. Oppose foreign military intervention in Iran; regime change must come from within – by and for the Iranian people themselves.”
This call to action has been endorsed by -- International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA); International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO); Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO); International Lesbian & Gay Cultural Network; Nordic Homo Council (Scandanavian countries); and the following national LGBT organizations: ARCIGAY (Italy), HOSI (Austria), OutRage (U.K.), Moscow Pride and GayRussia.ru (Russia), COC (The Netherlands), Tupilak (Sweden), Solidarité Internationale LGBT (France -- plus a coalition of 15 gay organizations in Marseille), Columbia Diversa (Columbia), and BeLonG To Youth Project (Ireland). The July 19 Day of Action has also been endorsed by the following publications and media: MAHA magazine (Iran); Enkidu magazine (Mexico), Gay City News (New York City), Seattle Gay News, Independent Gay News (Fort Lauderdale-Broward County), Gay Egypt (website); and by many local ad hoc committees.
The New York City July 19 demonstration has been called by a committee including: Andy Humm and Ann Northrop, Gay USA cable TV news; Walter Armstrong, POZ magazine; Sandy Rapp, Lesbian feminist singer-writer; Rosario Dawson, actor-activist; Doric Wilson, Playwright; Martin Duberman, Professor Emeritus, City University of New York; Church Ladies for Choice. Allen Roskoff, president, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club; the Stonewall Democratic Club; the Metropolitan Community Church of N.Y.; Darren Rosenblum, Associate Professor, Pace Law School; Larry Kramer, writer-activist; John Berendt, author, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and "City of Falling Angels"; Lawrence D. Mass, M.D., physician, writer, activist, co-founder of Gay Men's Health Crisis; Arnie Kantrowitz, prof. emeritus, College of Staten Island, CUNY, and author, "Under the Rainbow: Growing Up Gay"; Sean Strub, founder, POZ magazine; Kenneth Sherill, Professor, Political Science, Hunter College, CUNY; Wayne Besen, Executive Director, Truth Wins Out; Rev. Pat Bumgartner, pastor, Metropolitan Community Church; Rick Shur; Andrew Berman; Frank Jump, educator, artist, activist; Vincenzo Aiosa, same-sex marriage activist; State Senator Tom Duane; Ethan Geto, Geto & DeMilly Inc.; Joe Kennedy, Gay Activists Alliance veteran; Dirk McCall, President, Stonewall Democratic Club
Here is the global list of cities, locations, and times for these vigils:
New York -- Location: Iranian Mission to the U.N., 622 Third Avenue (at 40th St.) Time: 5:00 P.M. Contact: Andy Humm, Andyhumm@aol.com
Washington, D.C. -- Location: DuPont Circle Time: 5:00 P.M. Contact: Rob Anderson email@example.com, Tel. work (202) 508-4446 home (202) 550-8812
San Diego -- Location: U.S. Federal Building Time: 4:00 pm Contact: Michael Mussman, firstname.lastname@example.org
San Francisco -- Location: Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro and Market Streets Time: 5:00 pm Contact: Michael Petrelis, email@example.com
Fort Lauderdale-Broward County (South Florida) -- details to be announced soon Contact: Michael James, Editor, Independent Gay News, MJames@OurIndependent.com Telephone 954.563.0470
Sioux Falls, South Dakota -- Location: Calvary Cathedral, 500 S. Main Avenue
Time: 9:00 pm Contact: Kathy Knobloch, firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle, Washington -- Location: Seattle Central Community College Plaza, Pine and BroadwayTime: 7:00 pm Contact: George Bakan, editor, Seattle Gay News, email@example.com
Chicago – Location: Vigil at Millennium Park (Pritzker Pavilion entrance).
Time: 5:30. Contact: Gay Liberation Network, LGBTliberation@aol.com
Tulsa, Oklahoma -- Location: Tulsa County Courthouse Place, Vigil Time: 8:30 PM Contact: Laura Belmonte, Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights (TOHR), mobile 918-906-2134
Salt Lake City -- Location: GLBT Community Center Youth Activity Center, 355 North 300 West Time: 6:30 P.M. Contact: Rachel McNeil, firstname.lastname@example.org
Provincetown -- Location: Town Hall Square Time: 5-6 PM Contact: Andrew Sullivan, email@example.com
Toronto -- Location: University of Torontdo, Hart House, Music Room, 7 Hart House Circle. Toronto, Ontario Time: 5-9 P.M. Speakers will include Arsham Parsi, Human Rights Secretary of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO) and an Iranian exile, and local gay and political leaders. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vancouver -- Location: Vancouver Art Gallery - Robson Plaza Time: 6:00 p.m. Contact: Finn Kovaltsenko, email@example.com
Dublin -- Location: Dublin City Centre, The Central Bank, Dame Street Time: 5.30pm, Speakers to include Senator David Norris Contact: BeLonG To Youth Project, firstname.lastname@example.org telephone 01-8734184;
Mexico City -- Location (Lugar): Contempo Cine, Address (Direccion): Londres 161, 1er piso; entre Florencia y Amberes; Time: (Miercoles 19 de julio/)Wednesday Hora: 19:00 Hrs Contact: Enkidu Magazine, email@example.com, Telephone 044 55 2517 5098
Bogota, Colombia -- Petitions of protest against anti-gay repression in Iran, for which the LGBT group Colombia Diversa gathered signatures, will be delivered to the Iranian embassy in Bogota. Contact: Andrew Dier, firstname.lastname@example.org
Milan, Italy -- Location: Corso Magenta 39, in front of the palace where the European Union Commission has its offices Time: 18:30 (6:30 PM) Contact: Fabio Sacca, ARCIGAY youth coordinator, email@example.com., Tel. 39-349-1777-021
Warsaw -- Location: Candle-light vigil, 22 Królowej Aldony street Time: 9 P.M. Contact: Lukasz Palucki, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hague (Netherlands) -- Location: Iranian Embassy to The Netherlands Time: 1:00-2:00 P.M. Organized by COC, Contact: René van Soeren of COC, email@example.com
London: -- Location: House of Commons, Committee Room 12 Guest Speakers: openly gay Labour Party Member of Parliament Chris Bryant MP (photo right), Jean Lambert MEP, Iranian gay activists, Simon Forbes and Peter Tatchell Time: 6:30 pm Contacts: Peter Tatchell, firstname.lastname@example.org & Brett Lock, email@example.com
Stockholm -- Location: Iranian Embassy, Elfviksvägen Västra Yttringe gård Lidingö Time: 5:00 P.M. (17:00) Contact: Bill Schiller, firstname.lastname@example.org (Supported by Tupilak, Nordic Homo Council, Nordic Rainbow Humanists, and International Lesbian & Gay Cultural Network Information Secretariat)
Marseille -- Location: Le Vieux Port Time: 7 PM (19h) Sponsored by a collective of 15 gay organizations. Contact: Philippe Colomb (email@example.com) and Hussein Bourgi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Moscow -- Location and Time to be announced in Moscow at the last minute, to prevent disruption by fascists or police. Contact: Nicolas Alexeyev, GayRussia.ru and email@example.com
Brussels -- Location: Brussels Stock Exchange Time:8 PM to 11PM (20h a 23h) Contact: Stephen Barris, ILGA firstname.lastname@example.org
Vienna -- Location: Office of IranAir (official airline of the Islamic Republic of Iran), A-Wien 1010 Opernring; Time: to be announced Contact: HOSI Wien and Bettina Nemeth, Obfrau Tel. 0699-11965265; Christian Högl, Obmann Tel. 0699-11811038; Kurt Krickler, Tel. (01) 5451310 oder 0664-5767466
email@example.com.: 5245 34 408 ZVR-Nr
Gloucester, U.K. -- Location: The Coach and Horses pub, Saint Catherine's Street, Gloucester. Time: 8:00 PM
In Iran, at the call of the PGLO, gay people will place lighted candles in their windows on July 19 as a sign of solidarity and commemoration. And the editors of the underground gay magazine MAHA in Iran, in support of the July 19 events, write: "We belive that international pressure on the Iranian government and in solidarity with Iranian GLBT people has a positive effect and everyone welcome it. That some newspapers and websites who are close to the governemt have increased their negative propaganda about homosexuality and international gay groups is an evidence that International pressure does affect them."
Related Reading: Today's Pink News (U.K.) reports today that "The UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group has written to Liam Byrne, the Home Office Minister responsible for immigration, requesting the suspension of removals to Iran of lesbian and gay asylum seekers."
"The Group has urged the Minister to ensure that no Iranian lesbian or gay asylum seeker be removed from the UK whilst there are genuine concerns that those suspected of having gay sexual relationships are at risk of persecution.....UKLGIG chairperson, Ian Morton, said 'There is a real fear amongst lesbian and gay asylum seekers from Iran that if they are forced to return to Iran they will risk their lives if they express their sexual orientation.'” To read the entire Pink News report, click here.
July 11, 2006
LIFEBEAT, HATE MUSIC, AND AIDS
Update July 13 -- Lifebeat has canceled the concert in response to the protests described below. For details, see the update at the bottom of this post.
LIFEbeat is "mobilizes the talents and resources of the music industry to raise awareness and to provide support to the AIDS community," according to its website. But now, LIFEbeat has put its foot init, by staging a concert featuring a couple of regggae musicins who are noted for homophobic lyrics urging that gay people be beaten and killed. Examples: Beenie Man's “That’s Right,” in which the the infectious chorus begins, “We burn chi-chi man and then we burn sodomite and everybody bawl out, say, ‘Dat right!’ ‘’ And TOK's anti-gay anthem "Chi-Chi Man" (Jamaican slang for gay) calls for torching gays with lyrics like, "“Blaze di fire mek we bun dem!”
Sean Strub, the noted AIDS activist and the founder of POZ magazine (right) -- whose terrific keynote speech at San Francisco's observance of World AIDS Day I printed here earlier this year --has circulated an open letter (with which I agree wholeheartedly) about LIFEbeat's grievous error. Here it is:
But “activists who die fighting the epidemic” has assumed another horrific meaning. At 1 am this past December 1, World AIDS Day, Steve Harvey, who ran Jamaica’s leading AIDS organization—Jamaica AIDS Support for Life—was abducted from his home and murdered, after being identified as gay. The police first dismissed the crime as a robbery gone awry; the international community is demanding it be reclassified as a hate crime.
This comes not long after the founder of Jamaica’s gay rights movement, Brian Williamson, was stabbed 70 times in June 2004. The police said this murder, too, was a robbery gone awry.
Same-sex love between adults in Jamaica is punishable by long prison terms and hard labor. Indeed, Human Rights Watch has singled out Jamaica for fostering a climate of violent homophobia: Law enforcement officials not only ignore but often incite it. Jamaica’s only gay rights organization does not publicize its location for fear of attack. One of its website’s primary features gives information on how Jamaica’s gay men and lesbians can emigrate to other countries.
This reign of antigay terror has had a disastrous effect on the nation’s HIV epidemic. Jamaica has one of the highest HIV rates in the Caribbean. Because HIV is still viewed as a largely gay disease, at-risk men and women fear even going to clinics to get tested; workers providing treatment and other services, especially to gay men, have been assaulted. The day before Harvey’s death, the New York Times ran an editorial titled “AIDS, and Homophobia, in Jamaica.”
Steve Harvey knew that any openly gay man who dared start a movement of people living with AIDS was a marked man—yet he embraced that fate heroically. He will be especially mourned by the most marginalized Jamaicans—the GLBT individuals, people with HIV/AIDS, sex workers and prisoners—for whom he fought to give access to HIV/AIDS information and services.
Jamaica is killing its activists instead of working for greater understanding and punishing those who commit violent crimes. Though Steve Harvey is dead, he did not die of AIDS. He was singled out for murder because he was an activist, spoke the truth, was gay and because he raised awareness of an HIV/AIDS problem that has embarrassed the Jamaican government.
Mourn Steve Harvey. But do more than mourn. Honor his work by taking three steps:
Write and let the Jamaican Ambassador to the U.S., Gordon Shirley, know how you feel: c/o The Jamaican Embassy, 1520 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20036, or call 202.452.0660.
Donate to Jamaica AIDS Support for Life. Without Harvey, it needs financial support more than ever. Send your check to 4 Upper Musgrave Avenue, Kingston 10, Jamaica, or at www.jamaicaaids suport.com.
Boycott travel to Jamaica. Maybe a whop in the wallet will compel action to protect GLBT people and people with HIV in Jamaica.
We are a movement built on the courage and guts of people like Steve Harvey. His murder is a shame on Jamaica. But it is a shame on us if we don’t do something about it.
LIFEbeat, in response to the protests reported above, has canceled the concert. My Gay City News colleague Andy Humm has an account in this week's GCN, and Keith Boykin of the National Black Justice Coalition writes:
LIFEbeat backed down today from its decision to invite anti-gay recording artists to perform at an AIDS benefit concert next week. But the statement the group issued still missed the point. Instead of addressing the need for dialogue, LIFEbeat tried to turn the incident into an attack on the black gay bloggers and activists who raised the concern. The statement suggested the possibility of "violence" at the concert next week, despite the fact that no one from the protesters ever expressed any intent to engage in violent or disruptive behavior.
LIFEbeat also blamed "a select group of activists" for its decision. Actually, it was a worldwide coalition of bloggers, activists, people with AIDS and concerned citizens who wrote, emailed and called LIFEbeat to get them to reconsider their decision. The sad part is that LIFEbeat still doesn't get it. Their statement fails to address the issue of homophobia and its connection to the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The statement was also patently offensive in attempting to pit the LGBT community against the Caribbean American community. "We hope in the wake of this decision that those who came forward and spoke out will now come forward again to do something positive for the Caribbean American community," LIFEbeat said. Excuse me, LIFEbeat, but many of us have been working in the trenches for years. Many of us are a part of the Caribbean American community. We don't need any phoney lectures from LIFEbeat about helping the community.
Incidentally, the people who contacted LIFEbeat never asked that the concert be canceled. Instead, we asked that LIFEbeat use its influence to get the two artists in question to renounce their homophobia. LIFEbeat never did so. The group failed miserably to use its influence to start the very "dialogue" it says it wants. How can there be dialogue when a group with connections to the homophobic artists refuses to talk to them about their homophobia?
It's time for LIFEbeat to do more. If they're really serious about starting dialogue, they should follow the advice of Caribbean American lesbian and gay leaders who have urged them hold a gay-affirming music concert and donate the proceeds to Jamaica's gay and lesbian organization, J-FLAG.
Statement From LIFEbeat Canceling The Concert
"LIFEbeat - The Music Industry Fights AIDS, has collectively decided to cancel its Reggae Gold Live concert, scheduled for Tuesday, July 18 at New York’s Webster Hall. While the organization’s staff and board believe very strongly in the positive purpose and intention of this event, the possibility of violence at the concert from the firestorm incited by a select group of activists makes canceling the event the only responsible action. Dialogue is important and LIFEbeat’s staff and board respect the opinions of those who came forward to make their feelings known. We have always and will continue to support the GLBT community.
It is very unfortunate, however, that the intended good that could result from bringing this community together around this potentially ground breaking event will not be realized. The Caribbean American community needs our help in bringing attention to this unspoken and often stigmatized illness. We hope in the wake of this decision that those who came forward and spoke out will now come forward again to do something positive for the Caribbean American community and help bring attention to the devastation this disease has wreaked in that community so awareness, prevention and healing can follow."
July 10, 2006
JOHN MONEY, A GIANT OF SEX AND GENDER RESEARCH, DIES AT 84
We mourn the death at the ripe old age of 84 of Dr. John Money, a pioneer researcher who helped break down medical and cultural stereotypes about sex and gender. For 50 years he taught and researched at Johns Hopkins University, which has one of the country's most prestigious medical faculties, where he was both Professor of Medical Psychology and Professor of Pediatrics. He wrote some four dozen books, both scientific treatises and books for popular consumption by non-specialists.
The transgendered owe an enormous debt to the New Zealand-born Dr. Money, for he established the first sex reassignment clinic at a major university back in the stifling, sex-negative atmosphere of the 1950s, when most of the medical, legal, and psychiatric professions considered anyone claiming to be trapped in a body of the wrong gender a sick person, a degenerate pervert, or a criminal. He created the concepts and phrases "gender role" and "gender identity," almost single-handedly breaking open the discourse on those topics and permitting a more fluid and less judgmental attitude toward human sexuality to find a legitimate place in the public discourse, prefiguring the so-called "sexual revolution" of the 1960s. And his testimony on transsexualism as an expert in many court cases helped change legal attitudes toward the transgendered.
Money's work helped speed the decriminalization of homosexuality and the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association's list of sexual disorders in the early '70s. In the mid-'70s, Dr. Money and his Gender Identity Clinic at Johns Hopkins began the very first systematic medical-psychological study of gay-bashers, studying dozens of young males -- from adolescents to fellows in their mid-late 20s -- who had been involved in violent physical attacks on gay people. This ground-breaking study, which I have not found referred to in any of the obituaries on Money running in today's newspapers, demonstrated that these young gay-bashers all had one thing in common: a fear and hatred of that part of themselves inhabited by homosexual desire, to whatever degree. (I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Money about this study for New York magazine some years ago.)
Money also took another courageous view in the middle of the country's hysteria over pedophilia. He felt that both sexual researchers and the public do not make distinctions between affectional pedophilia and sadistic pedophilia, including infantophilia (occasionally referred to as nepiophilia), pedophilia and ephebophilia. For Money, affectional pedophilia is about love and not sex.
- If I were to see the case of a boy aged ten or eleven who's intensely erotically attracted toward a man in his twenties or thirties, if the relationship is totally mutual, and the bonding is genuinely totally mutual...then I would not call it pathological in any way.
His view was that affectional pedophilia is caused by a surplus of parental love that became erotic, and is not a behavioral disorder. Rather, he felt that heterosexuality is another example of a societal and therefore, a superficial, ideological concept. You can read the fascinating introduction by Money to the book Boys on Their Contacts With Men: A study of Sexually Expressed Friendships -- a study which Money called ""one of the most valuable works of research scholarship on the topic of pedophilia that has ever appeared in print" -- by clicking here.
Money was also a celebrated atheist: a Rolling Stone profile of him noted: "A Rolling Stone article about him stated: "Having lost his faith in his early 20s, Money increasingly reacted against what he saw as the repressive religious strictures of his upbringing and, in particular, the anti-masturbatory, anti-sexual fervor that went with them. The academic study of sexuality, which removed even the most outlandish practices from moral considerations and placed them in the 'pure' realm of scientific inquiry, was for Money an emancipation."
An enormous assemblage of Dr. Money's papers, journals, drafts, correspondence, transcripts of the many court hearings on transsexualism in which Money testified as an expert, recordings of his lectures, a large collection of scientific, pornographic, and erotic magazines and journals, and more is all available at the John Money Collection at the Kinsey Institute.
I did not agree with every single one of Money's theories, and, yes, he got a little dotty in his later years and came up with some bizarre notions, but his huge contribution to creating a larger cultural, public, legal, and medical space for sexual difference in the '50s, '60s, and 70s is indisputable. We salute this pioneering sexologist on his passing -- he had an original, creative, and wide-ranging mind, a limitless intellectual compassion that recalled Marx's famous dictum that "nothing human is alien to me," and I do not think we shall see his like again any time soon.
July 06, 2006
IRAN: AN OPEN LETTER TO MONTHLY REVIEW
A few weeks ago, the magazine Monthly Review published on its website, MRZine, an article by one Rostam Pourzal denigrating reports that a June 12 Tehran demonstration by Iranian women's rights advocates and feminists had been violently repressed by police. I was, frankly, appalled that MR had published this mendacious article by Pourzal, both as a sometime contributor to MR, a magazine for which I've long had regard (see, for example, my tribute to MR last year on the occasion of the Bastille Day launching of MRZine) and as someone who, as a journalist, has extensively reported on sexual repression in Iran, as readers of DIRELAND well know. (I've also argued that gay people need to be just as concerned about the repression of the women's movement in Iran as they are about the lethal Iranian campaign against gays -- as in my article for Gay City News about the previous brutal crushing of an International Women's Day demonstration in Tehran this past March.) [Photo below right, female police beating feminists, Tehran, June 12]
Pourzal's article also buys into Iranian President Ahmadinejad's phony anti-capitalist, "populist" promises during his election campaign -- promises which the regime has now betrayed by instituting a massive campaign of privatization -- as Agence France Presse reported on July 3. You should also read a fine analysis by Nasrin Alavi, quoting many dissident Iranian intellectuals, which was published on The Guardian's website on July 4, and which reports how "Iran's Islamic hardliners are desperate to reassert the values of 1979," the year of the Khomeini-led fundamentalist revolution. Writes Alavi:
"Since Ahmadinejad's election, we are witnessing policies similar to those adopted during the early days of the revolution. In a strategy student activists are calling a 'second cultural revolution', the president has tried to place ideological allies throughout Iran's' universities by sacking or forcing academic staff into early retirement, while growing numbers of student activists have been summoned to court, expelled or arrested. Student publications have been closed down, long-established student groups banned and election results nullified." There's a lot more to this informative commentary-- read it by clicking here.
And if you'd like to take some action, you can sign the petition in support of "the suggestion of Akbar Ganji, Iran’s leading dissident journalist, who was recently freed after 2222 days of imprisonment, for a global hunger strike that demands the release of three prominent political prisoners namely: Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeni, a student leader and former member of parliament, Dr Ramin Jahanbegloo, a philosopher, professor and public intellectual and Mansour Osanloo, a prominent labor leader and executive director of the Worker’s Syndicated Union." You can read about this petition, and sign it, by clicking here.
And for anyone who may be new to DIRELAND and who doubts where I'm coming from on the Iran issue, I was one of the co-authors and initiators of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy Statement -- signed by a raft of anti-war and gay intellectuals -- entitled ""Iran: Neither U.S. Aggression Nor Theocratic Repression--A call for a new, democratic U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East," in which we firmly opposed a military adventure attacking Iran. I want it to be clear that has always been my view -- expressed in print on any number of occasions -- and still is.
Now, an Open Letter has just been sent to MR replying to Pourzal, and signed by a variety of Iranian scholars, feminists, writers, and activists on the left. (My thanks to Danny Postel, who has long been involved with Iranian issues, for bringing this Open Letter to my attention.) As someone who reported on DIRELAND about the repression of the June 12 demonstration, and had indeed published photos of the Iran regime's police beating the feminists (like the ones on this page -- you can see more photos of the repressed demonstration by clicking here), I want to associate myself entirely with the sentiments in this Open Letter -- and here it is:
THE OPEN LETTER TO MONTHLY REVIEW:
TO THE EDITORS OF MONTHLY REVIEW: In a recent posting on your web site, Rostam Pourzal uses an anonymous email by a 'witness' in Tehran to deny the extent of the repression of women demonstrators by vigilante Islamic police on 12 June 2006.
(Pourzal tries to portray president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a 'popular', 'radical' figure, and tries to underestimate, justify and excuse the brutal, repressive nature of the Islamic regime in Iran; in doing so he makes various assumptions and claims that we will deal with in a another posting. However as far as the events of 12 June in Tehran are concerned, contrary to the claims of the anonymous 'observer', the extent and intensity of the brutal attack on the peaceful women's demonstration was far worse than that portrayed by the BBC and the international media. (Above right, an Iranian cartoon about the June 12 beating of feminists by female police.)
It is sufficient to refer to comments and reports by organisers and participants, most of whom have no fear of giving their real names, despite the fact that they were arrested and imprisoned by the regime's security forces. In an effort to stop the protest, several prominent women's rights activists were issued summonses in the middle of the night on Saturday and on the days leading up to the protest. Since then, others have been summoned for interrogation by phone or in writing. The women summoned include Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Sussan Tahmasebi, Farnz Seify and Fariba Davoodi Mohajer. Only Fariba Davoodi Mohajer received her summons in person. Others were not at home or at their offices when agents arrived to issue summons. Fariba Davoodi Mohajer was issued a summons in person at 11:00pm on Saturday, and subsequently spent 10 hours in interrogation on 12th June. On Monday morning, the day of the protest, another women's rights activist who had endorsed it, Shahla Entesari, was arrested in her place of employment.
Prior to the protest, a massive campaign of harassment against those who had endorsed the protest was carried out by security forces. Scores of women were summoned to court and interrogated, including women's rights activists, student activists and webloggers, who had spread word about the protest. (Photo left, a feminist, on the ground, being dragged to arrest by female police with clubs, June 12)
In refuting the superficial content of the anonymous email quoted by Pourzal, we refer you to the photographs of vigilante/policewomen attacking the demonstrators on 12 June, and to the testimony of Parvin Ardalan and Noushin Khorassani, labour activists from Vahed bus company who participated in the event. They wrote:
"The principle demands were as follows:
• Abolition of polygamy
• The right of divorce by women
• Joint custody of children for mothers and fathers
• Equal rights in family law
• Increasing the minimum legal age for girls to 18 (currently it is 15)] • Equal rights for women as witnesses in courts of law"
According to official reports including that of the Ministry of Justice 70 people (42 women and 28 men) were arrested by 13th June 2006, while several women's rights activists have been summoned to appear in front of the Revolutionary Court and others have been sent to Evin Prison in Tehran. In an interview with the daily 'Shargh' , the minister for Intelligence, Mohsen Ajheii claims that the women's demonstrations for equal rights endangers'national security'. Police attacks before and during the protest were widely reported in dozens of blogs, they more or less agree on both the level of attacks and methods used by women police officers armed with batons:
Zahra, a law student, describes the day in her blog: "When we got there it was really scary. Several police buses and cars covering the whole area. Cell phones were obviously monitored because we were receiving suspicious text messages from an unknown number...We got to the meeting point in the Hafte-Tir Square and saw the police forces already being "busy" in three other spots. We sat down and started chanting slogans..After about 5 minutes of confused stares from the pedestrians at us we received the first surprise: the women police force which are scarier than men for two reasons...First they are "mahram" to women so they can kick and punch women without violating any religious code and second they are strangely way more aggressive than men! First they tried to force us by hand to get up and leave...When we resisted they started using their nightsticks, after not very long the kicks and punches and the nightstick beatings got very harsh...Right in front of my eyes one of them beat Mana right in her head so badly that I don't think I will ever forget the sound of it...All of sudden everywhere is red...The second surprise: they are using a paint spray on us. We didn't realize first but they were marking us so that they know later in the crowd who was sitting and resisting...Smart! (Photo left: Iranian female police with clubs beating demonstrators, June 12)
"They finally forced us to get up and pushed us to the center of the square while we were still chanting the anthem for Iran's women movement. At least people are seeing us and you can see the objection and sympathy in their eyes...The other side of the square is so crowded I can't really see anything but I hear that they are arresting people...We are scattered...This is partly bad because we are so scattered that we can not even say why we are here so that they won't call all this "a police encounter with women with bad Islamic Hijab".
Azieh Amini's blog: "We said that that sitting in the park is not a crime. They said, "Get up before we proceed to using other methods!" …"They kicked us out of the park. They beat us and kicked us out. We walked. Calm and peaceful. We walked around the park. They kicked us out. They beat us up. Someone yelled and said, "I am your mother. Shame on you!" The answer was the following: " I do not have a bitch as my mother!" And then she pushed the older lady very harshly. We left. They took us. Around the square we were holding papers on which it was written, "Change the anti-woman laws!", "We demand the rights of a complete human being!" and then we started to whisper collectively, " We are women. We are humans. And yet we have no rights…" This time they started to beat us from all sides. Not only men were beating us. There were also women with chador (the garment) who were screaming: "Do not argue with the police!" and as soon as someone would start to argue, they would start to curse and kick them all over.
"We walked around the square. They took our papers away and torn them into pieces. They pulled the crowd of young and old women who were yelling out slogans and took them to their assigned busses. The crowd resisted their forces. But there were many policemen and policewomen around. It was odd. All of a sudden it seemed as if everyone around us was a member of the moral police. We heard them over and over saying, "No worries. We are not strangers!" I do not really know how many of us were there. All I know is that it was not a small crowd and that we will increase in number."
To summarise: the courage and determination of Iranian women participating in this protest for equal rights went far beyond what was suggested by the superficial references in Pourzal's article.
We find it amazing that, instead of relying on very accurate reporting of these events by bloggers, named and known individuals, tens of very clear photographs of the use of batons by policemen and women, Pourzal chooses to devote so much attention to an email by someone who doesn't even dare admit his identity.
Let us assume for a moment that the report in the email received by Pourzal is correct, and that the demonstrators were not hit by batons but by flowers. Shouldn't one consider any effort by the state to stop a peaceful demonstration by women in a park an act of aggression? Isn't this unnecessary violence?
Or let us pretend that nothing happened in Tehran on 12 June. What does Pourzal have to say about the attacks on protesters in Ahvaz(April 2006) , in Piranshahr, and in Tabriz (June 2006) , or the many attacks by security forces on workers in Tehran, university students in Tehran, Shiraz and Hamedan over the last few weeks?
Weren't those attacks orchestrated by the same government and the same president Ahmadinejad? Has Pourzal received any anonymous reports about those incidents? Given the length of the article he contributed about the 12 June events, shouldn't he have used the opportunity to dismiss all those incidents too!?
Clearly Pourzal is concerned that the USmight use claims about the regime's anti-democratic and suppressive policies as an excuse to attack Iran. We share this anxiety, however one cannot overcome this anxiety by denying the realities of the regime's brutal repression of its own citizens. Can one stop imperialist aggression in Iran by denying or underestimating the extent of dictatorship and repression in Iran?
It is regrettable that your web site has recently become so apologetic about Iran's Islamic regime. Many of us consider this to be in total contrast to the radical traditions of Harry Magdoff , Paul Sweezy , Ellen Woods… who considered anti-imperialist struggle as inseparable from anti-capitalist struggles and the battle for democracy. Your site's support for – indeed, at times, adoration of – one of the most brutal, militarist factions of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran, and your inaccurate reporting of the economic stance of the Iranian president, whose main allies include German neo-Nazis (an inevitable consequence of his Holocaust denial statements) is an insult to the Iranian working class and its supporters worldwide.
We, Iranian feminist socialist activists are alarmed that your political stance is damaging the reputation of your journal amongst left wing activists inside and outside Iran. Lifelong translators of left wing books and articles inside Iran have either been killed by this regime and its death squads, e.g. Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Pouyande, or they are in prison for defending families of these dead left-wing writers, e.g. Nasser Zarafshan – who happens to be a regular translator of your journal's articles to farsi. And yet you show no hesitation in defending their executioners and jailers such as Ahmadinejad.
We enclose for your attention links to a number of eyewitness statements about the events of 12 June 2006, as well as some of the recent statements by Iranian workers regarding this regime's continuation of the neo liberal economic policies of the last decade . We can assure you that left-wing activists inside Iranwill not rest until they have exposed the sham reactionary anti-western slogans of this president, dished out by your web site as anti-imperialism.
After all, many of us remember the consequences of earlier shallow anti- American sloganising, culminating in disasters such as 'Irangate' – when the 'anti Imperialist' ayatollah Khomeiny ended up supporting Nicaraguan Contras through payment for Israeli arms, via none other than Oliver North!!
Signed: Ardeshir Mehrdad -Co-editor Iran Bulletin Middle EastForum; Shahrzad Mojab - Professor and director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto, Canada; Haideh Moghissi - Professor of Sociology – York University, Canada; Cyrus Bina - Professor of Economics and Management – University of Minnesota,USA; Yassamine Mather-Center for the Study of Socialist Theory and Movements- Glasgow University, UK;Torab Saleth – Editorial board journal Critique; Saeed Rahnama - Professor of Political Sciences – York University,Canada; Younes Parsa-Benab - Professor of Political Science at Strayer; University-Washington; Mehdi Kia- Co-editor Iran Bulletin Middle East Forum; Nasser Kakhsaz - Poet, Literary critic; Sulmaz Moradi - Socialist , feminist activist; Borzu Fuladvand - Socialist activist; Fereshteh Shoja - Socialist, feminist activist; Faramarz Dadvar - Center in Defense of Freedom & Democracy in Iran-Chicago; Sadegh Tehrani - Socialist activist; Hassan Hessam - Poet
For details on the July 19 International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran, click here.
For background on the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran, see my previous articles: July 21, 2005 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 11 -- Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions; August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.August 25 -- Iran's Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions. September 8 -- Iran and the Death of Gay Activism. September 20 -- "They'll Kill Me" -- A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal ; September 29 -- Iranian Gays Urgently Appeal for Help ; October 5 --"Shocking New Photo of Hanging of Gay Iranian Teens"; October 6 -- Canada Introduces UN Resolution Condemning Iran's Human Rights Record; November 24, "Save Us"-- A Gay Iranian Who Married His Partner Begs for Help from the West ; January 12, 2006 -- "Kidnapped: Another Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks"; January 4, 2006 -- "Iran's Anti-Gay Pogrom"; January 27, 2006 -- "A Call to Solidarity: U.S. Gay Groups Must End Their Isolationism; February 8, 2006 -- "An Iranian Trans Torture Victim Speaks from Inside Iran." February 9, 2006--Stop the Deportation of Saba Rawi; March 3, 2006-- "Dutch to End Freeze on Deportation of Gay Iranians"; March 4, 2006-- "Commotion in Dutch Parliament Over Deportation of Gay Iranians."; March 16, 2006-- "England: Another Gay Iranian Faces Deportation"; April 20, 2006-- "Dutch Deportations of Gay Iranians on Hold"; April 26, 2006-- "iran Hacks Websites to Bury Anti-Gay Pogrom"; May 31, 2006-- "Iran Exports Anti-Gay Pogrom to Iraq"; June 14, 2006-- "An Iranian Gay Activist's Moving Plea." June 25, 2006 -- "Iran's Gay Refugees Find a Safe Haven in Canada." ; July 4, 2006 --"Global Protests July 19 To Commemorate Hanging of Two Iranian Gay Teens." July 5, 2006 -- "From Inside Iran, An Underground Gay Activist Speaks: 'If I'm Found Out, No Physical Sign of Me Will Remain'"
Also, don't miss Rob Anderson's excellent article in the New Republic, "How America's Gay Rights Establishment is Failing Gay Iranians."
MUSLIM, JEWISH, CHRISTIAN LEADERS UNITE AGINST JERUSALEM GAY PRIDE EVENT
The Jerusalem Post reported on July 5 that "religious officials from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities united Tuesday to oppose a gay pride parade in Jerusalem. More than 50 prominent religious figures visited the Knesset's Interior Committee to urge MKs to stop the World Pride event, scheduled to take place in Jerusalem next month. Several right-wing religious MKs brought the coalition to the Knesset, asserting that 'never before has the Holy Land seen such a union of religious leaders.' Representations of gay-rights groups, including the Jerusalem Open House and the Coalition for Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian, and Transgender Rights called the coalition 'dangerous' and 'ugly.'" To read the entire Jerusalem Post story, click here.
The Israeli news website Y-Net reported that at the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee meeting on Tuesday, called by Orthodox Jews and Muslim members of the Israeli parliament "dozens of invitees" were present, stacking the hearing with opponents of the march, "including senior staff at the Jerusalem municipality, an ambassador from the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, , the Coptic and Greek Patriarchates, heads of various Jerusalem churches, students, senior staff of the Internal Security Ministry and the Vatican’s ambassador to Israel."
Y-Net noted that, "A ripple of laughter went through the meeting when MK Ibrahim Sarsur (United Arab List-Ta’al) said, 'I have never had to participate in such a discussion, because in Muslim society we don’t have this problem.'" (Sarsur is at left in the photo next to Orthodox Jewish Knesset member at Tuesday's hearing) I would add that of course they don't "have this problem," as any public expression of homosexuality, let alone of gay pride, is severely repressed in those societies -- both by the religiously inculcated homophobia, machismo, and patriarchal misogyny that results in "honor killings" of lesbian and gay people by their own families in those cultures; and by official policy, as the rare attempts to organize around gay self-acceptance in Muslim countries is usually severely dealt with by authorities, as witness the recent attacks on gay-content websites from Lebanon to Morocco.
Lebanon is, in fact, one of the very few Muslim countries where gays have dared to organize in the light of day -- but with serious consequences. The useful website of the Lebanese gay rights group Helem reports, for example, on the intense campaign against it by the Arab media -- particularly the Dubai-based, Saudi-owned TV network Al Arabiya --after Helem's decision to participate in the May 27 International Day Against Homophobia, and on the calls for the organization's banning by conservative religious members of Lebanon's parliament. The International Lesbian and Gay Association began reporting in 2000 on a government intimidation campaign targeting Lebanese gay websites.
Sarsour, the Arab Knesset member, had earlier warned gays warned gays that "if they dare to approach the Temple Mount during the World Pride 2006 parade in Jerusalem they will do so over our dead bodies."
Holding the World Pride event in Jerusalem has engendered considerable debate in the gay community. A website, Boycott World Pride 2006, has been set up by gays opposing holding the event in the Israeli city at a time when Israel is engaged in a severe campaign of repression in the Palestinian Occupied Territories -- as witness the escalated Israeli military campaign in the wake of the election victory of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority and the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants. (The U.K. newspaper The Independent reported today that "At least 20 Palestinians were believed dead, dozens more were wounded " yesterday as Israel "moved to reoccupy a swath of the northern Gaza Strip for the first time since its forces and settlers pulled out 11 months ago.")
One of the other rare gay organizations in a Muslim culture, the group Aswat (logo left), which calls itself an association of "Palestinian gay women" -- a rather obvious rebuke to those who claim that in Arab cultures there is no "gay identity" -- has said that it is boycotting world pride because "Palestinians in Eastern occupied Jerusalem will continue to suffer under intensified checkpoints, increasing racism, house demolishing, confiscating IDs and expanding of Israeli settlements." Moreover, said Aswat, "Even though, the state of Israel holds a tolerant stance towards gays and lesbians, it uses this opportunity to show the world that in Israel a gay man can also be a soldier. However, being a soldier in an occupying oppressive army does not do justice to our quest for peace and tolerance. This is an insult to our struggle for freedom and tolerance. In Israel, violence and hatred are articulated through homophobia and xenophobia, and this very same violence is evident in racism, occupation and war crimes." To read the entire Aswat statement on World Pride 2006, click here.
July 05, 2006
FROM INSIDE IRAN, A GAY ACTIVIST SPEAKS
I wrote the following article for Gay City News -- New York City's largest gay weekly -- in whose new edition it will appear tomorrow (links to all my previous articles on the persecution of lesbians and gays in Iran can be found at the end of this post):
“IF I’M FOUND OUT, NO PHYSICAL SIGN OF ME WILL REMAIN”
A Courageous Underground Gay Activist Speaks from Inside Iran
As lesbians and gays all over the world prepare to commemorate the July 19 first anniversary of the hanging of two teenage gay boys in the Iranian city of Mashad, I spoke with an underground gay activist with the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO), who lives in the Islamic Republic of Iran, about his life and work.
We’ll call him Mani (a pseudonym) and he lives in a large Iranian city (more cannot be said to protect his security). He’s 24, has a doctorate in pharmaceutical medicine, and works as a technical manager in a pharmaceutical plant. “I was born in Tehran in 1983,” says Mani. “My childhood was full of life’s ordeals. Until the age of 7, I lived with both my parents. But then my mother separated from us, leaving for the Czech Republic, and I felt lonelier. This made our lives more difficult. It was during the Iran-Iraq War [1980-88]. My father was a commander at the front and we were living with my father’s new wife. After finishing high school, I entered university.”
Mani has known he was gay since he was a child. “I think I was 10 years old when I felt I was very attracted to a boy and had fallen in love with him,” he says. “My mother was very compassionate in this regard, and helped me to understand my nature. My first sexual experience was with this same Czech boy when I was living in the Czech Republic, and for me it was fascinating and exciting.”
Things changed for the worse when Mani moved back to Iran. “I didn’t think being gay would cause complications. When I returned to Iran, meaning right after my summer holiday, I began missing my friend and set out to find a new friend. But, I was met with the disapproval of my father and his new wife. They reacted very badly.” In his teen years, he said, while living with his father, “they controlled me excessively and, like an Iranian girl, I was very restricted and tightly monitored.”
From then on, Mani was the target of opprobrium, at home and at school. “At the university,” he relates, “I was often harassed by university administrators and by my classmates because of my sexual orientation and demeanor. They even wanted to expel me from university just for wearing an ear-ring, but they didn’t manage to do because, as a veteran commander of the Iran-Iraq war, my father had a lot of pull.” These experiences impelled Mani to become a gay activist.
Since his university days, Mani says, “I have always tried to serve the Iranian gay community.” He is now the PGLO’s health affairs secretary. “I have been working with PGLO (Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization) for about 2 ½ years now. In my capacity as the health officer of the organization, my most important activity is the AIDS project, which has been well received. My other activities include serving as a health advisor, working on the introduction of new medication, providing psychiatric counseling. and generating awareness and information concerning homosexual health issues.”
As a mental health counselor, Mani has observed the psychological ravages of living in an officially homo-hating society. “Because the government and the ayatollahs suppress any accurate or positive information about homosexuality,“ he says, “many homosexuals don’t accept themselves and instead assume they are sexual deviants, and seek to cure themselves by different means, including superstitious prayer, oblation, and supplication. Not that many Iranian gays have a healthy and accepting attitude toward their sexuality. Many of those who are cognizant of their homosexuality are daily sinking into despair.”
The officially-endorsed “rigid religious reactions” to homosexuality, Mani says, “mean that homosexual individuals suffer severe emotional disorder, such as the loss of psychological and gender identity and split-personality, all of which combine to form a dejected, deflated, depressed and unmotivated youth.”
How could it be otherwise, he says, “when we’ve frequently observed that solely for the offense of same-sex love and sleeping together, people have been condemned to death by hanging or stoning -- there have been many such executions carried out by the malicious and criminal Iranian regime.”
“Look,” says Mani, “you must understand that, in Iran, if a homosexual falls in love, he has committed a grave crime: here, homosexual love equals death, the gallows and stoning. So, this is a major part of what I term the ‘condemned’s’ life: he is oppressed and sinks into despair and self-hate and, in too many cases, ultimately opts for suicide.”
Many says the government’s massive campaign of Internet entrapment targeting gays, and heightened police surveillance of gays through informers -- many of whom are homosexuals who’ve been arrested and tortured into becoming snitches -- is wreaking havoc on Iran’s gay community. “The best way for gays to meet in Iran is either via the Internet or at parties. Unfortunately, recently the Ministry of Intelligence has multiplied its monitoring of both. Private parties are constantly raided, and we have witnessed the disappearance of many gay people after they established contact with strangers via the Internet. Afterwards, they’re arrested and falsely accused of such crimes as transporting drugs, robbery, rape, etc., and then they are sentenced to death by a judge in a bogus court with false witnesses, without these executions being reported in any newspaper or in the news media in general. And as long as the ayatollahs’ constitutional Guardian Council exists in Iran and has its thumb on everything the government does, the situation will remain the same.”
Mani deplores the widespread AIDS discrimination in Iran. “Unfortunately, nothing is done about AIDS in Iran,“ he says. “All that you hear about what Iran is doing to fight AIDS is merely empty propaganda devoid of action. When they reject patients suffering AIDS at hospitals, when no doctor will see the patient, when they won’t operate on an HIV-positive patient, and when no law protects the HIV-positive or guarantees them treatment, then there is simply no room even to discuss the AIDS issue.”
In Iran, he says, “Condoms are available at most pharmacies, but condom use is negligible. The soaring birth rate and the statistics for abortion venereal diseases all point to widespread negative attitudes toward the condom, which the government health officials do nothing to correct. In most men’s opinions, using a condom means having a bad or diminished orgasm, and the feel it destroys the natural expression of love and desire. Moreover, if you‘re seen buying a condom, it tells the person who observes you that you‘re going to have sex -- and sex itself has a negative connotation in Iranian society today. So most people are simply ashamed to buy condoms.“
Mani says the Tehran regime is denying the extent and reality of the AIDS problem in Iran. “The government,“ he says, “refuses to accept the latest UNESCO statistics estimating that the number of those who have contracted HIV in Iran has surpassed 300,000. We at PGLO are trying to gather accurate data, but I’d say that a majority of those who carry the HIV virus aren’t aware of it.“
I asked Mani what would happen to him if the government found out about his gay activism with the PGLO. He answered, “I would definitely be killed in the most horrendous way, and my family, too, would be harassed and persecuted. No physical sign of me will remain. But I believe my name will live on as a defender of homosexual rights in everyone’s memory.” (Photo left, the public flogging of a young Iranian man)
What would Mani like to say to Western gays? “You who live serenely and comfortably on the other side of Iran’s frontiers, be aware that those who think and feel and love like you do in Iran are executed for the crime of homosexuality, are assassinated, kidnapped, and barred from working in offices. You have festivals, and they prisons. You select Mr. Gay of the Year, but they don’t even enjoy the right to have gravestones. Be fair and tell us what difference there is between us and you. Isn’t it time that all homosexuals around the world rise up and come to our defense? Listen to this poem by Sa’adi [the classic Persian 13th century poet who celebrated same-sex love’]:
“All human beings are different parts of the same body, who
”Have inherited the same essence in creation
“No part will rest in peace
”If one is suffering pain
“You will not deserve the name of human
”If you are indifferent to others' pains”
For details on the July 19 International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran, click here.
For background on the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran, see my previous articles: July 21, 2005 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 11 -- Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions; August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.August 25 -- Iran's Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions. September 8 -- Iran and the Death of Gay Activism. September 20 -- "They'll Kill Me" -- A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal ; September 29 -- Iranian Gays Urgently Appeal for Help ; October 5 --"Shocking New Photo of Hanging of Gay Iranian Teens"; October 6 -- Canada Introduces UN Resolution Condemning Iran's Human Rights Record; November 24, "Save Us"-- A Gay Iranian Who Married His Partner Begs for Help from the West ; January 12, 2006 -- "Kidnapped: Another Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks"; January 4, 2006 -- "Iran's Anti-Gay Pogrom"; January 27, 2006 -- "A Call to Solidarity: U.S. Gay Groups Must End Their Isolationism; February 8, 2006 -- "An Iranian Trans Torture Victim Speaks from Inside Iran." February 9, 2006--Stop the Deportation of Saba Rawi; March 3, 2006-- "Dutch to End Freeze on Deportation of Gay Iranians"; March 4, 2006-- "Commotion in Dutch Parliament Over Deportation of Gay Iranians."; March 16, 2006-- "England: Another Gay Iranian Faces Deportation"; April 20, 2006-- "Dutch Deportations of Gay Iranians on Hold"; April 26, 2006-- "iran Hacks Websites to Bury Anti-Gay Pogrom"; May 31, 2006-- "Iran Exports Anti-Gay Pogrom to Iraq"; June 14, 2006-- "An Iranian Gay Activist's Moving Plea." June 25, 2006 -- "Iran's Gay Refugees Find a Safe Haven in Canada." ; July 4, 2006 --"Global Protests July 19 To Commemorate Hanging of Two Iranian Gay Teens."; August 9, 2006 -- "Watch Online New Brit Doc on Murders of Iraqi Gays"; August 19, 2006 -- "Iran: A Lesbian Torture Victim Speaks"
Also, don't miss Rob Anderson's excellent article in the New Republic, "How America's Gay Rights Establishment is Failing Gay Iranians."