July 05, 2006


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):


A Courageous Underground Gay Activist Speaks from Inside Iran

Iran_noose_15 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 cityHead_silhouette_2  (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 Pglo_logo_10 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.”

Aids_ribbon 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.“

Iran_public_flogging 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."

Posted by Direland at 12:15 PM | Permalink


Iran (and not just Ahmadinejad) insists it isn't trying to develop nuclear weapons and only wants to use its nuclear program peacefully. So why is the United States government in such a panic about Iran wanting to build nuclear weapons? Is there evidence that Iran is lying? What is it?

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