Mahmoud Asgari (1989 - July 19, 2005) e Ayaz Marhoni (1987 - July 19, 2005) were two Iranian adolescents, hanged on July 19, 2005. Their death has attracted international attention because their sentence was carried out for a consensual homosexual relationship and because of the two boy's age when they were caught (15 and 17).
Two gay Iranian teenagers - one 18, the other 16, were executed for the "crime" of homosexuality and "rape", the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) reported on July 19, 2005. The two youths - identified only by their initials as M.A. and A.M., were hanged in Edalat (= Justice!!!) Square in the city of Mashhad in north-eastern Iran, on the orders of Court No. 19. The hanging of the teens was also reported by the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
New reports from inside Iran and inside Mashhad, where the boys were executed, strongly challenge the validity of the charge of "rape" for which the Iranian government claims the boys were hanged, and it is now certain that the "rape" charge was entirely trumped up by the religious authorities who control the legal system and has no basis in fact. Furthermore, as the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran snowballs, two more Iranian executions of gays took place in the city of Arak on August 28, 2005.
Consensual gay sex in any form is punishable by death in the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to the website Age of Consent, which monitors such laws around the world, in Iran "Homosexuality is illegal, those charged with love-making are given a choice of four deathstyles: being hanged, stoned, halved by a sword, or dropped from the highest perch.
According to Article 152, if two men not related by blood are discovered naked under one cover without good reason, both will be punished at a judge's discretion. Gay teens (Article 144) are also punished at a judge's discretion. Rubbing one's penis between the thighs without penetration (tafheed) shall be punished by 100 lashes for each offender. This act, known to the English-speaking world as frottage,' is punishable by death if the 'offender' is a non-Muslim. If frottage is thrice repeated and penalty-lashes have failed to stop such repetitions, upon the fourth 'offense' both men will be put to death.
According to Article 156, a person who repents and confesses his gay behavior prior to his identification by four witnesses, may be pardoned. Even kissing 'with lust' (Article 155) is forbidden. This bizarre law works to eliminate old Persian male-bonding customs, including common kissing and holding hands in public." And Outrage, in its release about the gay teens' execution, noted that, "according to Iranian human rights campaigners, over 4000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979. In August 2005, a 16-year-old girl, Atefeh Rajabi was hanged in the Caspian port of Neka for "acts incompatible with chastity", i.e., sex before marriage.
In the case of the two teens hanged in Mashhad, "They admitted having gay sex (probably under torture) but claimed in their defense that most young boys had sex with each other and that they were not aware that homosexuality was punishable by death," according to the ISNA report as translated by Outrage. "Prior to their execution, the gay teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten with 228 lashes. The length of their detention suggests that they committed the so-called offenses more than a year earlier, when they were possibly around the age of 16."
"Ruhollah Rezazadeh, the lawyer of the younger of the two boys, had appealed that he was too young to be executed and that the court should take into account his tender age (believed to be 16 or 17). But the Supreme Court in Tehran Ordered him to be hanged."
As a state party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Iran has undertaken not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under the age of 18 - which means that by hanging the two youths Iran is in violation of international law. The Iranian authorities are putting out a cover story that the two boys had participated in the rape of a 13-year-old, but OutRage affirms from its sources that this accusation is a smokescreen for inhuman conduct and is without foundation. However, the Murdoch press (e.g., the Times of London) is putting about the Iranian government's story as a virtual statement of fact.
But there is no mention of this Iranian government accusation in the original ISNA report, otherwise quite detailed.- which rather suggests it's a recent invention. Furthermore, it is hardly surprising that, at the very moment at which Iran is engaged in the most delicate negotiation with the Western powers over nuclear materials - the outcome of which will have a profound impact on the Iranian economy - the Iranian government, when caught in a heinous act of barbarity that is also a violation of Iran's commitments under international law - should try to find a new excuse for the inexcusable.
The website Iran Focus not only confirms this story but provides more details, reporting that "Members of Iran's parliament from the north-eastern city of Mashad, where a minor and an 18-year-old man were publicly hanged yesterday, vented their anger on Wednesday on foreign and domestic news outlets for reporting the ages of hanged prisoners... Ultra-conservative deputy Ali Asgari said that the two deserved to be hanged in public, adding, "Whatever sentence is decreed by an Islamic penal system must be approved, unless proven otherwise."
Asgari complained of foreign and domestic reporting that the two were mere boys. "Instead of paying tribute to the action of the judiciary, the media are mentioning the age of the hanged criminals and creating a commotion that harms the interests of the state," the member of the Majlis Legal Affairs Committee said. "Even if certain websites made a reference to their age, journalists should not pursue this. These individuals were corrupt. Their sentence was carried out with the approval of the judiciary and it served them right."
Detailed and reliable figures concerning Iranian executions for Lavaat (sodomy) are hard to come by, as the government rarely gives out information concerning its criminal justice system. It seems particularly reluctant to provide statistics on sodomy cases, much as Britain and Europe were reluctant to reveal the true scale of executions in the days when sodomy was a capital offence.
Homan, an Iranian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) exile group, estimated that around 4,000 people had been executed for Lavaat from 1979 until the mid-1990s. An attempt to set up a gay organisation in the early 1980s led to 70 executions. Around 100 gay people were sentenced to death following one raid on one private party in 1992.
A very large number were executed, or rather lynched without trial, as the Ayatollahs began to hijack the Iranian Revolution by the end of 1979. Those killed reportedly included foreign visitors. That year gay activists from the Lavender Crescent Society in San Francisco were taken from the airport in Tehran shortly after their arrival and summarily shot dead. Gay and bisexual men were quite literally hanged from trees at that time. Executions of lesbians took place as well. Additional 'smokescreen' charges, such as rape and kidnap, were rarely made, seemingly because there was very little international interest or protest at these widespread killings of LGBT people. Since the world did not care much about the execution of queers in those days, the tyrants in Tehran felt no need to disguise their actions and motives.
Executions for sodomy are believed to be at a lower level in recent years, although it may simply be that they conducted in secret and are unpublicised.
An informed Iranian source, for whom English is his second language, told OutRage!: "Having said that the authority do not systematically looking for gays in every corner to find and execute them does not mean that the authority have changed their opinion or are somehow more gay friendly now."
According to Iranian informants, two, or possibly three, gay men were executed in prison in the city of Khoramabad without any publicity in the early part of 2005.
OutRage!'s sources in Iran acknowledge that in small pockets of the country, principally in the wealthier parts of Tehran, it is sometimes possible for same-sex couples to live discretely with each other; albeit with the ever present danger that they might be exposed and face lethal punishment. In truth, nowhere in Iran is truly safe.
To say that some parts of Iran are safer than others for queers in 2006 is the equivalent of saying that some parts of Germany were safer than others for Jews in 1935.
Our Iranian informants are at pains to stress that although gays are not the number one target of the regime and although there is not a permanent, systematic, universal witch-hunt of LGBT people in every corner of the country at all times, this does not mean gays are not at risk.
Gay and bisexual men can meet in certain parks. They can contact each other via gay chat rooms on foreign-based gay websites. Private gay parties do take place in the major cities.
But this all happens very discretely and is very dangerous. The participants risk entrapment, arrest, torture and even execution.
In other words, some gay life exists in Iran but it is underground and precarious. An OutRage! contact inside the country is adamant (in his own unedited words, as a second-language English speaker):
"It [the holding of secret gay parties and so on] does NOT mean that gays are not executed and killed because of their sexuality. In Iran, everything depends on which city or which part of the country you are living in, and it depends on the judges as well. Unfortunately many of gays arrest or killing are not reported in the media."