A new investigative report reveals the level of hate-mongering and hate speech used against sexual minorities in Iran, focusing specifically on Iranian authorities’ violation of LGBT people’s rights and their endorsement of anti-LGBT behavior.
The publication, entitled “It's a great honor to violate homosexuals’ rights,” is published by the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network 6rang (“6 Colors”), and covers Iranian authorities’ hate speech about homosexuality between 2011 and 2017. It clearly illustrates the extremes to which authorities have been prepared to go to incite hostility, discrimination and violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The report also highlights political controversies in Iran centered around the implementation of UNESCO’s Education 2030 Framework for Action, which emphasizes a need to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Rouhani’s government had decided in 2016 to adopt Education 2030 and integrate its guidelines into the country’s education system. But on May 7, 2017, only two weeks ahead of the presidential election, Ayatollah Khamenei sharply criticized the decision. "The UNESCO 2030 education agenda and the like are not agendas that the Islamic Republic of Iran should have to surrender and submit to,” Khamenei told teachers. “Why should a so-called international community — which is definitely infiltrated by the corrupt powers — have the right to make decisions for the various cultures among nations?" Following Khamenei’s speech, Iranian hardliners launched a concerted attack against the initiative and claimed, among other things, that UNESCO 2030 aims to recognize and promote homosexuality.
“Unfortunately, homophobia exists everywhere in the world,” Shadi Amin, the coordinator of the 6rang website told IranWire. “But the findings of this investigative report prove that hate-mongering against sexual minorities is conducted officially and by the officials at the highest levels in Iran.”
The report concludes that the hate speech used by officials and others directly encourages ordinary people to humiliate and harass sexual minorities. “Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979,” says the report, “state officials in Iran have consistently portrayed homosexuality as a ‘deviant’ sexual proclivity that has a corrupting effect on society. This troubling pattern has persisted over the years, with authorities using numerous derogatory adjectives to degrade and dehumanize homosexual persons.”
“Homosexuality Is the Same as Incest”
In 2012, after Ayatollah Khamenei lumped “homosexuality” and “incest” together, Islamic Republic officials’ vilification of homosexuals gained ground and garnered support. “If we were to presume that human desires legitimize homosexuality, then someone could also have the desire to commit incest and they would face no impediment,” he said in a speech in November 2012, during which he attacked humanism in general [Persian link]. “In principle, all impediments would then have to be removed.” He said that this danger showed “how extremely bad, bitter, ugly and often loathsome the realities of the Western society have become.”
Shadi Amin says that immediately after this new wave of attacks from the Supreme Leader, the humiliation of homosexuals in Iranian society increased. For example, if a student at a boys’ school was regarded as looking, dressing or behaving like a girl, he became a target of humiliation.
The report also cites examples of officials and media vilifying homosexuality following on from Ayatollah Khamenei’s outburst. The examples are by no means exhaustive, but they do show the extent and the intensity of homophobia among Iranian officials.
Hurricane Katrina against Homosexuals
“The West, and particularly the United States, are afflicted with some shocking diseases,” declared an editorial published in the daily newspaper Resalat on November 5, 2012. “The recognition of homosexuality through legislation, the dismantling of the foundation of family, and the insistence to recognize [sexual orientation] rights in the system of international law has emitted a stench so filthy that it is even bothering their own people...Sometimes, I think giant windstorms like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy occur in the United States just to wash away such infections...These [natural disasters] are divine warnings to unhealthy societies wherein human relationships have not formed based on divine principles.” (The author, of course, did not provide an explanation for natural disasters in the Islamic Republic of Iran.)
As the above quotation indicates, the Islamic Republic is not content with merely punishing “deviant” sexual orientation within its own borders. And it longs for international allies. In 2013, Iran’s Minister of Justice Mostafa Pourmohammadi welcomed the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda, which increased the punishment for homosexuality in that country to life sentences and widened the crime to cover the “promotion” of homosexuality. “We are thrilled with the position that the Ugandan government and its Ministry of Justice have taken to counter immorality,” he said during a meeting with Ugandan officials in May 2014. “We support their position because it shows that the Ugandan government is protective of morality and human values.”
A Policy of the Regime
Shadi Amin believes that this stream of insults from Iranian officials gives courage and a sense of empowerment to homophobes across the society. But, more importantly, it affects how families react to the sexual orientation of their children. “When children want to tell their families about their sexual orientation or when the families somehow notice it,” says Amin, “they tell their children: ‘don’t you see what they say about these kinds of people?’ Because of what the official media constantly repeats — that these people are deviants, that they are worse than animals, that they are corrupt and so on — the families cannot accept their children’s different sexual orientation because they are terrified of losing face.”
Among the quotations cited in the 27-page report, there are a range of expressions officials have used to describe homosexuals and homosexuality, from “sick,” “savage,” “lower than animals” to “corrupt,” “perverse,” “westernized,” “counter-revolutionary,” and even “Zionist”.
But can this report make a difference, I asked Shadi Amin? She says the report is important because it gives the LGBT community a better idea of who it must address if it really wants to fight homophobia. But, she says, this is not the only goal of the report, and not even its main goal. More important, she says, is to raise awareness among ordinary people. “By presenting this report,” says Amin, “we are telling ordinary people — who know that during all these years the Islamic Republic has discriminated against social minorities — that when you disown a homosexual member of your family and treat him badly, you are following the lead of a government that for years has treated you badly. We want to show that homophobia is a policy promoted by the regime.”
Let the World Judge
6rang sent copies of its report to all human rights and international organizations, hoping that it will raise questions about the treatment of sexual minorities by the Islamic Republic and its violations of human rights — questions that the Iranian regime could even be forced to answer. “The Islamic Republic has signed many protocols and resolutions by different bodies of the United Nations and is committed to the principle of non-discrimination,” says Amin. “With this report we hope to force the Islamic Republic to respond when it presents [its] reports about human rights in Iran.”
In 2014, in a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, 13 governments put questions to Iran about its treatment of homosexuals and transgender people and about forced sex-change operations for homosexuals. In a forthcoming session of the UNHRC, Iran will be required to answer these questions.
In September of the same year, the UNHRC passed a resolution to combat violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But, I asked Shadi Amin, can these resolutions and mechanisms be enforced? “No,” she answered, “but at least they increase international pressure and give us a chance to use this report to encourage a discourse about it when the subject is raised in forums like the UNHRC.”
6rang also sent the report to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), of which it is a member. By doing this, the organization hopes the world will pass judgement on the official homophobia endorsed and promoted by the Islamic Republic.
It must be noted that the title of the report is not a humorous invention. “It is a great honor for the Islamic Republic to violate the rights of homosexuals,” is an actual quotation from March 2012 by Mehrdad Bazrpash, a former member of the parliament and a former deputy to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.