Wow, who would have thought a Holocaust denier would be anti-gay, too? Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made an appearance at New York’s Columbia University as part of its World Leaders Forum on Sept. 24. He spoke before a group consisting mostly of students. During a Q&A session Ahmadinejad was asked, “Why does the Iranian government execute homosexuals?”
“In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon,” he said. “I do not know who has told you we have it.”
Hmm… Who could be spreading such rumors? Could it be Amir, a man so afraid of being executed for being gay he used only his first name as his byline for the Sept. 30, 2007 essay titled, “I’m Here, President Ahmadinejad” published in the Washington Post?
Amir wrote that he wasn’t surprised by Ahmadinejad’s comments. “What else could he say? We stone homosexuals in Iran because that’s what God wants? It was a joke, but he gave the only answer he could,” Amir wrote. “I wish our president could learn to respect gays instead of denying us. But I’m not holding my breath.”
Or how about Reza, yet another gay man in Tehran who spoke out after Ahmadinejad’s remarks? “You can have a secret gay life as long you don’t become an activist and start demanding rights,” he told the International Herald Tribune. Nah. Couldn’t be Reza or Amir. Because if either of these men were known homosexuals in Iran they’d be dead.
Perhaps it was Arsham Parsi, executive director for the Iranian Queer Organization. He was interviewed on National Public Radio on Sept. 25, 2007. What’s it like being gay in Iran? “Imagine that you don’t have any rights and if anybody attacks you, if anyone discriminates against you cannot go to court, you cannot protest anybody and you have to be quiet,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous situation.”
It’s quite revealing that the IQO is based in Toronto. Parsi fled there in 2005. In 2005 a horrific photograph of two teenage boys being hung for what many reported to be homosexuality was widely published. According to 365Gay.com, “Some international gay rights groups believe that more than 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979.”
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, was quick to respond to Ahmadinejad. “Today’s assertions by President Ahmadinejad that there are no homosexuals in Iran would be simply absurd were it not for the fact that international human rights watchers have long documented some of the most horrific acts of persecution and violence committed against gay people in Iran,” Solmonese said. Ahmadinejad just shrugged off the fact that homosexuals are punished with death in Iran.
“Why should they get sympathy?” he asked. “Don’t you have capital punishment in the United States?”
Well, yes, we do. But not specifically for homosexuals. And we’re hoping to keep it that way.