|While I oppose any US military intervention against the Islamic Republic of Iran, I do not support the current quasi-theocratic regime.
The tragedy is, things could have been better. In 1953, the CIA assisted the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, back into power after the overthrow of Mossadegh's liberal nationalist regime, which sought to nationalise Iran's oil wealth. For the next quarter century, the Shah ran an absolute monarchy, assisted by his ruthless SAVAK security henchmen.
In 1979, Shia Islamic clergy gained the upper hand in a fluid situation, leading to the creation of a quasi-theocratic Shia Islamic Republic in Iran. While there is a democratically elected Majlis or Parliamentits policies can be negated by the umma or Shia clergy, if they judge that social reforms are too liberal. Liberal? Yes, because Iranian civil society is not monolithically affiliated to strict interpretations of Shia Islam. In particular, women and youth chafe at the restrictions placed on them, particularly at universities.
Unfortunately, with the United States entrenched in neighbouring Iraq, liberalism is out of vogue within Iran, and the current President, conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has relied on demonising the United States to cement his authority, assisted by his record as one of the Islamic revolutionary students who kept US Embassy personnel hostage in 1979-80 before the incoming Reagan administration negotiated their release.
In Iran, Shia Islam derives its theological opinions and judicial and legislative policies from the Qu'ran, as well as from the Jafari school of Islamic jurisprudence, which, unfortunately, is ironically less rigourous when it comes to dispensing with conservative accretions within the hadith, the corpus of associated Islamic clerical opinion. While it allows contraception and even funds gender reassignment surgery for Iranian transsexuals, gay male anal sex is subject to the death penalty. In the case of non-penetrative gay sex, lesbian sex and heterosexual anal sex, the 'offenders' are sentenced to floggings of increasing severity if apprehended on three occassions, while the fourth such event leads to execution. According to Brian Whittaker, anti-Arab racism may also be reflected in such punishments within Iran.
New Zealand should never sign a free trade agreement with Iran, but progressive elements of Iranian civil society must be supported if there is to be any hope of eventual reform for its lesbian and gay citizens.
Brian Whittaker: Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East: Berkeley: University of California Press: 2006 Craig Young - 13th April 2008