|As with Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Algeria, Iran is experiencing its own share of protests against a repressive authoritarian government. What part do Iranian LGBTs play in resistance to Ahmadinejad's corrupt regime?
The Iranian Revolution occurred in 1979 because of the anachronistic absolute monarchy of Shah Reza Pahlavi, but Unfortunately, only the Shia umma (clergy) had the necessary legitimacy and infrastructure to provide the necessary leadership and direction when the antiquated pretence foundered on the rocks of western recession, diminished oil revenue and economic turmoil.
What emerged was an equally flawed state of affairs. While therewas a democratically elected President and Majlis (Parliament), there is also an unelected Supreme Leader (of the Shia umma hierarchy), a Board of Guardians from the umma appointed by the Supreme Leader, and the corrupt Revolutionary Guard. These can overrule democratic civil liberties and human rights if they are found to 'conflict' with their interpretation of Islam.
The umma have proven quite pragmatic when it comes to needle exchanges and HIV/AIDS prevention in that context, and have taken a compassionate stance when it comes to state-subsidised reassignment surgery. Contraception is also provided for married couples. Moreover, there are other surprises- illicit satellite television, runaway urban heroin addiction and high levels of youth emigration, for example.
The Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khameini), Board of Guardians and Revolutionary Guardaren't happy with this, and as a result of their manipulation of democratic procedures, arch-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected in 2003. Moreover, the Majlis itself fell under conservative domination in 2004, after a deeply suspicious parliamentary electoral process. During the Ahmadinejad administration, there have been repeated bribery and corruption scandals, the aforementioned questions of electoral fraud and his infamous outburst related to Holocaust denial. Moreover, he is also prone to exaggerating his role in the US Embassy hostage crisis of the early eighties and the Gulf War against Iraqi forces. Heoutraged the UN General Assembly with his conspiracy theories about 9/11. In 2009, in widespread electoral corruption, Ahmadinejad stole the election.
As for the plight of lesbian and gay Iranians, it is dire. According to the current interpretation of sharia law. In Iran, lavat (sodomy) carries the risk of corporal and capital punishment.If a man or woman is convicted of lavat, theycan be lashed, hanged or stoned to death. Iranian criminal law includes several penalties for different “acts”. Theyinclude ninety-ninelashes if two unrelated males sleep “unnecessarily” under the same blanket – even without any sexual contact. Abhorrently, anyboy raped by an adult male pedophile would also be lashed if the court decided that he had “enjoyed” his ordeal.
While this legalised homicidal violence againstlesbians and gaysis horrific enough, there are other victims. Since the Iranian Revolution (1979), the “Islamic” Penal Code has allowed stoning, which is a brutal and sadistic punishment inflicted through the necessary use of small stones which can take half an hour to kill women, usually buried to their waists. Moreover, the victims of these ordeals are usually illiterate rural women coerced into signing bogus confessions and trials are held under the aegis of male jurists only. Somalia, Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan are the only Islamic societies that still carry out stoning of ‘adulterous' women, probably because liberal Muslim opinion is aghast at the practice.
Apart from this, Iran executed 388 people in 2009 , more than any other country except for China. The death penalty is used against those who commit moharebeh (”Enmity Against God”)- Iranian feminists, trade unionists, Kurdish and other ethnic minority rights activists, journalists and teachers who criticise the Ahmadinejad regime.
In opposition, Iran has a 'green movement'. While this refers to environmentalism in western societies, in Itan it refers to the reformist Green Path of Hope. In June 2009, Ahmadinejad's regime ruthlessly crushed dissent, despite the existence of widespread protests in Tehran and other metropolitan centres. Prominent opposition figures were arrested, although later released. Ahmadinejad seems to realise that moderate repression and detention of opponents is preferable to the probable international outcry that would result if high-profile political figures were executed, although the same cannot be said for lower-profile media professionals, civil society activists, teachers and others. It remains to be seen whether the Ahmadinejad regime will prevail this time, although its petrochemical wealth insulates it somewhat from the reprecussions that were exercised against Iraq after it invaded and occupied Kuwait in 1990/91, precipitating the first Gulf War, such as sanctions and investment barriers. One hopes not.
Iranian Green Movement: Wikipedia
Anoushivan Ehteshami: Iran and the Rise of Its Neoconservatives: The Politics of Tehran's Silent Revolution: London: IB Tauris: 2007.
William Polk: Understanding Iran: New York: Palgrave Macmillan: 2009.
Joe M. Shelley (ed) Political Islam From Muhammad to Ahmadinejad: Santa Barbara: Praeger Security International: 2010.
Criag Young - 28th February 2011