The Best Message?
July 19th, 2006
Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the hanging of two Iranian youths, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, who were accused of having a gay affair. They were seventeen years old when they were murdered by the Iranian authorities. Several vigils and protests marked the occasion in cities around the world.
[Update: San Francisco activist Michael Petrelis, who, more than anyone, organized the vigils worldwide has a complete roundup of those vigils. And the Washington Post today has an excellent article on the mainstream media’s silence about Mahmound and Ayaz.]
The picture for gays is very bleak in the Middle East. In addition to ongoing active persecution in Iran, the situation is deteriorating rapidly in Iraq. According to the United Nations:
16. UNAMI HRO has received several reports indicating that, since 2005, homosexuals have been increasingly threatened and extra-judicially executed by militias and “death squads” because of their sexual orientation. It is believed that such incidents are underreported, because families are unwilling to admit that targeted members were homosexual for fear of further abuse. It has been difficult to independently verify the information received due to the fact that members of this group maintain a low profile, preferring instead to go into hiding or leave the country.
17. From October 2005 to 30 June 2006 at least twelve homosexuals were reportedly killed in targeted attacks. Militias are reportedly threatening families of men believed to be homosexual, stating that they will begin killing family members unless the men are handed over or killed by the family. In March 2006, a 29-year-old man was kidnapped in Baghdad and his family threatened for allowing him to lead a homosexual lifestyle. The family paid a ransom for the man’s release but the mutilated body of the kidnapped victim was instead found dead a few days later. In another case reported a homosexual man was allegedly victim of “honour crime.” It was reported in the press that the man’s father was released without trial once he explained that he had hanged his son after discovering that he was homosexual.
An editorial in The Advocate also notes pervasive persecution inside the Palestinian Authority:
Tarek, a young Palestinian gay man suspected of homosexuality, was sentenced to a “reeducation” camp run by Muslim clerics under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. He said that for a period of two months he was “subjected to beatings with belts, clubs, and was forced to sit on bottles which were inserted into my rectum. I was hanged by the hands, I was deprived of sleep, and when I finally did sleep, my limbs were tied to the floor.”
Meanwhile, just one day earlier the House of Representatives turned back an attempt to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. But supporters of the amendment were not daunted, nor were they apologetic over the fact that while Beirut burns, the House fiddles. After the vote, House floor leader Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) commented:
This is probably the best message we can give to the Middle East in regards to the trouble we are having over there right now.
Message received. Unfortunately.