Gay Rights in Iran: Walking the Fine Line Between Tehran and Washington
At the Pride London celebrations earlier this month, Labour MP Harriet Harman was heckled and booed.
The reaction of the crowd was hardly surprising. The Labour government’s handling of gay asylum seekers in the UK is a disgrace. Many asylum seekers who are fleeing from persecution in their home countries, live under threat of deportation.
Gay activist Peter Tatchell who attended London Pride, marched alongside Sir Ian McKellan and Davis Mac-Iyalla, a leader of the Nigerian gay rights movement.
When asked about the dire situation facing the gay community in Iran, Tatchell said:
“Ahmadinejad leads a regime that arrests, jails, flogs, tortures and sometimes executes gay people. It also terrorises trade unionists, students, women activists, journalists, bloggers, Sunni Muslims and ethnic minorities like the Ahwazi Arabs, Baluchs and Kurds.
I don’t support a military attack on Iran, but I do urge greater international solidarity with democratic, liberal and progressive Iranians who are struggling to overthrow the clerical dictatorship from within.”
Tatchell has been unfairly accused of being Islamophobic, whereas in fact he is opposed to religious fundamentalism and bigotry in all religions. He has defended Muslim victims of injustice and in his writing has pointedly condemned Islamophobia: “Any form of prejudice, hatred, discrimination or violence against Muslims is wrong. Full stop.”
Taking on the Iranians for their human rights record, is viewed by some on the left as giving comfort to American hawks. Given the record of the Iranians when it comes to the treatment of homosexuals, looking the other way is simply not a viable option.
During his trip to the US, Ahmadinejad said “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country (US).”
This is a preposterous lie that masks an ugly reality. Gay Iranians live in fear of persecution. Many have fled to Turkey and destinations in Europe to escape the suffocating climate in Iran, where “coming out” in an overtly public fashion can have dire consequences.
The Iranian people deserve better. But the choice has to be theirs. American aggression is not the answer.
Those activists who support the right of Iranians to live in a society free of oppression, are walking a fine line between the politics of Tehran and the politics of Washington. But it is a line that has to be staked out in the name of justice and human rights.