In commemoration of International Day against Homophobia
Tonight, all across the world, there are people facing harassment, arrest, torture, and execution solely because of their sexuality.
Last Sunday, 80 people were arrested at a party in Isfahan, Iran, and beaten and tortured for being gay.
Several weeks ago, on April 29, Hani, a 34 year old nurse was arrested and tortured in Baghdad for being a gay rights activist.
A few months ago, in November 2006, Shahab Darvishi was hanged in a city square in Kermanshah, Iran for ‘moral corruption’ and ‘sodomy’.
Last autumn, two lesbians who ran a Najaf safe house were murdered with their throats slashed by the Iraqi police.
And of course there are the two Iranian youths – Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni – who were pictured sobbing and being publicly hanged in Mashad on July 19, 2005 – a day that has now become an international day of outrage and action.
The list is endless.
What is clear is that these examples are only the tip of the iceberg.
For every report that reaches the international media and organisations, there are thousands of nameless, faceless individuals whose fate goes unreported.
Mostly because states like the Islamic regime in Iran are so repressive and have strict censorship rules.
They don’t always announce the full names or real reasons for which they have executed or imprisoned people.
Those put to death are often accused of trumped up charges. A case in point is the two teenagers hanged on July 19.
One outrage after another.
And not just in Iran or Iraq.
Homophobia exists everywhere including in countries that do not impose Islamic law. But Islam in power or political Islam has raised homophobia to another level.
Islam is similar to other religions which are just as inherently homophobic and misogynist but there is one important fundamental difference and that is that it is a religion in power or vying for power in many countries in the 21st century.
In the Koran, homosexuality is condemned as ‘indecency’, ‘lewdness’, ‘degenerate’, ‘transgressing beyond bounds’ and in need of ‘punishment’.
In the Hadith, which are the sayings of the prophet Mohammad and part of Sharia or Islamic laws, it states: ‘Kill the one who sodomises and the one who lets it be done to him.’
These ancient religious texts are all the more relevant when they are translated into the laws of countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia and affect real live human beings.
Under Islamic Hudud laws, ‘illicit’ gay or straight sex are considered offences for which the punishment is mandatory and corporal in nature – including torture, execution and stoning to death.
Those of us who have fled political Islam know full well the level of threats and intimidation those with ‘unchaste’ and ‘perverse’ lifestyles have faced and continue to face.
Apologists will say that Islam is in fact ‘tolerant’ of homosexuals and homosexuality – as if that is enough anyway.
Well then maybe someone should tell the Islamists that.
77 countries around the world criminalise same sex relations, but those that punish it by death all have Islamic law.
This abysmal situation has to be looked at within the context of serious rights violations across the board.
In all countries under Islamic rule, sexual ‘crimes’ are dealt with most severely because of their ‘shamefulness’ and ‘perversity’, especially since a religious state is usually most preoccupied with the control of sexuality and sex in order to assert its own ‘divine’ and ‘moral’ legitimacy.
Of course gay sex is thriving in many cities in Iran and elsewhere. Despite the serious repercussions, people continue to live their lives, have sex and express their sexuality.
But this does not mean that restrictions and repercussions are exaggerated as some claim. They are not.
It just shows clearly that the restrictions and impositions are not ‘people’s culture and religion’ as the cultural relativists keep regurgitating but rather that of the ruling class.
Not to see this fails to make a distinction between the regime imposing these inhuman and medieval laws and the people forced to live under them.
Now there are Iranian gay rights activists doing very good work who say that they are not concerned with the Islamic regime of Iran.
Even if the government changes to the most democratic in the world, they argue, the problem will remain.
Get rid of Islamic states in Iran and elsewhere (as is being done by the way in Iran by a magnificent and powerful movement) and you already have an end to some of the worst mass murderers in contemporary history.
A good start I would say.
Also, the battle for rights is often times a battle for changes in the law.
Getting rid of discriminatory Sharia laws will change the situation for lesbians, gays, and others from day one.
But this does not translate into a defence of the US’ attack on Iran.
Opposing Islamic states and defending people’s rights has nothing to do with adding ammunition to the ‘US’ goal of possibly attacking Iran’ as the founders of Queer Iran Alliance have said.
How come criticising western governments is not pooh poohed as adding ammunition to the Islamists’ goal of terrorising people on buses and trains in Europe?
What has one got to do with the other?
Unless of course one identifies with one state over the other as do many in the anti-imperialist, nationalist European Left these days.
Saying a defence of people’s rights living under Islamic rules supports the war on terror or the USA’s militarism or imperialism is like saying sex education promotes promiscuity.
Saying so is more an attempt to defend religion and its political movement than anything else.
Unfortunately, there have been some international gay rights groups like the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission who have accepted this cop out and their responsibility towards the rights of those living in Iran.
The Commission backed out of the July 19 protests asking ‘how do we avoid reinforcing stereotypes and playing into hostilities prompted by our own government.’
I ask them, why must it reinforce stereotypes unless you believe the Islamic regime is a representative of the people living and struggling under its rule?
I ask them: what has solidarity amongst people got to do with what governments are doing?
The USA government and political Islam have a lot more in common than with their ‘own people’. In practical terms – notwithstanding the differences – they are two sides of one coin.
They have the same agenda, the same vision, the same infinite capacity for violence and terrorism, the same reliance on religion and reaction, the same need for hegemony and profit-making.
They represent the same new world order for 21st century humanity.
We on the other hand – a vast majority – a third camp – oppose both and can only oppose both if we want to defend humanity, human values like humanism and secularism, and the demand that people live lives worthy of the 21 century.
We mustn’t accept any excuses or apologies for the Islamic regime in Iran and its like – whether in Saudi Arabia or right here in the UK.
They all belong to the same movement and want the same thing.
The only difference is that the Manchester Imam who has said that the execution of sexually active gay men is justified or the Muslim Council of Britain’s claims that it is ‘unacceptable’ or ‘sinful’ is that for now they cannot mete out their Islamic justice with hangings in Trafalgar Square.
This vile movement needs to know that we are watching them, holding them responsible and won’t let them do it whenever they try.
Most importantly, though, those being abused and violated; those resisting; they need to know they are not alone.
That their lives are important.
That they are not just nameless, faceless individuals languishing in prison or facing torture and execution.
They need to know that for us every day is IDAHO.
The above speech was given at the MAy 17 IDAHO event in London.