Iran: Governement executes gay teenagers

The newly elected president of Iran, the religious conservative and former revolutionary guard Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was elected on the 24 June tried to play down fears of Iranian workers during the election campaign that he would reverse the “liberalization” of recent years.

He was quote as saying “People think a return to revolutionary values is only a matter of wearing the headscarf. The country’s true problem is employment and housing, not what to wear.” During the campaign he presented himself as a defender of the poor and attacked the corruption and wealth of the ruling elite.

However, the new regime carried out a brutal public execution of two gay teenagers on 19 July 2005 for the so called ’crime’ of homosexuality.

According to reports, the youth were hanged in Edalat (Justice) Square in the city of Mashhad, in north east Iran. They were sentenced to death by Court No. 19. ”The state of Iran enforces Islamic Sharia law which includes the death penalty for gay sex.”

Leading up to the election, Ahmadinejad promised to resist “Western decadence” and build a “powerful modern Islamic state”. He sought to utilise popular opposition to corruption in order to win support for his election. However, his true colours have become clearer since the election with this attack on democratic rights and freedom of expression. His opponents often quoted a remark by him that “Iran did not have a revolution in order to have a democracy.” Despite attacking corruption and wealth he has not opposed capitalism and as these executions illustrate his regime will attempt to attack the democratic rights of workers and young people.

According to reports before the execution the teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten. Their “confession” of gay sex was probably the result of torture. Their length of detention also shows that young men committed the so-called offences more than a year earlier when they were around the age of 16.

The official reason for the execution was that one of them raped a 13 year old but human rights campaigners believe this was a trumped up charge to try and undermine public sympathy for the teenagers.

The lawyer of the youngest boy had appealed that he was too young to be executed and that the court should take into account his age (believed to be 16 or 17). This argument does not hold sway with the Supreme Court in Tehran who ordered the boy to be hanged and under the Iranian penal code girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 can be hanged.

These vicious executions are an attack on the civil and democratic rights of all working people in Iran.

Iranian human rights campaigners report that over 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979. According to some commentators over 100,000 thousand Iranians have been killed during the last 26 years of clerical rule. An estimated one third were women. The victims include women who have sex outside of marriage and political opponents of the right wing Islamist government.

Socialists call for mass struggle to unite all working people in Iran and to defend all democratic rights. It is urgent that a united movement of all working people is built in Iran that will fight to defend the democratic rights of all irrespective of sexual orientation. The CWI supports a struggle to convene a revolutionary, democratic constituent assembly in Iran to allow the working class, the urban poor, and the poor peasantry to decide Iran’s character and future.

But, unless this is linked to the creation of a workers and poor peasants’ government that can break with capitalism and start to implement socialist measures, there will be no fundamental, lasting improvement in the situation facing the Iranian working masses.

The building of socialism would end discrimination regardless of sex, sexual orientation and allow people the right to determine how they lived their own personal lives. It would allow personal expression would open up allow prejudice and repression to be ended for all.

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July 2005