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Beware of pretexts for war

Anti-Iran protest misdirects LGBT struggle

Published Jul 17, 2006 7:38 PM

As U.S. and European finance capitalists rattle their high-tech sabers at oil-rich Iran, the arrogant neocolonialist demand for “regime change” is being echoed by a coalition of seemingly disparate gay political forces in the citadels of imperialism. Their political campaign to “save gay Iranians” coincides with the ratcheting up of economic and military threats against Tehran by their own war-ready governments, which are ordering the formerly colonized country to surrender its sovereignty and right to self-determination.

A call for a political mobilization against Iran on June 19 is being officially billed as the “International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran.” The title obscures the question: Is there a widespread, state-sponsored pogrom against same-sex love in Iran? Event organizers say yes. The facts, however, make the motivation for this mobilization politically suspect.

The year-long charges of a systematic state pogrom in Iran against gays have coincided with U.S.-led attempts to stop the sovereign country from developing nuclear technology.

Taking the historic struggle to end oppression based on sexuality, gender and sex out of the world context of today’s battle by formerly colonized countries against imperialism will not advance the goal of sexual and gender liberation—here or in Iran—nor will it build genuine international ties of solidarity. In fact, it misdirects the struggle into alignment with the worldwide goals of imperialism.

July 19 is the first anniversary of the execution of two young men in Mashad—the second-largest city in Iran. Those calling for the anti-Iran event claim the two were hung for being “gay.” The Iranian government says they were involved in a gang rape.

Within hours after the July executions, gay neoconservative journalist Andrew Sullivan—former editor of the New Repub lic magazine—obtained a photo of the hanging to post along with his blog account entitled “Islamists Versus Gays.”

The London-based gay rights group OutRage!—which focuses its ire on countries that are former or current colonies of England—also quickly posted a media release stating: “Two gay teenagers were publicly executed in Iran on 19 July 2005 for the ‘crime’ of homosexuality.”

Gay political pundit Doug Ireland, a longtime journalist for the Nation magazine, also hastened to declare in his blog headline: “Iran Executes 2 Gay Teenagers.”

These and spin-off cyber reports in the days after July 19 circled the globe while the truth was still lacing up its sneakers.

Since then, so many organizations and media have disputed that the executions were based on consensual sex that it’s almost unbelievable this allegation is still circulating as currency.

Based on mistranslation

It turned out that OutRage! had based its charge that the two young men were executed for consensual sex on a mistranslation of a July 19 Iranian Students News Agency article and a report from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Another name for NCRI is Mojahedin Khalq (MKO). Although designated a “foreign terrorist organization” by the U.S. State Department in 1997, this group was befriended by John Ashcroft when he was a U.S. senator from Missouri. (Newsweek, Sept. 26, 2002)

The political wing of the NCRI has reportedly funneled information about Iran to the Bush administration. Baruch College history professor Ervand Abrahamian describes the NCRI as having as little credibility as Pentagon puppet Ahmad Chalabi “and the Iraqi enthusiasts for liberation and invasion.” (Richard Kim, The Nation, Aug. 7, 2005)

Even the U.S.-based International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International—which are better known for aiming their political fire at targets of imperialism—“urged organizations to refrain from casting the incident as a gay issue.” (Kim)

Human Rights Watch revealed that the rape charge had been mistranslated from Farsi. Scott Long, the group’s LGBT Rights Project director, stated, “There is no evidence that this was a consensual act. ... A whole tissue of speculation has been woven around mistranslations and omissions and this has been solidified into a narrative that this is a gay rights case.” (Kim)

Many other sources, none of them “soft” on Tehran, also reported that the two young men were executed for taking part with at least three others in abducting and gang-raping a 13-year-old boy at knife point. These included the New York Times, Associated Press, Fox News Channel and Times of London and Radio Free Europe.

Yet Andrew Sullivan, Doug Ireland and OutRage! still charge that two “gay” youth were executed last July 19, and that this proves the basis of a murderous pogrom in full fury in Iran.

‘Anti-war’ fig leaf

The London-based OutRage! and Paris-based International Day Against Homophobia jointly called the July 19 anti-Iran event. IGLHRC and the Inter national Lesbian & Gay Association have reportedly offered endorsements and logistical support. Andrew Sullivan is the contact for the Provincetown event; The New Republic researcher-journalist Rob Anderson is the contact for D.C.

The event’s “call to action” demands the following: An end to all executions in Iran, “especially the execution of minors, [an end] to the arrest, torture and imprisonment of Iranian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and repeal of the Iran ian penal code’s criminalization of same-sex relationships” and a stop to the deportation to Iran of “LGBT asylum seekers.”

The organizers call for aid to the struggle of Iranians for “democracy, social justice and human rights.” That demand is certainly in harmony with the seven-fold increase in “emergency” funds the White House recently requested for political propaganda in its internal war to weaken Iran and overturn its hard-won independence.

The last demand is a little fluttering fig leaf: opposition to foreign military intervention in Iran. (Washington Blade, July 7)

Are the July 19 political forces really opposed to imperialist military intervention? Listen to what they said in the first week after the executions last summer.

Peter Tatchell, head of OutRage!, stated, “This is just the latest barbarity by the Islamo-fascists in Iran … the entire country is a gigantic prison, with Islamic rule sustained by detention without trial, torture and state-sanctioned murder.” Sounding more Bush than Blair, Tatchell condemned the British Labor Party for “pursuing friendly relations with this murderous regime” and urged the “international community”—the imperialist powers and those willing to line up with them—“to treat Iran as a pariah state, break off diplomatic relations, impose trade sanctions and give practical support to the democratic and left opposition inside Iran.”

In essence, Tatchell is calling for economic warfare (sanctions); threat of military action (“pariah state” status); abandonment of diplomatic pressure (over Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy); and regime change (destabilizing the government from within). These are tactics that a wing of the capitalist class in the U.S. and Europe would be more than willing to back—if they would prove effective to re-colonize Iran.

Sullivan made his position sharply clear when he ended his blog entry with the lament: “I’m saddened that more gay organizations haven’t rallied to the war against Muslim religious fanatics. This is our war too.”

The Log Cabin Republicans lost no time in joining the fray in their July 26 statement that began, “In the wake of news stories and photographs documenting the hanging of two gay Iranian teenagers, Log Cabin Republicans re-affirm their commitment to the global war on terror.”

The largest lesbian and gay organization in the U.S.—the Human Rights Campaign—condemned the executions in a letter to the U.S. State Department, which it hailed as part of “the world’s greatest democracy.”

Imperialist ‘regime change’

The Iranian people have already experienced the pain and suffering of imperialist-levered “regime change.” In 1953, the CIA and British spy agencies bribed a segment of the Iranian military, overturned the progressive nationalist government of Mohammed Mossadegh, and seized Iran’s oil wealth. They installed the Shah on a royal throne—a truly fascistic regime under which the Iranian people and the left-wing political movement suffered terror and torture at the hands of SAVAK forces, trained by the CIA.

Widespread reports that the Shah was bisexual, his prime minister homosexual and two men connected to the royal court were married in a symbolic ceremony generated religious anger at an already despised U.S.-backed secular regime.

In 1979, the left had been decimated under the Shah, so it was Islamic forces that filled the void, leading the anti-imperialist revolution that kicked out the U.S. and British imperialists and took back the country’s resources.

Shortly after the revolution for independence, Ayatollah Khomeini called for a death penalty for homosexuality. But over the last quarter century, according to the publishers of MAHA—an Iranian Farsi-language e-magazine dealing with same-sex love—things have changed.

In an on-line interview with Project GayRussia.Ru dated Aug. 25, 2005, the MAHA representative explained, “The GLBT situation in Iran has changed over the past 26 years. The regime does not systematically persecute gays anymore, there are still some gay websites, there are some parks and cinemas where everyone knows that these places are meeting places for gays; furthermore it is legal in Iran that a transsexual applies for sex change and it is fully accepted by the government. There are some medias which sometimes (not often) write about such issues. Having said that, the Islamic law, according to which gays’ punishment is death, is still in force but it is thought not much followed by the regime nowadays.” (www.gayrussia.ru)

Today, Tehran offers more rights to transsexuals than any other government on the planet, including low-cost government loans for surgery and free hormones. Khomeini made the initial decision and it has since been reconfirmed by many other Iranian clerics. Iran also leads in AIDS prevention and treatment in the Middle East.

U.S. hands off Iran!

Imperialist-instigated regime change, invasion or occupation of Iran would usher in neocolonialism—a form of enslavement that the 70-million strong Iranian population as a whole would certainly fight with the same tenacity as the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine.

The Pentagon is no vehicle for gay liberation. The CIA is using anti-gay and anti-trans humiliation and rape—from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo—as bedrock components of its science of torture.

And a two-year study released by Amnesty International of London on March 23 concluded that across the United States, “Beatings, sexual violence, verbal abuse, harassment and humiliation by law enforcement officials against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people take place on any given day in detention centers, prisons, in the home and on the street.”

Racism, immigrant-bashing, misogyny, youth homelessness, lack of jobs, no health insurance, an economic draft, minimal Deaf and disabled accessibility, apartments priced out of reach, anti-Muslim, Arab and South Asian round-ups and forced deportations—and the domestic theo-cons behind the neo-cons—these are the enemies of the LGBT population in the U.S., not Iran. And the LGBT movements in the centers of finance capital need to build genuine ties with working and oppressed peoples of all sexualities, genders and sexes around the world who are in the economic, political and military cross-hairs of these imperialist powers.

The good news is that so many people in the U.S. don’t want a war against Iran and sincerely want to see peace in the Middle East. Last year, after the reported executions in Mashad made headlines in all the LGBT media, the online lesbian and gay publication “The Advocate” conducted a poll. It asked if the executions in Mashad would make respondents line up behind Washington’s objectives against Iran. More than 70 percent answered “no.”

To find out more about how to help build the anti-war movement to defend Iran against imperialism, visit www.StopWarOnIran.org.

Email: [email protected]