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Iran’s new government leaves country’s LGBTQ community hopeless

Ebrahim Raisi involved with 1988 execution of political prisoners

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (Photo via the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Twitter account)

TEHRAN, Iran — Ebrahim Raisi took over the presidency of Iran and promised to be a “true defender of human rights,” but the Iranian LGBTQ community is not hopeful.

Iran, a country where LGBTQ youth face legal challenges such as prosecution, sometimes to the extent of death sentences, is seeing a rise of new ultra far-right leaders.

Raisi is accused being involved in the 1988 execution of thousands of political prisoners in Tehran, but his human rights abuses are not limited to political prisoners. During Raisi’s tenure as “head of the judiciary,” blanket immunity was given to the Iranian officials and security forces responsible for the killing of hundreds of innocent men, women and children. This kind of bizarre record of human rights abuse by Raisi is also reflected in the hopelessness of the Iranian LGBTQ community.

“I did not even vote for the new president,” said Sher (changed name), an Iranian woman who secretly identifies as bisexual. “I do not care anymore because I know he is the same as his predecessor or even worse.”

In June, a poll conducted by the Six Colors Organization suggested that 90 percent of eligible voters living outside Iran had intended not to vote for Raisi. Many LGBTQ youth did not participate in voting to protest against the Raisi.

“Iran is governed based on sharia law, so it doesn’t matter who is the president or supreme leader or a parliamentarian, as long as the country is governed on Islamic laws — LGBTQI+ youth are being sentenced to death,” said Arsham Parsi, an Iranian LGBTQ activist living in exile in Canada and executive director of International Railroad for Queer Refugees. “Raisi is kind of extreme, more than others. He was also involved in the killing of other people at the beginning of the revolution, so he is a scary figure, especially for LGBTQs, because he can force the Islamic state agenda.”

Parsi told Los Angeles Blade that he is not very hopeful about the Islamic Republic of Iran. He said that Iranian politicians do not care about anything but their power and money. Parsi does not believe that LGBTQ people will have any rights under this regime.

Arsham Parsi, Iran, gay news, Washington Blade
International Railroad for Queer Refugees Executive Director Arsham Parsi in D.C. in 2014. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Biden in February issued a memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Persons Around the World.

Biden, in the major foreign policy speech, highlighted the promotion of LGBTQ rights. Although the U.S. does not maintain an embassy in Iran, the Swiss embassy works as the protecting power of the U.S. in Iran. But during Pride month, the Swiss embassy did not fly Pride flags outside of its building.

The U.S. State Department maintained that American embassies and consulates developed individual plans during Pride Month to both celebrate LGBTQ people and raise awareness of violence, human rights abuses and discrimination targeting LGBTQ people globally, including appropriate exterior displays. The State Department did not comment on “why there was no Pride flag flying outside the Swiss embassy during the pride month to spread awareness.”

“The continuous engagement of Switzerland for the promotion of human rights, including LGBTQ rights, takes place independently of displaying specific symbols, such as the Pride flag,” said Pierre-Alain Eltschinger, a spokesperson for the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs. “Switzerland chooses its engagement strategy and instruments in a way that allows it to best fulfill, the general objective to promote human rights, based on the specific context.”

The Swiss president, in a message to Raisi, also congratulated him on his victory.

The Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs did not comment to the Blade on the president’s congratulations, but maintained that the Swiss government is aware of the challenges faced by members of the LGBTQ community in Iran.

“Switzerland maintains relations with the governments of all states, including the Iranian government. These high-level political contacts form the basis of an open dialogue in which we regularly address the human rights situation in Iran,” said Eltschinger. “We believe that maintaining an in-depth dialogue with Iran is the best way to achieve improvements that benefit the LGBTQ community. Switzerland will continue to address this and other human rights issues with the Iranian authorities, including at the highest level.”

A European Union official in a statement said that the EU takes action globally to prevent and denounce all forms of discrimination against LGBTQ persons, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic violence while promoting their access to equal opportunities in all spheres of life. During the interview, the officials avoided the brazen human rights violation by Raisi and did not comment on Iran specifically.

“We have consistently asserted our strong opposition toward any abuse, harassment, violence and stigma targeting LGBTQI+ persons around the world, and we continue to have serious concerns over the Iranian regime’s treatment of LGBTQI+ persons,” said a State Department spokesperson in a statement. “We urge the new government in Tehran to ensure LGBTQI+ persons are treated fairly and with full respect for their dignity and human rights.”

While speaking with Blade, Alex Vatanka, Iran program director of Middle East Institute, also expressed hopelessness on the future of the LGBTQ community in Iran under the new presidency of Raisi. He said that Raisi did not say anything progressive on this subject matter.

“The group of people coming in with Ebrahim Raisi are the least likely to engage in any kind of real and meaningful dialogue about the LGBTQI+ community in Iran,” said Vatanka. “Mr. Raisi and his supporters believe that they know best, the way of life that they have chosen for themselves — is really the only way, and instead of trying to seek an opponent and have a dialogue, they would rather force their will, on the society.”

For years, the U.S. and the EU have raised the issue, but there hasn’t been anyone in the central government in Iran with whom to have a serious dialogue. The Iranian government considers this as interference in their internal matter.  Although the hope remains bleak under this regime, the LGBTQ community is still trying to show their protest against the discriminatory laws — sometimes by not participating in the election or leaving blank votes.

Mohit Kumar is a freelance reporter who has covered different stories that include the 2020 election in the U.S. and women’s rights issues. He has also covered NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency), the
Canadian Space Agency and loves to help people. Mohit is on Twitter at @MohitKopinion and can be reached at [email protected]

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Middle East

Tens of thousands flood the streets of Tel Aviv for Pride 2022

Pride events are held under heavy police presence since an ultra-Orthodox extremist stabbed to death a teen during Pride in Jerusalem 2015

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Screenshot/YouTube i24NEWS

TEL AVIV, Israel – It is often referred to as the LGBTQ+ capital of the Middle East for its sizable population of people who identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and it has a reputation for hosting the arguably largest annual Pride celebration and festivities.

This year was no exception as Israeli officials estimate a crowd of nearly 170,000 was in attendance.

According to i24NEWS, an Israeli-based international 24-hour news and current affairs television channel located in Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv, Israel, the seaside city has a population of nearly 100,000 who identify themselves as LGBTQ+ and the city has hosted Pride for 23 years.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Israeli Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen kicked off the festivities.

“We have a majority here in Israel that supports this community,” said Mayor Huldai. “Tel Aviv has always been home for every transgender person, and every lesbian and gay person, and the home of anyone who wants to be who they are.”

The Associated Press reported some 250,000 people attended the Tel Aviv Pride parade in 2019, before it was called off the following year because of the pandemic. In 2021, an estimated 100,000 people attended.

Pride parades all over Israel are held under heavy police presence, particularly since 2015 when an ultra-Orthodox extremist stabbed to death 16-year-old Shira Banki during the Pride parade in Jerusalem.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides attended the march with a delegation from the U.S. embassy. “This is about tolerance and decency and respect, and being here with all the folks from the embassy is unbelievably meaningful to me,” he told The Associated Press.

Tel Aviv Celebrates Pride With Thousands In Attendance:

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Middle East

Kuwait rebukes U.S. embassy over LGBTQ+ rights support

Acting chargé d’affaires summoned on Thursday

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(Bigstock photo)

KUWAIT CITY — The government of Kuwait on Thursday said it summoned a senior American diplomat after the U.S. Embassy tweeted its support of LGBTQ+ rights.

A Kuwaiti Foreign Affairs Ministry statement notes Nawaf Abdul Latif Al-Ahmad, the country’s acting assistant secretary of state for Americas affairs, met with Jim Hollisteder, the acting chargé d’affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City, “against the background of the embassy’s publication on its social media accounts of references and tweets supporting homosexuality.”

The embassy on Thursday in tweets that it posted to its Twitter account in English and Arabic noted President Biden is “a champion for the human rights of LGBTQI persons.”

“All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they live,” said the tweets.

The Kuwaiti Foreign Affairs Ministry in its statement notes Al-Ahmad “handed” Hollisteder “a memorandum confirming Kuwait’s rejection of what was published and stressing the need for the embassy to respect the laws and regulations in force in the state of Kuwait and the obligation not to publish such tweets in compliance with what was stipulated in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.”

Kuwait is a U.S. ally that borders Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. It is one of the upwards of 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who is openly gay, on Friday retweeted the embassy’s tweet.

“The United States stands with the LGBTQI+ community everywhere around the world,” said Price.

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Middle East

Man arrested for death threats against Jerusalem Pride organizers

Israeli police on Wednesday arrested 21-year-old man

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The 2021 Jerusalem Pride parade. A man has been arrested in connection with death threats made against organizers of this year's parade. (Photo courtesy of Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance)

JERUSALEM — Israeli police on Wednesday arrested a man in connection with death threats made against organizers of Jerusalem’s Pride parade.

The Times of Israel reported the 21-year-old man allegedly sent a message to Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance Community Director Emuna Klein Barnoy and two Israeli lawmakers in which he described Jerusalem as “the Holy City” and said “we will not allow the Pride parade to take place in Jerusalem.”

The threat also referenced Shira Banki, the 16-year-old teenager who was stabbed to death during a Jerusalem Pride march in 2015.

An ultra-Orthodox man who stabbed Banki and five others during the march had just been released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence in connection with the stabbing of three people during a Jerusalem Pride march in 2005. The man is currently serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison.

Israeli media reports note the threat that Barnoy and the two lawmakers received on Wednesday came from an Instagram account that included the name of the man who killed Banki.

The Jerusalem Pride parade will take place on Thursday with more than 2,400 police officers deployed along the route. The Times of Israel reported the man who allegedly threatened organizers was expected to have appeared in a Jerusalem court on the same day.

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