State-Sponsored Discrimination against Iranian LGBTQI+ Communities Ramps up amidst a Growing and More Vocal Activist Community

The Islamic Republic has long criminalized homosexuality in its domestic legal systems while also actively fueling propaganda campaigns in both media and educational institutions including through discriminatory public media content, textbooks, and campaigns aimed at so-called “Conversion Therapy”

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, as the number of LGBTQI+ activists in the country continue to grow, Iranian politicians, cultural public figures and celebrities have made public statements aimed at inciting public discrimination, hostility, and violence against the LGBTQI+ community inside of Iran.

Officials representing the government have gone on record with their discriminatory positions. The Iranian Government Spokesperson Ali Rabiei announced the allocation of loans for the “treatment of transgender people.” Abbas Masjedi Arani, the head of the Iranian Forensic Medicine Organization, while giving an interview regarding sex reassignment surgeries in 2019 (gender affirmation surgery), described transgender identity as a disorder.” On a prior occasion, the head of the Forensic Medicine Organization expressed concerns about increasing requests for gender affirmation surgeries, for which he blamed the Internet and social media, “It rings the alarm bell for both legal decision-makers in the parliament and society at large. Our initial research points to the unrestricted and inappropriate use of the internet as the major cause of the issue. In an interview with a foreign news agency, Minoo Mohraz, the head of the Iranian Research Center for HIV/AIDS (IRCHA) said, “for the sake of public health protection, sex workers, addicted people, and homosexuals have to be identified and treated.” Mohraz added, “[…] we have to treat them before they pollute the rest of society.”

‘Halalzadeha’

An apparent grassroots group known as ‘Halalzadeha’ has been circulating content on social media inciting discriminatory language against sexual and gender minorities. The group is also known to hold gatherings in Tehran aimed at condemning same-sex marriage in other countries. During the last 22 Bahman March (Anniversary of the 1979 Revolution), they stepped and marched on rainbow flags incitement hostility against members of the LGBTQI+ community. The lack of attempt by police or security forces to interfere in the gatherings, which is a routine activity in the case of similar gatherings, indicates that such groups are potentially supported by the regime.

“Conversion Therapy” and Unethical Medical Advice 

At odds with the body of knowledge in their respective field, several psychiatrists and psychologists employ unscientific treatment methods to change the gender identity of transgender people. Under pressure from their family, many transgender youths give in to unscientific treatment methods. Nonetheless, the Medical Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran has remained in a conspiracy of silence toward these unsubstantiated methods. The silent complicity in such methods is in stark contrast to the regime’s obligations under international law.

Social media has become a major channel of promotion for such treatments. In an article entitled, “Eight Guiding Methods to Cure Homosexuality”, which was widely disseminated online, a purported specialist in psychology and hypnosis, Davood Najafi Tavana, claimed that his methods could “change an LGBT person into a straight person.”

Tavana claimed that: “to cure homosexuality, one must see a psychiatrist as soon as possible to ensure the normal functioning of the endocrine glands.” He continued, “One can do this by running some tests. In this phase of treatment, with the help of medicine, your homosexuality will be cured.” He also stated that one must also, “Purify your mind also by appealing to God and holy Imams. In this way, you can overcome your diabolic thoughts and temptations.”

Mehr News Agency, which is affiliated with Islamic Development Organization, published an article criticizing a psychiatrist who had described homosexuality as a natural disposition. The report claimed “so far, no accredited laboratory has proven that homosexuality is a natural disposition. They asked, “How can a psychiatrist who is supposed to comply with scientific principles, expose his patients to damages of homosexual intercourse by saying that this is natural?” The report repeated Tavana’s claim that homosexuality can be cured with drugs, “In Iran, many physicians have the successful treatment of homosexual patients in their career. Therefore, the wrong assertion that homosexuality is incurable has to be debunked as a trick of political advocates of homosexuality.”

Anti-LGBT Statements in State Media

Director and screenwriter, Behrouz Afkhami has made several homophobic statements during a TV talk show. Answering an interview question about the conditions for awarding at Cannes Film Festival he asserted, “If a film about an LGBT person participates in this festival, they spare special points for such film to take precedence over others in the competition.”  In response, the program host agreed and went on to identify homosexuality as a “sexual perversion.”

Director and screenwriter, Ghotbeddin Sadeghi, in a speech defended the security fencing of Tehran City Theater premises and claimed, ” Theatre premises have been occupied by thugs, criminals and queer people who do not observe the cultural sanctity of this place.” In response to his homophobic statements, a group of artists and civil activists in the field of sexual and gender minorities published an open statement and condemned these statements as hate speech.

In the statement, activists stated:

“Closing their eyes to the root cause of social issues, they [government] introduce the gender minorities as the main cause or at least one of the major causes of social insecurity. They place blame on the queer community whose social presence and even gender expression are restricted and condemned due to the criminalization of their existence. They bring down the hammer on this part of the society because their quest for LGBTQI+’s exclusion is the most self-assured policy in such discriminative and injustice sphere.”

Incorporating Gender Stereotypes in Educational Materials

The regime continues incorporating gender stereotypes in educational materials particularly at lower-secondary level (middle school). Such stereotypes indirectly intensify violence against LGBTQI+ people. By enclosing the gender spectrum into a gender binary, these textbooks adversely impact a children’s perception of gender minorities and as such incite discrimination and hostility towards those minorities within their own society.

A textbook titled ‘Family Management and Lifestyles’, which is taught exclusively to girls in the 12th grade, the text advised girls, “If a man, from the outset of the marriage life, expects his wife to contribute to breadwinning, you better reconsider marrying this man, because, in such marriage life, you have to take over both men’s and women’s roles.” The underlying patriarchal structure of traditional culture as well as Iran’s domestic legal system puts all efforts to reinforce such strict gender roles and eliminate all gender-equal living patterns. For this purpose, the official education system plays a key role in the reproduction of gender discrimination and the upbringing of children in accordance with Islamic views on gender rather than gender equality.

Censorship

The regime vigorously censors any content about LGBTQI+ rights to cut the access of families of an LGBTQ member to these contents. None of the educational platforms, dating websites or computer games are immune to this type of censorship.

Recently, a Mobile game app called ‘Apex Legends’ was removed from the app store Kafe-Bazar by the order of the regime’s monitoring working group. Soon after, this application was taken down from the Myket App store as well. Activists believe that gay and lesbian characters in this game were the reason for this censorship.

A Daily Overview of Human Rights Violations in Iran for December 7, 2018

The following is an overview of human rights violations in Iran on December 7th, 2018 based on the information compiled and verified by Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).

(1) Two Citizens Were Saved from Execution

(2) An Execution in Bandar Abbas

(3) Security Agents Did not Allow People to Commemorate 20th Anniversary of Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Ja’far Pouyandeh Murders

(4) A Transgender Character Was Censored in an Iranian TV Series

(5) Two Citizens Were Saved from Execution

(6) More from Iran

   


(1) Two Citizens Were Saved from Execution

An individual who was arrested with a murder charge, finally was saved from execution in jail by the help of judicial authorities and victim’s family’s consent. This citizen had spent the last 17 years waiting for the execution in prison. The murder took place in 2001 in one of the villages of Sarab that is a city in East Azarbaijan province. In another case, a prisoner who was accused of murder and was sentenced to death, by the intercession of Imam of Friday prayers of Andimeshk and forgiveness of the next of kin, was saved from the gallows. Khodakaram Rahimi, the head of Andimeshk’s judiciary office said “we have 15 million cases in the judicial office and with the help of reconciliation committees, they are investigating precisely and quickly. Andimeshk is a city in Khuzestan province.

(2) An Execution in Bandar Abbas

Jamshid Agha Rahimi, a prisoner who was accused of murder was executed on December 4th,2018 in the Bandar Abbas central prison. An informed source said: Jamshid was a resident of Haji Abad. 15 days before his execution, he was transferred from Haji Abad to the Bandar Abbas prison. He was accused of murdering a man who harassed Jamshid’s sister in 2014. His execution has not been announced from Iran’s media yet.

(3) Security Agents Did not Allow People to Commemorate 20th Anniversary of Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Ja’far Pouyandeh Murders

Earlier this week, Iranian Writers Association invited people to commemorate 20th anniversary of Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Ja’far Pouyandeh murders in Emamzadeh Taher cemetery in Karaj in Alborz province. But today, security agents came to the cemetery and did not allow people to mark the anniversary of their deaths. Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Ja’far Pouyandeh were among the victims of chain murders in Iran. The chain murders of Iran were the assassination in the string of disappearances and suspicious deaths of intellectuals and political figures in the second half of 1998. After Mokhtari was reported missing, the body of Mohammad Ja’far Puyandeh was found near Karaj. The case of these four individuals became known as the chain murders.Prior to their murder, Dariush and Parvaneh Foruhar, leaders of the Iran Nation Party, were brutally murdered in their house.

(4) Masoud Babapour Faced Prison

A political activist, Masoud Babapour, was sentenced to 13 years in prison and was banned from social rights for two years with the charges of propaganda against the regime and acting against the national security. He was arrested on November 27th, 2009 and after several months of interrogation, was sentenced to two years in prison back then.

(5) A Transgender Character Was Censored in an Iranian TV Series

Nima Shabannejad, the actor who played a transgender character in an earlierly- banned Iranian TV series, Mamnoee, announced his disagreement on the censorship of his role in this TV series.

(6) More from Iran

The Ministry of Oil has decreased natural gas allowance per household by the verge of winter.

Teachers in Kermanshah announced their solidarity with the worker and student protests.

A teacher who had physically punished a student in a school in Hamedan was suspended and the school’s principal and his assistant principal were dismissed.