Post submitted by Karim, HRC's Global Engagement Intern

Today we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of National Coming Out Day. While here in the U.S. it is a joyous occasion for many LGBT Americans, it is important to remember that countless LGBT individuals around the world still do not enjoy the same freedoms as we do here in the States.

Just this week, on the night of Tuesday, October 8th, Iran’s revolutionary guards raided a birthday party in Kermanshah, a city close to the western border with Iraq, and reportedly arrested some 17 of the 80 attendees, including four married couples. These individuals were suggested to have been picked out due to the tattoos, make-up, and rainbow bracelets that they were wearing at the time. Aside from the Iranis arrested, there were also several Iraqi foreign nationals that were detained by the revolutionary guard. All of the detainees had their mobile devices confiscated and were blindfolded and taken to an unknown location. 

According to the revolutionary guard, the group had been under surveillance for some time.  The news website of the revolutionary guards, Sepah News, stated that they had dismantled what it claimed to be “a network of homosexuals and devil-worshippers.”

Hossein Alizadeh, from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said yesterday: “The official website for the religious militia, known as Basij, [claims that] the so-called ‘network’ of homosexuals was under surveillance for several months, by the local branch of the Revolutionary Guard. The report adds that the group was arrested after they rented a hall for a ‘party’, in which 8 gay men were having a joint wedding ceremony. The report says some ‘foreign sponsors’ were behind this group.”

Until last year, same-sex sexual acts were punishable by death by hanging or stoning in Iran. However, in 2012, a new amendment to the penal code was approved which sentenced the active partner to 100 floggings if he was not married. However, the receptive individual, whether single or married, would still receive the death penalty.  Lesbianism is also punishable by law with 100 lashes to all individuals involved. However, if the act is repeated four times, then the individual can also receive the death penalty.

The Middle East has demonstrated increased intolerance towards LGBT minorities in recent months. This week, Turkey censored a health website for Transmen and last month an Omani newspaper was forced to retract an article on tolerance towards the LGBT community. Although there have been a few LGBT groups such as Kaos GL in Turkey and the Lebanese Barra Magazine, the Middle East continues to be one of the most intolerant regions towards homosexuality.

In the spirit of the 25th Anniversary of National Coming Out Day, make sure to check out the HRC’s Guide to Coming Out.

Filed under: Coming Out, International

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