Last edited: January 03, 2005

Rights Activist Testifies on Iranian Gay Asylum-Seeker

Daily Yomiuri, February 26, 2003
Tokyo, Japan
Fax: 03-3279-6324, Email:

By Harumi Ozawa, Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Goudarz Eghtedari arrived in Japan earlier this month to testify at the nation’s first trial to focus on the sexual orientation of an asylum-seeker.

The U.S.-based Iranian human rights activist told the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 18 that the plaintiff, an Iranian homosexual, would likely face capital punishment if the Justice Ministry carried out its order to deport him to Iran.

The plaintiff, who goes by the assumed name of Shayda, is seeking asylum in Japan. His application for asylum has been rejected by the Justice Ministry.

According to a source close to Shayda, a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization called the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is aware of at least 14 Iranian homosexuals and transgenders who gained asylum in the United States and nine in Canada in the four years since 1995.

In an interview with The Daily Yomiuri, Eghtedari said he did not presume to speak for Shayda.

“It’s not only that I’m not homosexual, but I’m not getting into a discussion about whether it’s right or wrong,” he said. “That wasn’t really my intention. I’m talking about the whole concept (of universal human rights).

“These punishments that are mostly happening in the Islamic world—for example cutting off hands, beheading or stoning to death for sexual crimes—are not proportionate to the crime. That’s why I stood up against them.”

Eghtedari, who was born in Iran in 1956, moved to Portland, Ore., where he had relatives, in 1990. He has since devoted himself to advocating human rights for Iranians.

In 1997, Eghtedari attracted attention when he spoke at the annual conference of the Center for Iranian Research and Analysis in Atlanta about the capital punishment being imposed on homosexuals and adulterers in Iran.

“Homophobia is universal,” he said. “There aren’t many people who are really interested in this issue unfortunately. Within the Iranian community, it’s taboo. No one likes to talk about it.”

Eghtedari said it would be difficult for other researchers and scholars to specialize in Iranian gay rights because many are afraid of jeopardizing their profession.

“For me, it’s different because I’m not paid (for this work),” he said. He has worked with human rights NGOs and engaged in other activities while pursuing his career as a traffic engineer.

He said he believed strongly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but feels it is often used merely as a bargaining tool in political negotiations.

Therefore, he said, the world community must create an international body to enforce the declaration. “(Right now) the declaration doesn’t have power, it doesn’t have an enforcement mechanism,” he said.

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