Rights Activist Testifies on Iranian Gay Asylum-Seeker
Yomiuri, February 26, 2003
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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
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
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
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
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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