Last edited: July 30, 2005

Flaws in Blade Report of Executions in Iran

Gays are executed, Iranian exiles confirm

Outrage! July 28, 2005
Press Release

By OutRage! News Service

“News reports in the US Washington Blade and New York Blade newspapers on the execution of two teens in Iran are flawed,” according to the British LGBT human rights group OutRage!, which helped break the story to the international media and human rights groups.

“The news story by Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, ‘Mixed reports on Iran teen hangings’, dated 28 July, contains a number of errors,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage! “OutRage!’s sources for our reportage of this story include clandestine gay and lesbian activists inside Iran, members of the democratic and left Iranian opposition, and the websites of pro-government news agencies in Iran.

“Much of the Blade article disputes claims that the two teenagers were hanged because they had gay sex. Bizarrely, it gives greater prominence and credibility to the allegations of rape made by news agencies linked to the dictatorial, homophobic Iranian government. “Why should we believe the claims of a judicial and political system that is one of the most barbaric in the world and which has a proven record of lying to cover up its crimes against humanity?

“The Blade story does, however, conclude with a comment from a gay Iranian exile. He is in a better position than most people to know how the Iranian regime operates and to judge the credibility of its claims. He questions the rapist allegation; suggesting the two youths probably were hanged for consensual sex but the government said it was rape to squash public outrage. This exile also confirms that confessions are often extracted under torture. This casts serious doubt on the rape claims. Why was this gay Iranian viewpoint not given greater prominence in the Blade story?

“We work with many exiled gay Iranians in London. They confirm that smears and torture against gay people are routine in Iran. Whenever the regime wants to deflect criticism it trumps up charges of alcoholism, adultery, rape, homosexuality and drug abuse.

 “When interviewed in the back of a police van by a pro-government journalist from the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA), shortly before their execution, the youths spoke candidly about having sex with boys, protesting that they did not know homosexuality is a capital crime. This suggests they believed they were being hanged for same-sex relations, not rape. The ISNA report makes no mention of rape or of a 13 year old boy. It states they were hung for homosexual acts.

“Even so, OutRage! has never said the rape allegations are untrue; only that we think they are unlikely and that we treat them with the skepticism they deserve. We acknowledge there are conflicting reports. It is difficult to be certain about the truth. But on balance we believe the evidence points to the youths being hanged for same-sex relations, rather than rape.

“The Blade says the claims of rape are confirmed by the 13 year old boy’s father. That is not proof. It is not surprising that the father has said his 13 year old son was raped; otherwise his son would have been hanged as well and the family would become social outcasts for having a gay child. OutRage! is aware of several cases in the region where a false claim of rape has been used by parents to spare a family the shame of having a gay son and to save him from imprisonment and/or execution.

“We must also be open to the possibility that the 13 year old was a willing participant but that Iranian law (like the laws of many western nations) deems that no person aged 13 is capable of sexual consent. In these circumstances, consensual sexual contact with a 13 year old is automatically branded statutory rape.

“It is curious that the Iranian authorities say the 13 year old was raped. Does the Iranian legal system include the offence of rape of a male? Does it acknowledge that male rape exists and is possible? If not, how can the youths have been hanged for the crime of rape? “Elizabeth Weill-Greeneberg’s report says that the older youth may have been 19, and therefore not a minor when he committed the alleged crime. Even the state-sponsored Iranian media said he was 18. We would like to see any reliable news source that has reported him as being 19 years old.

“The Blade report claims the allegations the boys were executed for being gay originated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). This is untrue. The NCRI did not originate the story and it did not report the reason for their execution. “The Blade also falsely claims that Iran Focus is the English language website of the NCRI. Not true.

“The Blade article goes on to smear the NCRI, repeating the US State Department’s smear that it is a “terrorist organisation”. While we do not share the politics of the NCRI, it has played a heroic role in resisting the clerical fascist regime in Iran and campaigning for democracy and human rights. The NCRI is no more a terrorist organisation than the African National Congress in South Africa or the anti-Nazi resistance in occupied Europe during World War Two. “While there have been allegations of human rights abuses by the NCRI, these pale into insignificance by comparison to the butchery of the Iranian regime.

“The NCRI works with a broad coalition of European parliamentarians, jurists, lawyers and human rights advocates. It would not enjoy this supportive relationship if it were a terrorist organisation. NCRI delegations have recently met with European and Australian parliamentary representatives. “We find it shocking that brave people who are fighting for freedom and against tyranny are being vilified and smeared.

“Contrary to what the Blade says, the report the teens were hanged for being gay originated with the pro-government Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) – not the NCRI. It stated categorically that they were executed for sodomy. It made no mention of rape or a 13 year old boy.

“Paula Ettelbrick of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is reported by the Blade as having condemned OutRage! for using racially charged language to denounce the executions.

“If she said this, it is a complete fabrication. We have never attacked anyone’s race or ethnicity.

“Ms Ettelbrick apparently objects to our description of the Iranian regime in the following terms: ‘This is just the latest barbarity by the Islamo-fascists in Iran.’”

“We make no apology for denouncing the Iranian dictatorship in these terms. Its fascist-style tyranny is based on a fundamentalist version of Islam. The phrase ‘Islamo-fascist’ is used by progressive Muslims to denounce the fundamentalists and by democratic and left opponents of the Iranian regime. We agree, and support their struggle.

“We have great respect and admiration for the Blade newspapers, but we feel their reports on this issue need to be challenged and corrected,” concluded Mr Tatchell.

The Washington Blade is notorious for bad reporting, wild inaccuracies, fabrication of quotes, and gross editorializing within news stories. The Blade story would not have been included on this website except for the press release by Outrage!. -Bob Summersgill

Mixed Reports on Iran Hangings, Washington Blade, July 29, 2005

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