Nobel Laureate Condemns Hanging of Gay Teens in Iran
Advocate, July 26, 2005
Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi on Saturday condemned
the hanging of two teenagers accused of raping younger boys in northeastern
Iran, a punishment that also prompted protests by international organizations
and human rights groups. Last week’s hangings of an 18-year-old and
16-year-old on charges of involvement in homosexual acts violated Iran’s
obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child,
which bans such executions, Ebadi said.
Ebadi said her Center for the Protection of Human Rights
will intensify its fight against Iran’s executions of minors. “My calls
for a law clearly banning execution of under-18s has fallen on deaf ears so
far, but I will not give up the fight,” Ebadi told the Associated Press.
Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, were hanged
publicly July 19 in the city of Mashhad on charges of raping younger boys.
They said before their executions that they were not aware that homosexual
acts were punishable by death. Asgari had been accused of raping a 13-year-old
boy. His lawyer, Rohollah Razaz Zadeh, said Iranian courts are supposed to
commute death sentences handed to children to five years in jail. “The
judiciary has trampled its own laws,” Razaz Zadeh told the AP.
But the lawyer said Iran’s supreme court upheld the
verdict and allowed the execution despite his objections.
Gay rights groups, such as the London-based OutRage! and
Iranian opposition groups suggested the rape allegations were trumped-up
charges aimed to undermine public sympathy for the teenagers. In Sweden,
foreign ministry spokesman Per Saland said the government is “looking very
seriously” at the hangings. “We are against the death penalty, and we
particularly react when it comes to the execution of minors, pregnant women,
and the mentally disabled,” Saland said.
The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender
Rights posted a photo on its Web site showing hooded executioners tightening
ropes around the suspects’ necks. The group’s chairman, Soren Andersson,
called on Sweden’s government not to deport gay and lesbian asylum seekers
back to Iran. “Sweden has turned gay and lesbian refugees back to Iran, and
they should know that these people could be killed,” he said. Being gay or
lesbian should be enough for refugees to remain in Sweden and not be returned
to Iran, he added.
Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, has
campaigned to protect the rights of children and improve human rights in Iran
but has met stiff resistance from the judiciary, which is controlled by
hard-liners. The Iranian government last year refused to give Ebadi permission
to stage a rally to protest children’s executions.
Under Iranian law, girls older than 9 and boys older than
15 face execution if they commit crimes such as murder and rape. Under certain
conditions, capital punishment is imposed for those engaging in illegal sexual
relations. In 2003 a 16-year-old girl said to be suffering from a
psychological disorder was executed in Neka, a town in northern Iran, on
charges of having an illegal sexual relationship.
While there are no official figures on death sentences
given to minors, human rights activists say about a dozen were executed in
Iran last year. (AP)
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