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ILGA PANEL AT 2ND UNCHR SESSION

in WORLD, 31/10/2006

LGBT Human Rights in IRAN

I am Secretary General of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization, PGLO . For the past four years it has volunteered its efforts to paint an accurate picture of LGBTs’situaton in Iran. And we will spare no effort in the struggle to increase the basic human rights of Iranian sexual minorities.

Today, I have the immense responsibility of reporting the situation of Iranian LBTs in but a few minutes. And, there is inevitably much that will be left unsaid. Today is also an important day for us. It is the anniversary of the first expression of the desire for freedom by Iranian LGBTs- the first time we raised our voices.

It was about three years ago we decided that since no one was hearing our voices, we should announce our existence and make our presence felt. Three years ago on October first, we asked our members, who numbered less than fifty at the time, to break their silence- to gather on a Yahoo chat room for a discussion, which we named “Celebration of Voices”.

Some twenty individuals did sign on, but no voices were heard. Our fear and apprehension were so high that we could not even speak amongst ourselves. No one dared to utter a word. But although our “celebration of voices” passed in silence, we did write to each other. This October first is the third anniversary of our “celebration of voices.” But now, we have a membership of more than five thousand, and millions can hear our voices.
Iranian LGBTs stand here in Geneva today, in the seat of Human rights in the world and can break their long silence. This is truly the celebration of our voices.

And I hope that our gathering will raise international voice demanding that any form of discrimination, persecution, abuse and murder of sexual minorities is intolerable. I hope that we can send a message to Iranian LGBTs that they are not alone, and that they are part of a global family.
We want to say to Iranian families: “Do not drive your children away because they have a different sexual orientation- They need your support.”

We would like to say to all Iranians that the only difference between sexual minorities and other Iranians is their sexual orientation- that human rights are for all, not the domain of only one group. We Iranians have to be united; to respect and defend each other's rights, if we are to achieve freedom and democracy. We want to ask, “If we do not recognize each other's rights, how can we fight for freedom and democracy?”

We in PGLO would like to tell the Iranian government that we, the sexual minorities of Iran, solely because of our sexual orientation, are denied our civil rights; that we are not allowed to organize openly, or to assemble freely; that we are denied the right to register as an NGO. We would like to say that because of misinformation, we are even denied physical safety, and worst of all, because of anti-homosexual laws, we are forced into exile.

But today we also recognize the rise of anti-Muslim stereotypes and racism in the West, and we condemn these racist expressions of Islamophobia. We condemn any portrayal of Islam as a lesser, violent religion.

So we ask, not from the Western states, but from the Head of Islamic States, why the death penalty is applicable to sexual minorities in nine countries, the majority of which are Islamic states. Therefore, we ask that if you believe Islam is not a religion of violence, then you must not consent to this travesty that is committed in the name of Islam in silence. We ask you to defend the rights of sexual minorities in your countries.

Today, we would also like to say to countries that have accepted and gave safety to our refugees in their lands, and to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee: “If Iranian sexual minorities of leave their homeland, it is because they are persecuted and their rights are denied in Iran. By not properly supporting them and leaving then stranded in different countries, stateless and homeless, you also perpetuate the violation of their rights.”

With today’ political climate -the clamp down on immigration, the tightening of visa controls and racial profiling- we face the additional burden of being denied visas, entry or legal status because we are Iranian. We are being treated as a threat because we come from a Middle-Eastern, Muslim, or so-called terrorist societies.

We also want to tell the United Nations and its new Human Rights Council that the only words that define Iran today should not be “Uranium Enrichment.” Sexual minorities, ethnic and religious minorities, Iranian women and children, Iranian workers and political activists; each and every Iranian is under pressure today and defending their rights must be on the top priority of this honorable organization.

PGLO objects to the lack of civil rights in Iran, and demands that the systematic violation of human rights in Iran be effectively addressed. PGLO declares its readiness to cooperate with the United Nations Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other organizations which defend human rights, especially the rights of LGBTs, and will devote all its efforts in promoting peace and tolerance.

Finally PGLO asks all legal and civil rights organizations to coordinate their efforts in defense of human rights and the rights of LGBTs.
- Islamic republic of Iran’s Punishment code must decriminalize homosexuality.
- Homophobia should be fought against.
- The systematic denial of Human Rights in Iran should be ended.
- We are humans- Human Rights are our rights.
- Rights are never given, they are struggled for.
- Do not forget Iranian LGBTs.
- Do not leave us alone.

Arsham Parsi
Secretary-General
Persian Gay & Lesbian Organization – PGLO
(Recently renamed Iranian Queer Organization – IRQO)

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