A Web site called Iran Focus reported Nov. 14 that ‚Äúa gay Iranian man was hanged in public on Tuesday in the western city of Kermanshah on the charge of sodomy.‚ÄĚ The report said ‚ÄúShahab Darvishi was charged with organising a ‚Äėcorruption ring,‚Äô deliberate assault, and ‚Äėlavat,‚Äô which means homosexual relationship between two men or sodomy.‚ÄĚ The report credited ‚Äúthe official news agency IRNA‚ÄĚ as a source for the story.
The Islamic Republic News Agency‚Äôs version of the story said the Kermanshah Province Justice Department Communications Department said Darvishi was ‚Äúfound guilty of forming a coterie of corruption rings, physical assaults and the despicable act of sodomy.‚ÄĚ IRNA said the death sentence was issued by the Second Court of the town of Sahneh, and upheld by the Second Appeal Court of Kermanshah and the 27th Branch of the Supreme Court.
‚ÄúHundreds of Kermanshah‚Äôs residents were present at the scene of the execution,‚ÄĚ IRNA said. ‚ÄúThey were supportive of the judicial system‚Äôs decision and called for adopting a tough stance against criminals and disturbing elements.‚ÄĚ
Iran‚Äôs version of Islamic law does punish gay sex with execution, and many human-rights activists say, with varying degrees of certainty, that the nation has executed numerous men for the crime since the 1979 religious revolution.
But it is notoriously difficult to fact-check news that emanates from the nation, and skepticism of any one report is always warranted, as Iran does not have a free press.
On Nov. 15, Human Rights Watch‚Äôs Jessica Stern sent an e-mail to this publication which said, in part: ‚ÄúWe are concerned with the charges in the case and by the case‚Äôs lack of information. One or two sources should be considered inconclusive, especially in reporting on a case of this kind. ... We strongly urge caution until more information is known.‚ÄĚ
In the same vein, the secretary general of the Iranian Queer Organization, formerly called the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization, commented: ‚ÄúSimilar to the Mashad incident last year, it may be extremely difficult to firmly establish why this man was hanged, or whether the charges were fabricated. Whatever the truth is, the Iranian government must be stopped from killing people for sex-related crimes.‚ÄĚ
On July 19, 2005, two teenage boys, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, were publicly hanged in Mashad, and graphic photos of the executions circulated on the Web. Some Iranian and foreign media said the teens‚Äô crime was being gay lovers. Other Iranian and foreign media said they had raped a boy. International human rights groups say they have been unable to determine which version of the story is true.
Nonetheless, ‚Äúthe death penalty is on the books for gay sex [and] it‚Äôs at least sporadically enforced,‚ÄĚ said Scott Long, HRW‚Äôs LGBT program head, in a Nov. 16 interview