Monday, July 31, 2006

Declaration of Montreal: Global Call to Action for Gays

Here's some positive international gay news from Canada over the weekend. Let's hope this important declaration is more than words on paper and provides for much-needed organizing around the globe to protect the human rights of the entire LGBT family:

The Montreal Gazette
Published: Sunday, July 30, 2006

Nearly 60 years ago, the United Nations adopted the universal declaration of human rights, which states in its introduction: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

Yesterday, a framework to promote gay and lesbian human rights moved a step forward with the adoption of the Declaration of Montreal - the legacy of the three-day international conference affiliated with the First World Outgames.

Human rights advocates plan to present the declaration - a manifesto that sets out guidelines to protect the rights of gays and lesbians - to the United Nations and national governments. The goal is to gain "unequivocal" support of gay rights worldwide. [...]

And what did some of the conference attendees have to say about issues of importance to them? Read this sidebar from the Montreal Gazette for comments overheard at the conference:

"In Russia, when we talk about 'liberal' attitudes towards gays, it means they don't want us imprisoned or hanged."

- Slava Bortnik, Russian gay activist.

"Warsaw wanted to ban its second gay pride parade, but after seeing the footage from Moscow, they decided to let it go ahead. Poles never want to look like Russians."

- German parliamentarian Volker Beck on the violent opposition to Moscow's first gay pride march.

"The gay movement's focus here is so male, white and privileged. Marriage? In India people are struggling for the dignity of two meals a day."

- An Indian delegate overheard during the lunch break.

"No one knows that I am a lesbian. Not at work, not my parents, not even my children. When I hear that there are 400 members of the Lesbian Mothers Association here, I can't believe such a thing is possible."

- A Japanese lesbian who is organizing a mother's group in Osaka.

"It would be wonderful if you could send an email every once in a while to let us know that we aren't alone and haven't been forgotten. If I could share that with my Cameroonians friends, it would mean the world to them."

- Alice Nkom, a Cameroonian human-rights lawyer and the only member of her country's 25-member delegation to receive a visa for the Outgames

"I've heard very little discussion of AIDS here. It has become a medically manageable disease in the developed world, but let's not forget that it continues to kill millions in the rest of the world."

- Edwin Cameron, gay, HIV-positive and a judge on South Africa's Supreme Court, speaking during the plenary on Africa and Asia.

"We've temporarily suspended our activities to focus on humanitarian aid to the thousands who have been internally displaced by the bombing."

- A delegate from the Lebanese LGBT group HELEM, in a videotaped message from Beirut. She was unable to leave Lebanon to attend the human-rights conference.

In my opinion, 2006 would be a very good year for the United Nations and its assorted human rights bureaus to do more for gays around the globe, starting with documenting antigay abuses and also granting consultative status and accreditation to gay human rights groups applying for membership to UN committees.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Marines Reject Profits from Offensive 'Hadji Girl' Song

That controversial song "Hadji Girl," written and performed by US Marine Corporal Joshua Belile, is back in the news this weekend. According to a story in the Stars & Stripes, the Marines are reluctant to accept profits from a professional recording of the offensive song:

Music producers want to give a large part of the proceeds from sales of a controversial song to the Marines, but a Marine Corps spokesman said the Corps may not be able to take the money [...] Of the proceeds, 99 cents per every purchase is earmarked to support Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities for U.S. troops overseas [...]

The Marine Corps called the song insensitive and launched a preliminary inquiry but decided not to take disciplinary action against Belile [...]

While a good chunk of song sales are intended for U.S. troops, the Marine Corps may not be able to accept the money because regulations prohibit “any donation that may bring discredit on the service,” said Bryan Driver, a Personal and Family Readiness Division spokesman.

The Marines have told the song’s producers that they need to submit a formal application letter before the Marine Corps can decide whether to accept the money, and the Marines have also suggested the producers look at giving the money to charities that support Marines, Driver said.

No matter what the Marine Corps decides, [record producer Alan] Grossman vowed to somehow get the money to Marines. “I’ve never heard of anybody who doesn’t want money. It’s not like we did anything bad,” Grossman said. Grossman also called the song a tribute to boot camp, saying the training paid off for the fictional Marine in the song.

“Because he was attacked and he killed everyone who tried to attack him instead of him getting killed,” Grossman said [...]

Belile said he gave producers permission to make a professional version of the song to support U.S. troops. “There’s a large number of people who like it and enjoy it because it’s a good song, and I’m hoping that those people will decide to purchase this song to support the troops,” he said.

But Ibrahim Hooper, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he expects the Marine Corps to reject the money because it has said the song is inappropriate. “Acceptance of the money would indicate approval of the source,” Hooper said.

Sure, right now the USMC is not accepting any money from sales of the song, but in the end, I won't be surprised to learn profits make their way to the Marines, or groups that support the troops. Heck, with the spokesman for a corps readiness division advising the music producers on where to donated their money, it won't be long before the profits benefit US soldiers.

These are some of "Hadji Girl's" obnoxious lyrics, and if you click here, you can watch a video of Belile performing his infamous song.

Then suddenly to my surprise
I looked up and I saw her eyes
And I knew it was love at first sight.

And she said...
Dirka Dirka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah

Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying...

Her brother and her father shouted...
Dirka Dirka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah

They pulled out their AKs so I could see

... So I grabbed her little sister and pulled her in front of me.

As the bullets began to fly
The blood sprayed from between her eyes
And then I laughed maniacally

Then I hid behind the TV
And I locked and loaded my M-16
And I blew those little fuckers to eternity.

And I said...
Dirka Dirka Mohammed Jihad

Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
They should have known they were fucking with a Marine.

I'm not sure any Iraqi charity would agree to take part of the profits, but in the interests of building much-needed understanding and tolerance between US occupying forces in Iraq and local citizens, it might be wise to split the song's profits between the Marines and Iraqis. How can any good come from the despicable song and the profit from its professional recording?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

New S.F. DPH AIDS Stats: Deaths Up, Diagnoses Down

The latest quarterly AIDS surveillance report from the San Francisco health department, through June 2006, was released last week and contained good and bad news. As always, when discussing and examining AIDS stats, bear in mind that figures are sometimes provisional and subject changing due to reporting delays with doctors and laboratories. That said, let's look at the new numbers.

AIDS diagnoses:

1996 / 1080
1997 / 806
1998 / 692
1999 / 578
2000 / 548
2001 / 499
2002 / 481
2003 / 519
2004 / 427
2005 / 372
2006 / 43

(Source: Tables 5 and 9)

AIDS cases reported:

1996 / 1246
1997 / 1061
1998 / 795
1999 / 726
2000 / 630
2001 / 498
2002 / 441
2003 / 534
2004 / 560
2005 / 519
2006 / 205

(Source: Table 9)

AIDS deaths:

1996 / 981
1997 / 413
1998 / 396
1999 / 352
2000 / 340
2001 / 318
2002 / 319
2003 / 298
2004 / 228
2005 / 241
2006 / 93

(Source: Table 9)

San Francisco has two AIDS categories, diagnoses and reported cases, to distinguish between full-blown AIDS cases with a lab confirmation of an opportunistic infection, versus reported cases where there may not be an opportunistic infection but the patient is disabled from HIV, or a lab report is delayed.

Regardless of the distinctions between categories, which per year can have wide discrepancies in their subtotals, the total numbers for both categories is exactly the same: 26,728 and 26,728. (Source: Table 9)

The good news I see here is a recent drop of cases reported and diagnoses, and the declines are occurring because of many factors; decreased viral loads, sero-sorting, safer sex behaviors, etc.

On the other hand, the increase of deaths is troubling and ought to be examined further by the health department, private doctors, community groups and people with AIDS. The jump in deaths may be happening because of an aging AIDS population, heart troubles and drug failures, and should be on the agenda at Ryan White CARE Council and HIV Prevention Planning Council.

The recent and sustained decreases in AIDS diagnoses and new HIV infections, in my opinion, can only be viewed as positive developments in the fight against AIDS, an opinion at odds with a few people who work for AIDS Inc and sit on the prevention council.

Minutes from the council's July 13 meeting, in the section about the decreases, reports this nugget of news:

"Some members expressed concerned that as numbers go down, we lose funding accordingly." (Source: Page 5)

Oh, boo-hoo-hoo! This sort of "it's so sad fewer people are contracting HIV or progressing to AIDS because our federal dollars, which pay our salaries, are at stake" attitude reveals a disturbing thinking within AIDS Inc and should evolve. Memo to AIDS Inc: HIV and AIDS declines are good for the public health and the gay community.

Friday, July 21, 2006

My New Gay Iranian Friend

In my report on San Francisco's July 19 vigil I mentioned meeting two gay Iranians, both of whom were very pleasing to the eye, especially the more mature, or so I thought, of the two. Bears with shaved heads get my juices flowing. Little did I know one of them would read my blog. Well, he has, and does he have a few things to say! Thanks, Stranje, for being at our action. It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope to run into you again. Be well, my friend.

On a political and social note, it's fantastic to learn that Supe Mirkarimi is opening up his City Hall office to Persians of all persuasions for his regular community art exhibits. Just love knowing our S.F. rally brought two Persians together, and they're creating a friendship.

Who says global gay activism isn't worth the time, effort and money spent? HRW and IGLHRC.

From Stranje's blog, which is a fascinating window into his life and loves:

July 21

As you all know, I went to the protest against Iran on Wednesday afternoon. It was a small gathering to protest Iran's government for hanging 2 gay boys, just for being gay and nothing else.

I meet with Ross Mirkarimi, a member of the board of supervisor, who happens to be half Iranian himself and Michael Petrelis, who set up the rally all over the world on that afternoon. When I introduced myself to Michael Petrelis, I thanked him for setting that up, and that I was half Iranian myself. He asked me if I would like to speak, but I really had nothing to say, so I declined.

The funny thing is when I went back to his Web Page yesterday to read up a bit more, he had a comment under the San Francisco section with a link to some Photos of the rally, and I am in it. And in his comments he puts down "Before we began, a gay Iranian in his late thirties, introduced himself and said he just learned about the action today and showed up. He declined my invitation to speak for a few minutes."

LATE THIRTIES????? I am not in my LATE THIRTIES. I have barely passed my mid thirties and this man is already pushing me towards the grave. Bastard. Hahahaha.

July 20

I went to a rally, or assembly, what ever you call it at the Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro yesterday. It was in regards to a couple of teen age boys that were hung in public in Iran last year for being gay.

It was a small group gathering there with a few speakers. One of them was Ross Mirkarimi who is a member of the board of supervisor in San Francisco and he is half Iranian. First one to be elected to public office in San Francisco. I got to talk to him for a bit and he invited me to a art show he likes to put on in his office to gather the Persians of San Francisco to meet and greet this Friday. Most likely I will show up there.

The Sisters in the Castro were there and one read a very beautiful poem that actually put tears in my eyes. After-wards I went up and thanked her for that and gave her a hug. As corny as it may sound, I felt moved.

I had never done anything like this before. It was a very small gathering but it still felt good to be a part of it.

You're the best, Stranje. So, would you like to help organize next year's July 19 international day against homophobia? Peace, my friend.
US Activist Supports Gay Latvia in Time of Trouble

In a message dated 7/24/2006 12:56:07 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Dear Mr. Petrelis,

Thank you very much for your email. As per your request your email has been transfered to authorities in Latvia.

With best regards,
Maris Selga

July 21, 2006

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Mr. Maris Riekstins
Embassy of Latvia
2306 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 328-2840
Fax: (202) 328-2860

Dear Ambassador Riekstins:

I wish to state my solidarity, as a gay American tremendously concerned about the human rights abuses of my brothers and sisters across our world, with gay Latvians and your country's gay human rights group Moziaka, as they respond to your government's denial of permits for a gay pride celebration.

The following letter of support for gay Latvians was sent to my colleagues in Riga, and I request you forward it to your government.

I will call you on Monday to follow up on this petition for Latvia to honor the right of gays to peaceably assemble in the streets of Riga this weekend.

Michael Petrelis
Co-Organizer, July 19 Day of Action for Gay Iran
San Francisco, CA

July 21, 2006

Dear Gay Friends and Family in Latvia:

I was greatly disappointed to read about Latvian authorities denying you the right to peaceably and publicly assemble in Riga for gay pride this year. From America's number one gay city, I extend strong support to you as gays in Latvia struggle for tolerance and respect of their human rights. A letter of protest will be sent to Latvia's ambassador to in Washington, DC, calling on him to convey to his superiors that America stands in solidarity with you. Gays in America will not be silent as your human rights are curtailed.


For info on Mozaika, Latvia's gay group organizing the pride festival, go here. Details on the festival are here. And UK Gay News has the story on the cancellation of the pride event.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Reports, Pix from July 19 Cities

This photo was received from Tehran by our friends with the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization and they've shared it with us. Call me a big baby, but the photo, with only hands shown lighting a candle and a strip of the rainbow flag amid the burning candles, made me cry. Thanks very much, gay Iranians, for allowing us the opportunity to call attention to your plight.

UPDATE, August 22:

Here is a breakdown of locations for this year's July 19 actions. Also, scroll down for the latest photos added to this post, which come from Stockholm and Toronto.

Four continents:

North America
South America

Fifteen nations:

The Netherlands
United Kingdom
United States of America

Twenty-seven cities:

The Hague
Mexico City
New York
Salt Lake City
San Diego
San Francisco
Sioux Falls

Now, on to the reports and more photos!

From Kurt Krikler in Vienna:

About 40 people gathered today in front of the “Iran Air” office in downtown Vienna to protest against the execution of gays in Iran in particular, against the death penalty in general, in Iran and other countries, against the total ban on homosexuality in Iran and everywhere else. In the context of the protest, HOSI Wien also demanded that Austria grant asylum to gay and lesbian refugees from Iran and other countries with a total ban on homosexuality and must not deport gays and lesbians to such countries.

For two minutes, the protesters also blocked the Ringstraße in front of the State Opera, with a huge banner denouncing the killings of gays in Iran. Fotos from HOSI Wien are posted here.

Andrew Sullivan writes from P-town:

A small but distinguished band of men and women joined me in Ptown for an hour this evening. The beagles came, rendering the vigil less than completely silent, but we made our quiet point. A constant stream of street traffic kept stopping to look, frown, gasp, and occasionally asking for information. Writer Michael Cunningham came; the artists Chet Jones and Denny Camino and photographer Norma Holt came. And then a few of us wandered up to the tea dance to remind the revelers that others aren't so lucky.

From Nikolai Alekseev in Moscow:

The event was the first public action of the Russian gay and lesbian community after the May 27th banned gay pride.

Around 20 gays, lesbians and human rights activists from different groups attended the event. Like during the Gay Pride in May, the main Russian Human Rights Group declined to join. Some individuals were also seen supporting the demonstrators. In fact, the organizers explained that they decided to remain discreet after they got the positive reply from the authorities. The event was not advertised in the medias to avoid its cancellation by the authorities. [...]

Lots of photos now posted. Click here.

Rick Rosendall reports from Washington, DC

An information table was set up on the south side of the Dupont Circle fountain, with posters of the 19 July 2005 hangings of Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari on display against the side of the fountain. The banner of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance was stretched on the ground below the posters, with a collection of candles below that. 58 people signed a petition expressing their solidarity with Iran's persecuted LGBT community, and many people filled a notebook with messages of support, which were to be transcribed into an email to be sent to the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization. After the spoken remarks, which are transcribed below, people lit candles and there was a moment of silence. [...]

Lukasz Palucki checks in from Warsaw:

First pics here:

We had 30 people. I will send you more pics and our statement tomorrow. It was very interesting. Embassy of Iran prepared specially for us, table with materials that Iran respects Human Rights.

(tired) Lukasz

Our pal Lars provides an update from Mexico City:

These are the first pictures from the 19th of July event in ContempoBar in Mexico City: click here.

An English summary of the event, which had 4 prominent speakers and aproximately 45 engaged participants, will be published tomorrow. One Spanish article was published today. A second with more photos will appear tomorrow. Here's the introduction:

Tarde lluviosa de miércoles. Más de 40 personas nos dimos cita para conmemorar y reflexionar en solidaridad con Mahmoud Asgari y Ayaz Marhoni, dos adolescentes que fueron ejecutados en público en la ciudad de Mashad, al este de Irán exactamente el 19 de julio de 2005. Más de una veintena de ciudades en el mundo exigimos respeto a la dignidad y a la integridad de los seres humanos en todo el planeta. Así empezó el evento, una mesa redonda denominada "No Sólo Debemos Vivir y Olvidar", que contó con la presencia de tres oradores: Alonso Hernández Victoria, de la ENAH; el Psic. Saúl Beltrán Leyva, de la Agrupación Humanista Demócrata José María Luis Mora; y el Maestro Eloy Rivas, Subdirector del Programa de VIH-SIDA y Derechos Humanos, de la Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH).

My notes from our event in San Francisco:

Our vigil and speak out here hit all the right notes for me. At the height of our hour-long event, we had 60 people. Very happy the city provided us with a speaker system and that the speakers addressed matters of grave concern. We heard from Iranian American SF Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi; Lance Lindsey, director of Death Penalty Focus; Bevan Dufty, Pastor Robert Goldstein of St. Francis; Scott Oswald from the Mayor's office; yours truly, and The Sisters performed their magic blessing for the crowds gathered round the world today. Clinton Fein took our pictures and shares them on his site.

Before we began, a gay Iranian in his late thirties, introduced himself and said he just learned about the action today and showed up. He declined my invitation to speak for a few minutes. Afterwards, I made the acquaintance of another gay Iranian, about 23 or 24-years-old. He also only recently learned about the rally. I told him how sorry I was I didn't know this, because I would have invited him to speak. And the last thing he wanted was to speak to a crowd about being gay and Iranian!

Thanks to all who showed their solidarity with us and gays EVERYWHERE today.

Gay youth leader Michael Barron tells what took place in Dublin:

The protest here went really brilliantly yesterday. There were about 300 people there with banners, placards and loud voices!

The meeting was organised by the BeLonG To youth project. Oisin O'Reilly from BeLonG To addressed the meeting saying, "Mahmmoud and Ayaz were born in Iran and they were executed for who they were and how they loved."

Reports that they were executed for the rape of a 13-year-old were dismissed by Colm O'Gorman, founder of One-In-Four, who also addressed the meeting saying, "Iranian officialdom would have us believe that these two children, and they were children, were executed for the rape of a 13-year-old. There's extensive evidence to completely dismiss that assertion. These two boys were in some type of loving relationship. It's also clear they were involved with a group of other teenagers who identified as gay. There's a suggestion that a family member reported their relationship which resulted in their arrest and execution."

Senator David Norris complimented the "brilliant group" BeLonG To for their work and said "The one thing I regret about this demonstration is that it is not right outside the Iranian embassy to let them know what we think about them and their filthy work."

Photos available. Click here.

Our friends at UK Gay News tell about London's event:

The two exiled gay Iranians who were due to be at the House of Commons yesterday evening for a “protest meeting” on homophobic and other persecutions in Iran pulled out at the last moment. Explaining their absence, Peter Tatchell of Outrage! said that it “Spoke volumes” as to the reason for the meeting.

“One is too frightened to come this evening as he feels his attendance might adversely affect his asylum application now with the Home Office,” Mr. Tatchell said.

“The other was scared that the Iranian regime would find out he was here – and that could cause a problem for his family in Iran.” [...]

Mr. Tatchell then told of an email he had received from inside Iran which said the regime has gone on the offensive and are condemning the international day of action. [...]

Stephen Barris reports from Brussels:

15 groups endorsed the vigil that was organised yesterday evening at 8 pm in front of Brussels Stock Exchange. Our slogans were: "Legal in Belgium; Death Penalty in Nine Countries" and "Decriminalize Same Sex Everywhere. Now!"

Andy Humm shares this note with us from NYC:

About 100 LGBT activists and our supporters gathered at the Iranian mission to the UN on Third Avenue and 40th St. to protest the ongoing executions of gay people in Iran.

IGLHRC dumped their sponsorship of this vigil at the 11th hour on Friday--long after it had been advertised to the public by Gay City News and our Gay USA cable TV show and with no time to inform readers and viewers that IGLHRC believed the best way to be in solidarity with worldwide protests of Iran's anti-gay regime was to have a "dialogue" about it in Greenwich Village. They also scheduled their forum AGAINST the time of the vigil.

I addressed the crowd briefly, emphasizing our demands that the horrible mistreatment of gay people in Iran end, that other countries--including ours--grant asylum to gay Iranian refugees, and, most emphatically, that we oppose the Bush saber-rattling over Iran. Ann Northrop read the letter from the gay Iranian groups. The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of NY, spoke about their truly international commitment to LGBT issues. [...]

From what I've heard about the "dialogue" downtown at the LGBT Center, IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch ran a kangaroo court condemning all of us for our Western insensitivity, prompting someone in the audience to say, "So what you seem to be telling us is that there is nothing we can do to help the situation." A more objective report on their forum will appear in the Gay City News in a day or two.

All in all, I'll put our left credentials at this action--assembled in a few short days--up against anything IGLHRC is doing.

We could use HELPFUL suggestions for action from IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch, not condescending guilt trips. We refuse to be silent when gay people are being oppressed anywhere.

Photo taken by Joe Jervis, who has posted more pix on his blog.

Randy Wicker's video report from HRW and IGLHRC's dissident meeting in NYC:

Sparks flew when a representative of Human Rights Watch and an independent Iranian-American filmmaker criticized stories in Gay City News, one of the USA's most respected journals, as being "bad reporting" which was based on second and third-hand reporting. Scott Long from Human Rights Watch said descriptions of intensified harassment of gays in Iran could not be verified. Editor Paul Schindler angrily defended articles by reporter Doug Ireland which insisted two teenagers were hung in Iran simply because of their sexual orientation and consensual sexual activities. The independent Iranian-American filmmaker angrily criticized Gay City News and the American gay press in general for covering events in Iran in a way that was "really more about what is happening in this country". He said American gays demanding American forces "protect" Iraqi gays was "the worst thing" imaginable because it caused them to become identified with the occupying forces. The arguments reflected a complex mixture of sexual & cultural global politics.

From our organizer in the Windy City, Andy Thayer:

Chicago’s protest took place in front of Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue.

Besides Iran, public executions of gay people have regularly taken place in U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia, and a leading Iraqi Shi’ite cleric closely allied with the U.S. recently issued a fatwa calling for the killing of all gays.

Despite the barbarity of the clerical regime in Iran, we will not allow our protests to be used as a pretext for war. “Even as we oppose these executions, it must be clear that we also oppose threatened military attacks on Iran by the United States or a surrogate such as Israel,” said GLN's Bob Schwartz. “Such attacks would only make matters worse for Iranian gays and non-gays alike. Bombing gay and non-gay people in Iran is the antithesis of helping them."

Towards the end of the protest, we confronted anti-gay bigots who were harassing people going to a concert being held in conjunction with the Gay Games.

More photos posted here.

Our San Diego organizer Michael Mussman shares his report with us:

We expereinced a breakthrough in community activism when 13 citizens gathered together to commemorate the lives of Mahmoud and Ayaz, the two teen boys hanged in Mashhad on July 19, 2005.

Participants met at the corner of a busy interstection downtown, in front of the US Federal Building and Courthouse, and beneath the shadow of NBC studios. We waved two huge posters -- blown-up photos taken of the victims at the site of the execution. Among us were a gentleman Kurdish expatriot and refugee, and a young gay student from Iran. A local pastor and several of our straight allies also appeared.

We received several friendly honking horns from drivers passing by, and dozens of pedestrians took flyers, stickers, and asked questions. A report from ABC 10 showed up to interview me, and the interview appeared on last night's local News at Eleven. We also welcomed a journalist from a small local newsmagazine, who took several pictures for his upcoming article.

Our buddy and organizer in The Netherlands, Mike Tidmus, will soon send us a report in English. Until then, we have photos to share from Amsterdam and notes in Dutch:

In Nederland werd bij het Homomonument woensdagavond een wake gehouden met sprekers namens het COC, de Persian Gay & Lesbian Organisation (PGLO) en de International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR).

Frank van Dalen, voorzitter COC Nederland, beklemtoonde in zijn toespraak bij het Homo-monument te Amsterdam, dat de executie van Mahhoud Asgari en Ayaz Marhoni in de Iraanse stad Mashad, duidelijk gemaakt heeft dat Iran een onveilig land is voor homoseksuelen.

De wake bij het Homomonument werd afgesloten door het oplaten van 1000 witte ballonen uit een wereldbol - symbool van het wereldwijde protest tegen de executie van Asagari en Marhoni en een teken van hoop voor de slachtoffers van dit soort van geweld tegen holebi's.

From COC about their action at the Iranian Embaassy in The Hague:

Eerder op de dag werd in Den Haag een petitie aangeboden aan de Iraanse ambassadeur. Daarin werd geprotesteerd tegen de onderdrukking en executies van homoseksuelen in Iran. De petitie werd mede aangeboden door John Blankenstein, bestuurslid COC Haaglanden - midden op de foto, en Henk Krol, namens de Stichting Vrienden van de Gaykrant - links op de foto.

Op dit moment rondt het ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken een nieuw ambtsbericht af over Iran. Op basis daarvan zal minister Verdonk in de komende weken een beslissing over de positie van Iraanse homoseksuelen (en christelijke) asielzoekers nemen.

COC Nederland heeft daarover op 19 juli overleg gevoerd met vertegenwoordigers van het ministerie.

Our friend Bill Schiller shares his report from Stockholm:

Some 30 demonstrators -- Swedes, Iranian refugees in Sweden and visiting from Germany -- outside the Iranian Embassy on a Stockholm Island. Banners condemning the hanging of homosexuals in Iran, posters with photos of the hanging.

Speakers: Swedish member of parliament from the lIberal Party, visiting German-based head of the International Iranian Refugee Council, a representative of the Swedish Iranian refugee council and yours truly, representing Tupilak & Nordic Homo Council -- also reading the 5 demands from Outrage.

Media coverage: One Stockholm newspaper with photo, national Swedish radio, Radio Sweden International in English, Swedish, German and Persian. Local Persian-language radio statons. Long article in Swedish gay website, QX.

(And strong praise from the 2 policemen and 1 police women commandeered to the event -- who had to very reluctantly move us down the street from the Embassy entrance when embassy officials called the police chiefs and demanded that the protesting, and mega-phoine chanting demonstratiors be moved away!)

Great working with you all! Sorry for the short delivery, but am off to Riga in a few hours. Will get a hold of the newspaper photo as soon as possible.

This report is from our Persian gay friends in Toronto:

On July 19th 2006, the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization held an event in Hart House, University of Toronto to commemorate the first anniversary of the two teenagers who were executed in Mashhad, Iran. The event attracted around sixty gay and lesbian activists and reporters from CBC, Fab Magazine, Extra Magazine, Shahrvand publication and Radio Farda.

Mr. Arsham Parsi, gave a brief talk in memory of the two teenagers who were unjustly sanctioned to death.

After him, Dr. Victoria Tahmsebi, a professor at the University of Toronto, gave her talk on the tragic situation of homosexual people in the homophobic society of Iran. She explained how Iranian homosexual people have to go through their lives with the constant fear of imprisonment, torture and death.

Ms. Niaz Salimi, the President of the Canadian Muslim Congress, was the next lecturer. She put the main focous of her lecture on lesbians’ experiences of discrimination. Lesbians, along with all other women who failed to conform to the patriarchal, heterosexual norm, were thought of as abnormal, and treated or punished accordingly.

The next speaker was Mr. Al-Farok Khaki, the President of Salam Organization, which is a Muslim Queer Organization. Mr. Khaki gave a historical overview of Salam’s origins and activities. Salam was originally founded in the City of San Francisco in 1993 as a Muslim Queer Organization with the purpose of raising awareness about issues of sexuality among Muslims, and challenging the often unquestioned presumptions about Quranic condemnation of homosexuality.

The final speaker was Mr. Glen Murray, the former mayor of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Mr. Murray was the first openly gay mayor in a large North American city. He expressed his deep concern for millions of homosexual people who are under systematic oppression and discrimination, and subjected to violence and extermination.


Our favorite journalist Doug Ireland shares this photo with us from our good friends in Marseilles, where 15 gay and progressive organizations demonstrated in solidarity with all the other world cities on July 19. No report yet from the French organizers.

Why, you may be wondering, does Moscow's action merit a second photo? One reason: A photo from the Russian action ran on the Reuters news wire! Reuters explains the photo:

A gay rights activist stands with a poster reading 'No to Violence in Iran!, Stop Cruelty and Death!' as gay rights activists protest against the hanging of homosexuals in Iran, in front of the Iranian embassy in Moscow, July 19, 2006. REUTERS/Anton Denisov

The brave members of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization share new photos with us, from their homes. The first is from Esfahan, Iran, and seeing that our brothers and sisters in their country not only lighted candles, but they also placed them in windows, facing the world.

And this is from Shiraz, Iran. Thanks PGLO and all gay Iranians for showing your solidarity on July 19.

(No photo)

The fine people at Seattle Gay News share this report:

Short notice and record hot summer sun limited the turnout at the July 19th solidarity event in Seattle. But about a dozen people participated. Bill Dubay, longtime local activist read an excellent statement from the Washington State Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The statement cited the often used death penalty to deny rights to oppressed groups; people of color, low economic status and in some cases, “simply having affection for someone of the same sex, being gay.”

Chrissey spoke as a transgendered person about concerns with the Bush administration and the need for change. George Bakan, longtime senior editor at the Seattle Gay News gave a report on the events around the world in solidarity with the issue.

There were flowers, candles and posters at the free speech plaza in front of Seattle Central Community College, in the gay community neighborhood on Broadway, called Capitol Hill. All participants vowed to continue work on the issue and to promote it earlier for next year to build participation. Even a group of students studying there for their online management degree agreed to chip in and help out more.

A letter voicing concerns to the Iranian government is also in process from the Seattle city council, under the efforts of the openly gay council member Tom Rasmussen.

And from way, way south of the USA's border, comes this dispatch:

Hi, I just wanted to add a little report of our activity here in Bogota, Colombia.

Volunteers from the gay rights organization Colombia Diversa collected around 600 signatures on a petition calling for an end of torture against LGBT persons in Iran. The petitions were delivered to the Iranian Embassy in Bogota with a copy of our complaint sent to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Relations.

Much more information about us is posted here. Attached is a photo of a Colombia Diversa volunteer.

Thanks for everything,
Andrew Dier

One of the last-minute cities to announce it would participate, Tulsa, provides a report and a video:

Our fantastic organizer in Oklahoma, Laura Belmonte, sends word that nearly twenty concerned citizens made it to their vigil that took place after the sun went down.

She doesn't have a photo to share, but says a two-minute clip of the Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights candle light ceremony is available on the web, with Laura linking local gay and progressive concerns to some of the horrible conditions gays in other parts of the world must endure. Check out this tape from America's heartland: click here. For lots more imfo on TOHR's advocacy work and programs, visit their home on the web.

Gay youth organizer Jon Hoadley shares this report from Sioux Falls, South Dakota:

More than a dozen people gathered at Calvary Cathedral to take a moment and remember the one-year anniversary of the hanging of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, two gay Iranian teens executed for being gay. The candlelight vigil was one of many similar event around the world coordinated by OutRage! and the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). The Sioux Falls event was sponsored by the local gay community center and St. Matthew the Martyr.

After remembering the Iranian victims, we also took time to remember victims of homophobia in America. We noted that according to hate crime statistics tracked by the FBI, in 2004 over 1,200 hate crimes due to a person's sexual orientation were reported. Currently, South Dakota does not have a law prohibiting hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

From gay youth leader Fabio of ArciGay comes a report from Italy:

Thirty people gathered in Milan for a public ceremony made to remember the history of two gay teenagers hanged in Iran one year ago. Activists from many LGBT organization gathered in front of the Italian Offices of the European Commission.

We handed out a declaration saying "after one year little has changed. Youngsters in Italy, in the Europe, in the whole world are still forced to grow up in severe conditions where their dignity, human rights and lives are violated on a daily basis. In light of these situations, public and institutional reaction is often silence or little action for change. We claim our concrete actions make many differences and honor diversity, so that one day there are no more causes of discrimination. We honor the different people and elements that enrich our society."

During the demonstration we protested against "guilty silence which surrounds violence against LGBT people" and we called upon our national and international institutions to protect and recognise social value of diversity, to combat discrimination and promote respect of human rights for gays and all people.

Our ceremony was endorsed by the European youth campaign, "All Different - All Equal," a campaign to increase cultural diversity, human rights for everybody and increased education, which is supported by the Council of Europe for 2006-2007.

Our gay brother and organizer to the north, Finn Kovaltsenko, sends word that a handful of people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery for a speak out about gays in Iran, the two gay victims hanged last year and the need to organize for all gays and lesbians across the planet. The activists lit candles in solidarity with all the other vigils taking place on this day.


July 19 actions and vigils also occurred in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Gloucester, UK, but I've not received written reports yet from our friends and organizers in those cities. Once those reports come in, they will be posted here.

Monday, July 17, 2006

July 19 = Salt Lake City, Gloucest & Milano

From Doug Ireland:

Milan is the 24th city worldwide to announce an event as part of July 19, the International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran.

The Milan event is being organized by the youth section of ARCIGAY, Associazione lesbica e gay Italiana, and will take place in Milan at 18:30 h. (6:30 P.M.) at Corso Magenta 39, in front of the palace where the European Union Commission representatives have their Milan offices.

Fabio Saccà, the youth coordinator for ARCIGAY, reports, "Many delegations of youth NGOS addressing minority issues will join and endorse the event, including the Italian Muslim Youth Association. The event is meant to be not only an occasion to celebrate history or to assert rights and protection for LGBT people in Iran, but also serve as a bridge for intercultural cooperation among youth organizations. This event will take place under the framework of the newly-launched European Youth Campaign: All Different, All Equal. ("

Contact for the Milan July 19 event: Fabio Saccà,
Telephone 39-349-1777021

For a complete and continually updated list of cities around the globe
with actions scheduled for July 19, click here.

From Andy at UK Gay News:

Michael …

The Gloucester “gig” is a very small one in the scale of things worldwide. But it is the only one in the UK that I know of outside the high profile “House of Commons” meeting on Wednesday.

The Venue is: The Coach and Horses “gay” pub, Saint Catherines Street, Gloucester.
Time: from 8pm

They already have a petition going and will be having a minute’s silence to remember Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni and other executed/persecuted gay Iranian men and women.

Gloucester is a small “backwoods” city in the English “West Country” – population 100,000. It is the birthplace of John Staffod Smith who famously wrote a popular song some 300 or more years ago that is now the tune to the American national anthem!

From Salt Lake City:

Candlelight Vigil
Wednesday, July 19
6:30 PM

On July 19, 2005, Iranian officials executed two teenage boys in the city of Mashad in northeastern Iran. It was first reported that the boys were convicted of homosexuality. Prior to their execution, the teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severly beaten with 228 lashes. The executioners, fearing reprisals, wore masks and anti-riot forces were mobilized to prevent outbreaks of public protests. Ironically, the boys were hanged in Edalat (Justice) Square.

Please join us at the GLBT Community Center Youth Activity Center on Wednesday, July 19 at 6:30 PM for a candlelight vigil to honor the memory of these youth who were executed just one year ago.

The Youth Activity Center is located at:
The Center, 355 North 300 West in Salt Lake City

This event is open to all ages, so please come and show your support. For more information, please contact Rachel McNeil:

July 19 = Tulsa, OK, and Iran UN Mission Vigil Revived

For the updated full list of cities organizing actions and vigils, including the latest new city, Tulsa, click here.

Doug Ireland shares with us good developments from Oklahoma and New York City:

Tulsa, Oklahoma has become the 22nd city to join the July 19 International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran. A Solidarity with Gay Iranians vigil has been organized by Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights (TOHR) at 8:30 p.m., July 19th at the Tulsa County Courthouse Place. Contact is Laura A. Belmonte, Ph.D., President, Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights, mobile 918-906-2134.

In New York City, an ad hoc committee has taken over organizing the July 19 demonstration at the Iranian Mission to the U.N. (622 Third Avenue at 40th St., 5:00 PM) after IGLHRC's withdrawal from its promise to organize this demo. The committee is in formation, and many more names are expected in the next 24 hours, but initial endorsers of the New York July 19 action include:

Endorsers (list in formation; * affiliations for identification purposes

Andy Humm and Ann Northrop, Gay USA cable TV news

Walter Armstrong, POZ magazine*

Doug Ireland, journalist

Sandy Rapp, lesbian feminist singer/writer

Doric Wilson, playwright

Church Ladies for Choice

Allen Roskoff, president, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club

Darren Rosenblum, Associate Professor, Pace Law School

Lawrence D. Mass, M.D., physician, writer, activist, co-founder of Gay Men's
Health Crisis*

Arnie Kantrowitz, professor emeritus, College of Staten Island, CUNY, and
author, “Under The Rainbow: Growing Up Gay”

Sean Strub, founder, POZ magazine

Kenneth Sherill, Professor, Political Science, Hunter College, CUNY*

Wayne Besen, Executive Director, Truth Wins Out

Rev. Pat Bumgardner, pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of NY

Rick Shur

Andrew Berman

Frank Jump, educator, artist, activist

Rosario Dawson, actor and activist

Vincenzo Aiosa, Same-sex marriage activist

Sunday, July 16, 2006

IGLHRC's Five UN Complaints on Iran's Gay Hangings

Ms. Paula Ettelbrick
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
New York, NY

Dear Paula,

In preparation for San Francisco's July 19 demonstration about Iran hanging two gay teenagers last year, I looked over some of your group's work on gays in Iran, including a column you wrote for Gay City News and a story that ran on a UN news feed service last fall.

Excerpts from your column show in October you submitted complaints and documents to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions, U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Nine months later, I wonder what responses you may have received from these four UN agencies. Have the four agencies taken any action? If they have, are you satisfied with the UN's reports or actions, or lack thereof, on the hanging of the two gay teens last year?

Furthermore, in your quotes in November to the IRIN News Service, you say you again approached the UN with demands on the world body to investigate new reports from Iran about more hangings of homosexuals.

I would like to know how the UN responded to your demands. Hopefully investigators were sent to Iran and examined the charges and circumstances of the executions carried out against homosexuals.

Based on your column and the UN news feed, it appears you have at least five complaints and demands for investigations about the executions and over all mistreatment of Iranians homosexuals, complaints filed months ago.

Also, the news feed says IGLHRC is following up on claims of ninety-two hangings and death sentences in the early fall. What has your follow up work shown?

As I prepare remarks for my speech at Harvey Milk Plaza in three days, I realize I'd like to say something positive about IGLHRC's work at the UN on behalf of gay Iranians, and a status report from you on your five complaints would be most helpful.


Gay City News
October 06 - 12, 2005

Working in Coalition
By Paula Ettelbrick

[...] IGLHRC immediately reported the cases in Iran to key human rights experts employed by the United Nations. The job of these U.N. experts is to investigate the cases and demand that Iran’s government be made to answer for its clear violation of human rights laws. We took this step as we often work as a bridge between activist groups and the U.N. system that is supposed to be ensuring that countries adhere to human rights treaties that they sign.

We have raised the situation in Iran with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions so that he can build a case at the U.N. level. We have also raised the cases with the assistant to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, given his interest in pursuing sodomy cases, as in and of themselves they constitute arbitrary detention. We are instituting communications with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture. [...]

IRAN: Rights groups call on UN to investigate executions based on sexual orientation

U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
November 30, 2005

Human rights groups fighting for gay rights have called on the United Nations to act on reports of executions based on sexual orientation in Iran. [...]

In November the US-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLRHC) cited new reports from Iran that two young men who had been hanged in public in the northern city of Gorgan may have been executed because of their sexual orientation, prompting the IGLRC to call on UN human rights experts to investigate such cases, while demanding government accountability for any violation of human rights.

But according to Kahramananoglu, getting reliable information out of the country has proven difficult, while the IGLHRC is following up on information circulating that 92 hangings and death sentences had taken place in Iran within the past four and a half months alone, a 16 November statement by the group said.

“We are alarmed at these latest hangings and call for an immediate investigation by the UN and national human rights monitors,” stated Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC. “It’s clear that a pattern is emerging in which young men are executed as couples and that the crimes they allegedly committed always involve some form of sexual assault of another male.”

Public executions, in and of themselves, are considered to be cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law and the IGLHRC has long documented specific conditions in Iran involving clear violations of human rights law, the statement read. [...]

“When the first reported executions came to our attention in July, it was nearly impossible to determine whether the two men were executed because of their sexual orientation,” continued Ettelbrick. “But this pattern that we have identified, along with the extraordinary increase of public death sentences being carried out under this new government, requires a response not just from the global LGBT community but from all human rights advocates.” [...]

Saturday, July 15, 2006

July 19 = Dublin & Death Penalty Focus in S.F.

Top o' the mornin' to all you fine lads and lasses out there endorsing and planning on joining July 19's actions.

The good people at the Death Penalty Focus organization here in San Francisco, who were very supportive of our vigil in 2005 for gay Iranians and against the death penalty, are again helping us.

The group's executive director, Lance Lindsey, will speak at our rally on July 19 at 5 pm at Harvey Milk Plaza. Not only that, but the organization will again loan us their enormous anti-death penalty banner, calling for an end to executions. As you probably recall from photos of San Francisco's gay Iran vigil in August 2005, the signs and anti-death penalty message of Lindsey's group look great in snapshots and on videos.

So come hear Lance Lindsey talk on July 19!

And the number of cities participating in this international day against homophobia and an end to executions, added one more to the list. This bit o' good news comes from Doug Ireland:

Dublin, Ireland just became the 21st city to schedule an event on July 19, the International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran. The rally, to take place in Dublin City Centre, is organized by the BeLonG To Youth Project, an Irish gay youth organization.

"We hope that these events will draw much attention to human rights abuses of LGBT young people in Iran and elsewhere," BeLonG To Youth Project's Michael Barron said in an e-mail to the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO). "At the demonstration LGBT groups from throughout Ireland will gather with banners and placards and will be addressed by some very high profile public figures, including Senator David Norris," Barron added, concluding: "We want you to know that we are standing in solidarity with you and all Iranian LGBT people."

For more details on the Dublin demonstration, BeLonG To Youth Project can be contacted at or telephone 01-8734184 in Dublin.

In the U.S., the July 19 Day of Action has also just been endorsed by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy.

For background information and an up-to-date list of cities worldwide participating in the July 19 Day of Action, click on Doug Ireland.

Of course, the updated list of July 19 cities is here. If your city or town is not on this list, please consider organizing a vigil. Join us!

Friday, July 14, 2006

NYT: Human Rights Advocates Raise Pressure on Iran

These are excerpts from Friday's New York Times story about a new effort to bring forth democratic changes in Iran, led by advocate Akbar Ganji. It was authored by Nazila Fathi from Tehran:

Human rights advocates in Iran and abroad are increasing their pressure on the Iranian government over a crackdown in recent months on human rights advocates and other protesters. [...]

Separately, students in Iran and groups of Iranians abroad have announced a three-day hunger strike, to begin on Friday, to draw attention to what they said was President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies “that are reminiscent of some of the darkest days of the Islamic Republic.”

The call for a hunger strike was initiated by Akbar Ganji, a rights advocate who was released in March after being imprisoned for five years and who is in the United States. [...]

The group also criticized the government for using the police to break up protests by such diverse groups as bus drivers seeking a raise, advocates of women’s rights and Sufis protesting government order in February to evacuate their place of worship on a legal technicality that they said was a pretext to keep them from practicing their kind of Islam.

“In such an atmosphere, Iran’s democracy movement calls for the unity and support of people of conscience from around the world,” said the statement of the people in New York and Toronto calling for a hunger strike.

Help Fund Efforts to Address Plight of Gay Iranians

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, I'm a one-person blogger and activist force who receives no government, non-government organization or corporate donations. Despite my paucity of funds, I've still managed to work in coalition with dozens of activists across the globe to make July 19 a day of international gay activism to publicize and address the horrific treatment of gay Iranians.

I now turn to you to solicit funds to print flyers and posters publicizing San Francisco's July 19 vigil and speak out for gay Iranians. Fund are also urgently needed to make international telephone calls to help coordinate and achieve maximum media exposure from the global network of such events that will take place that day.

Political artist Clinton Fein has created compelling posters for our San Francisco event, one of which is posted here, yet I lack the money to print them, put them up around town, and purchase foam core so that the posters can also be used as placards
during next week’s action. Without your donations, the posters will go to waste.

I've asked several mainstream nonprofits for financial assistance or use of their copiers and paper supplies, and requested the groups allow me to use their phones to call abroad. Unfortunately, my requests have been denied.

With no funding available for printing and international phone calls, I am turning to you and ask that you make a donation, which would enable me to run off hundreds of flyers and staple or glue them to bus shelters and lampposts, place in store windows, etc.

If you want to support my efforts here in San Francisco to do everything I can to turn our July 19 action into an event with many of people in attendance and great signs for the news media to shoot for their stories, please make a donation today via PayPal.

Don't be shy. Even a $5 or $10 contribution will be appreciated and put to good use.

If a lot of other folks ante up amounts big or small, I'll be able to put the funds to great use. Heck, with no money other than loose change from my own pocket, I
have helped assemble with other activists a day of coordinated international gay street activism throughout the world. Just think of what other wonderful actions can be accomplished with just a bit of funding!

Please make your PayPal donation today on behalf of this action by clicking on the white PayPal icon and link below. If you prefer to send a check, email me,, and I'll send you my postal mail address.

And please join us on Wednesday, July 19 at 5 pm at Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco, or at one of the other worldwide actions next week. Click here for the updated list of cities.

Feel free to contact me with any queries about the event, the ramped up oppression experienced by gay Iranians, or my fundraising efforts, or to lend a hand in the city-wide media blitz I hope to undertake. Your support will help give at least a small degree of hope and comfort to gay Iranians.

Thanks for your support!

Ph: 415-621-6267

Thursday, July 13, 2006

July 19: Change in location and focus of IGLHRC event

Hi Michael,

Here’s the update from IGLHRC. I’ve emailed Paula and let her assistant know that you are available to talk tomorrow morning 9-10 am PST. I’ve also left a message and emailed Geoffrey and suggested that he give you a call today if possible. I’ve also forwarded to them your request to list the cities and details of the other events.

If I can be of further assistance at this time, please give me a call.

Thanks for your patience.



Ellen Vaz
Communications Coordinator
Tel: 212.229.0540
Fax: 212.229.0749

For Immediate Release
July 13, 2006
Media Contact: Geoffrey Knox: 212-229-0540
Staff Contact: Lisa Levy: 212-430-6019

July 19: Change in location and focus of IGLHRC event

WHAT: The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Human Rights Watch (HRW), National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center and SoulforceNYC invite all interested advocates to participate in Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: Human Rights, Iran, and LGBT Advocacy, a community dialogue about the persecution faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Iran and how activists in the West can responsibly engage in supporting our colleagues in Iran as well as Iranian LGBT people in New York and elsewhere.

WHO: Speakers include:

Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of IGLHRC
Parvez Sharma, Director of the new documentary film, “In the Name of Allah”
Hadi Ghaemi, Iran Researcher, Human Rights Watch
Scott Long, Director of LGBT Rights Program, Human Rights Watch

Moderated by Hossein Alizadeh, IGLHRC

WHY: Numerous reports and stories of persecution faced by gay men and lesbians in Iran have been circulating. In particular, the executions of two young Iranian men last year on July 19 have been reported as gay-related deaths, prompting some activists to call for demonstrations in local communities to draw attention to these issues on the year anniversary of their hangings. This call raises important questions for human rights and LGBT advocates concerned about human rights violations globally, but unsure of how best to engage and respond.

How do we situate campaigns for LGBT rights in the context of other human rights issues such as the death penalty and women’s rights?
How do we respond in situations where facts are contested and documentation difficult?
What are the responsibilities--and dangers--for Western campaigners wanting to think globally and act locally?
How do we avoid reinforcing stereotypes and playing into hostilities prompted by our own government?

These are not abstract questions or ones relevant only to activists for sexual rights. While Iran will be emphasized in this discussion, the questions are relevant for all human rights advocates as we grapple with how global calls for justice can be made meaningful in the face of persecution and global hostilities.

While IGLHRC had initially offered to coordinate a public vigil to protest the use of the death penalty as a punishment for sexually-based crimes in Iran and elsewhere, conversations with colleagues have made clear that in New York City, dialogue, not demonstrations, would be the most productive way to build longer term strategies and understandings of how best to respond to human rights violations around the world.

WHEN: Wednesday, July 19, 2006
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

WHERE: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, 208 West 13th Street between 7th & 8th Ave, New York, New York

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

DC's Lambda Rising Gay Iran Window Display

Our July 19 organizer in Washington, Rob Anderson, persuaded the owner of Lambda Rising book store to put posters for the upcoming action in Dupont Circle in their window.

Kudos to Rob and Lambda Rising owner Deacon Maccubbin for doing their part in support of gay Iranians and our brothers and sisters around the globe.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Straight, Gay Iranians Join SF July 19 Vigil

For Immediate Release
July 10, 2006
Contact: Michael Petrelis
P: 415-621-6267

S.F. Announces Participation in Global July 19 Vigils for Gay Iranians

San Francisco, CA - Dozens of gays and their allies will gather on July 19 at 5:00 pm at Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro and Market streets, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Iran hanging two gay teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, with a vigil and protest.

Speakers will include Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, an Iranian American, Rev. Robert Goldstein of St. Francis Lutheran Church, Michael Petrelis, a longtime gay organizer against the death penalty, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will also participate. Gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty will serve as the moderator.

At the vigil, a letter from a closeted exile gay Iranian living in the Bay Area will be read to the crowd. He can't appear or speak in public, nor can he reveal his identity due to fear of reprisal and harassment from the Iranian government.

San Francisco is one of more than twenty cities in eleven countries holding July 19 speak outs and remembrances for the hanged Iranian teenagers, and also to show solidarity with the LGBT community in Iran. Actions are happening in Sioux Falls, Amsterdam, New York, Moscow, Sacramento, Vienna, San Diego, London, Washington, DC, and lots of additional locations.

The following statement came from Mayor Gavin Newsom, last year, when the hangings first were in the news: "I am both outraged and appalled by what can only be described as a most horrific atrocity effecting human lives in Iran. The hanging of two teenage boys for their alleged sexual orientation is an affront not only to justice but to all of our sense of humanity. Any one who lives in a civilized and free society must not take these events lightly. We must challenge the Iranian government to put an immediate end to these senseless killings. I proudly join in with all those who stand for freedom, liberty and true equality. We demand that the Iranian government cease these barbaric acts."

Organizers in San Francisco are also asking gay and human rights activists in cities where no vigils are yet scheduled for July 19, to step forward and pull together an action.
National Journal: Hillary, Gay Marriage & HRC

There's really not much more to add to what Kosner says about Sen. Clinton, is there? Her dervish ways of operating and sort of taking positions on hot-button issues, that please no one and Kosner's calling her on it.

With so much spinning and twisting from Clinton, and her supporters, including the Human Rights Campaign, the gay wing of the DNC, I feel like I've been on an amusement park Tilt-a-Whirl ride trying to figure out her stance on gay marriage.

From Monday's Blog-O-Meter column, published by the National Journal's web site:

CLINTON: Triangulator-In-Chief

Longtime gay rights activist and San Francisco resident Michael Petrelis takes Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) to task for not articulating a position on gay marriage while "in San Francisco, of all American cities." Petrelis quips: "This ain't leadership in my book. And speaking of books, I looked up 'triangulating wimp' in the dictionary and your name and photo were what I found."

Conservatives were also closely monitoring HRC's reaction to NY's gay marriage ruling. Right Angle Blog quotes an HRC spokesperson: "Senator Clinton supports full equality for people in committed relationships, including health insurance, life insurance and pensions, and hospital visitation and believes we have to keep working to reach those goals." RAB then comments: "Not exactly the Gettysburg Address of gay rights. Did she condemn the decision? Or does she support it? She could have been talking about anybody in a 'committed relationship,' including elderly heterosexual couples or Chelsea and her latest boyfriend."

Ed Kosner at lefty hang out The Huffington Post thinks trust is HRC's biggest liability: "Brains and focus aren't Hillary problem. For all her fervent admirers, there's so much twitchy calculation in her run for the Presidency that many, many people feel she simply can't be trusted. One moment, she's backing ridiculous legislation to ban non-existent flag-burning - a Bush lollypop for conservatives. The next, she's hiring a lefty blogger. ... Triangulation or cognitive dissonance? It hardly matters. ... To succeed...Hillary Clinton will have to stop being a dervish, find a groove - and stay in it."

Saturday, July 08, 2006

SF Chron: Hillary Silent on Gay Marriage Rulings

Hey, Hillary!

This ain't leadership in my book. And speaking of books, I looked up "triangulating wimp" in the dictionary and your name and photo were what I found.

For some reason, I doubt if you were in the Senate at the time when anti-miscegenation laws were challenged in the courts by civil rights advocates demanding marriage equality, you wouldn't seize the opportunity to weigh in on the matter, and probably in favor of eradicating such laws.

But in 2006, in San Francisco, of all American cities, you're silent on queer marriage. Now is not the time to not articulate a position on this issue.

And when will you voice concern for gays in Iran and the global gay vigils on July 19 marking the one-year anniversary of Iran hanging two gay teenagers? Surely you can oppose the hanging of homosexuals simply because they are gay, can't you? If you need the facts on the executions and the vigils, click here.

From Saturday's S.F. Chronicle:

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton -- widely considered a 2008 Democratic presidential favorite -- was surrounded in San Francisco on Friday by Democrats outspoken on the issue of same-sex marriage: a mayor who issued a landmark city decision to declare same-sex unions legal, a state assemblyman at the forefront of same-sex marriage legislation, and the party's pro-gay marriage candidate for governor.

But even standing alongside San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and state Treasurer Phil Angelides, the Democratic candidate for governor, on the morning after New York's highest court upheld a state ban on same-sex marriage, Clinton steadfastly ignored questions about the issue.

It was a marked contrast from a visit to San Francisco on a 1996 book tour, when the then-first lady expressed her views without reservation.

"Children are better off if they have a mother and a father,'' Clinton said in the San Francisco interview with the then-Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner. "My preference is that we do all we can to strengthen traditional marriage ... and that people engaged in parenting children be committed to one another.''

But Clinton refused to revisit the topic Friday morning at a meeting with reporters after a $1,000-a-person fundraiser for Angelides' campaign. But her views now appear surprisingly similar to those in a majority ruling from New York's highest court; the decision's author, Judge Robert Smith, suggested children are better raised in so-called traditional families.

Clinton's silence in the Democratic bastion of San Francisco highlighted how the issue of same-sex marriage still presents a political dilemma for Democrats. [...]

Speak up on gay marriage, Senator Clinton, if only because it is never acceptable for public officials to remain silent on important civil rights issues.

(Photo credit: AP/Eric Risberg)

Friday, July 07, 2006

July 19 = Seattle, Washington

George Bakan, publisher of the Seattle Gay News, which has been around for thirty-three years, and a longtime activist and my friend, has stepped forward to organize his city's July 19 action.

If you live in the Seattle area, please attend the vigil and speak out.

And if your city does not yet have a July 19 event in solidarity with gay Iranians scheduled, organize one!

Seattle has been added to the updated list, available here.

Seattle, Washington
Location: Seattle Central Community College Plaza, Pine and Broadway
Time: 7:00 pm
Contact: George Bakan,
Wash Blade: July 19 Gay Iran Actions Around the World

The Washington Blade today runs an excellent article by Lou Chibbaro on the amazing and ever-growing number of cities around the world where vigils and other events for gay Iranians are happening on July 19.

Excerpts from the Blade:

Gay rights advocates are expected to hold protest rallies and vigils in at least 20 cities in North America and Europe, including Washington, D.C., on July 19 to condemn what they say is the harsh and cruel treatment of gays in Iran.

The events, which are being billed as an “International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran,” are set to take place on the first anniversary of the hanging executions of two teenage males in the Iranian city of Mashad. [...]

The D.C. protest is scheduled to take place 5 p.m. inside Dupont Circle, according to organizer Rob Anderson, a gay journalist who writes for the New Republic Magazine.

In New York City, IGLHRC is expected to lead a 5 p.m. protest gathering in front of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations.

Other cities scheduled to hold protests include Fort Lauderdale; Provincetown, Mass.; San Diego; San Francisco; Sacramento; Vancouver; Toronto; Amsterdam; London; Stockholm; Marseilles; Moscow; Brussels; Mexico City; Warsaw; Frankfort; Berlin; and Vienna.

Tatchel and U.S. organizer Michael Petrelis of San Francisco have said they expect activists to announce protests in additional cities during the next week.

A list of the goals and demands of the protests released by Tatchell’s group calls for ending all executions in Iran, “especially the execution of minors; “an end to the arrest, torture and imprisonment of Iranian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and [the] repeal of the Iranian penal code’s criminalization of same-sex relationships;” an end to the deportation to Iran of “LGBT asylum seekers;” support for Iranians in their struggle for “democracy, social justice and human rights;” and the opposition to foreign military intervention in Iran. [...]

Parsi told organizers of the July 19 protests that the PGLO has asked its members in Iran to display lighted candles in their windows on that day to honor the memory of the two gay youths hanged a year earlier.

“That’s about all we can ask our members in Iran to do safely without bringing down persecution on their heads,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations in New York did not return a call seeking comment. [...]

If your city does not yet have a July 19 event in solidarity with gay Iranians scheduled, organize one!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sullivan, Ireland: From Inside Iran, a Gay Activist Speaks Out

Andrew Sullivan blogs today about Doug Ireland's interview with a gay activist inside Iran, which you should read and is available here. You know an issue is important and transcends left/right ideology when Sullivan and Ireland are demanding attention be paid to something, like global abuses against gays.

As many human rights and gay advocate worldwide know, July 19 is a day of international protests and vigils commemorating the one-year anniversary of Iran hanging two gay teenagers. Events are planned in dozens of cities.

For the updated list of July 19 cities, go here.

Here's the quote Sullivan excerpts from Ireland's talk with our gay brother in Iran:

"We've frequently observed that solely for the offense of same-sex love and sleeping together, people have been condemned to death by hanging or stoning - there have been many such executions carried out by the malicious and criminal Iranian regime ... Look, you must understand that, in Iran, if a homosexual falls in love, he has committed a grave crime: here, homosexual love equals death, the gallows and stoning. So, this is a major part of what I term the 'condemned's' life: he is oppressed and sinks into despair and self-hate and, in too many cases, ultimately opts for suicide... You who live serenely and comfortably on the other side of Iran's frontiers, be aware that those who think and feel and love like you do in Iran are executed for the crime of homosexuality, are assassinated, kidnapped, and barred from working in offices. You have festivals, and they prisons. You select Mr. Gay of the Year, but they don’t even enjoy the right to have gravestones. Be fair and tell us what difference there is between us and you. Isn't it time that all homosexuals around the world rise up and come to our defense?"

If your city does not yet have a July 19 event in solidarity with gay Iranians scheduled, organize one!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Can You Organize A July 19 Gay Iran Vigil?

Dear Gay Family, Friends and Allies Everywhere:

I am part of a group of gays around the world organizing vigils and press conferences on July 19 to mark the one-year anniversary of Iran hanging two gay teenage boys.

Actions are planned for many cities in the USA and Europe, but we still need additional cities and people to join us.

Can you and your gay group organize an event in your city on July 19?

It does not have to be a big demonstration, and it can be as simple as a handful of people lighting candles of hope for gay Iranians and gays everywhere.

We would love to add your area on our list of world cities participating in the July 19 actions for gay Iran.

For information on the global July 19 actions, go here.

And visit Doug Ireland's blog for a detailed article about gay Iranians and the day of protests.

Please let me know if you can help us and organize a vigil where you live. I hope to hear from you.

Michael Petrelis
Email: mpetrelis (At)
San Francisco, CA

[Updates on cities are here. Please link to this URL]

Here is the updated list of seven cities participating in the July 19 actions:

Location: Homo-Monument(Keizersgracht canal near Westerkerk)
Time: 10 P.M.
Contacts: René van Soeren of COC,, Mike Tidmus,

Location: To be announced
Time: To be announced
Contact: Lesben- und Schwulenverband in Deutschland e. V. or just LSVD,

Location: To be announced
Time: To be announced
Contact: Stephen Barris,

Fort Lauderdale
Location: To be announced
Time: To be announced
Contact: Michael James,

Location: To be announced
Time: To be announced
Contact: Lesben- und Schwulenverband in Deutschland e. V. or just LSVD,

Location: House of Commons, Committee Room 12
Time: 6:30 pm
Contacts: Peter Tatchell,
& Brett Lock,

Location: To be announced
Time: To be announced
Contact: Louis-George Tin,

Location: To be announced
Time: To be announced
Contact: Nicolas Alexeyev,

New York
Location: Iranian Mission to the UN, 622 Third Avenue
Time: 5:00 pm
Contact: Lisa Levy,

Location: Town Hall Square
Time: To be announced
Contact: Andrew Sullivan,

Location: Lambda Community Center, 1927 L Street
Time: 6:00 pm
Contact: Jerry Sloan,

San Diego
Location: U.S. Federal Building, 880 Front Street
Time: 4:00 pm
Contact: Michael Mussman,

San Francisco
Location: Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro and Market Streets
Time: 5:00 pm
Contact: Michael Petrelis,

Location: Iranian Embassy, Elfviksvägen Västra Yttringe gård Lidingö
Time: 5:00 pm
Contact: Bill Schiller and Tupilak,

Location: Not to be announced
Time: All day and evening
Contact: Arsham Parsi,

Vancouver, BC
Location: Vancouver Art Gallery - Robson Plaza
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Contact: Finn Kovaltsenko,

Location: Office of IranAir, A-Wien 1010 Opernring
Time: To be announced
Contact: Kurt Krikler,

Washington, DC
Location: Dupont Circle Fountain
Time: 5:00 pm
Contact: Rob Anderson,

The demand of the global 19 July protests is:

Iran: Stop Killing Gays! Stop Killing Kids!