“Kids born after the revolution are now much less religious than those born before the revolution,” said Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who was a vice president in the reformist Khatami government. “Those born before, or even during the revolution, their beliefs were voluntary.”
For eight years, Mr. Abtahi worked beside President Khatami in trying to lower the temperature of the government’s rhetoric while allowing a small increase in social freedoms, intended as a salve for a young population. The people in charge now say that the Khatami years threatened to destabilize the system.
But Mr. Abtahi smiles, a smile of redemption, and referred to the realities of human nature. “We have not been in power for two years, ” he said. “There should not be a single prostitute, there should not be a single bad hijab, not a single gay person. Two years have passed since they came to power, and we see their battle has intensified.” [Emphasis added.]
This quote raises a few questions for me, including, does Mr. Abtahi speak English and did he really use the word gay? The Times says nothing about speaking with him through an interpreter, so maybe he is proficient in English. Then again, the Times reporter could be fluent in Farsi and not need translators, right? If a translator assisted in the reporting and quoting, it would interest me to know what exactly was the Farsi word or phrase Mr. Abtahi said that was translated into "gay person."
I'll assume Mr. Abtahi either speaks excellent English, or the Times translator very accurately interpreted his word, because I want to make a political point and one that reinforces my outlook as a veteran global gay activist.
There is, in my opinion, a gay identity and growing universal meaning to the word gay in many cultures and languages, also in Iran, a country with a terrible record respecting the human rights, and basic dignity, of its gay citizens.
So for the time being, we can allow the gay word debate as it pertains to Iran to go on hiatus for a while, in consideration of Mr. Abtahi words as quoted in the Times and how Iranian LGBT advocacy groups and individuals call themselves gay.