Friday, August 31, 2007

Sen. Larry Craig, Despite Toilet Sex Scandal, Retains NRA Board of Directors Seat

(OFFICER: Okay, And then with the hand. Um, how many times did you put your hand under the stall? [...]

OFFICER: Okay. Was your was your palm down or up when you were doing that?

CRAIG: I don't recall

OFFICER: Okay. I recall your palm being up. Okay.

From the transcript of Craig's interview with the police)

Today is day five of the Larry Craig scandal and I'm somewhat surprised his membership on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association has not been delved into by the mainstream press.
Given how Craig was forced to step down by Senate GOP leaders from his senior committee posts, I'd expect someone in the corporate news media to pose a few questions to the NRA leaders, starting with does the gun rights organization plan to ask him to step down from the board?
And how does the NRA view one of its board members arrested for soliciting another male for sex in an airport restroom? Does Craig's continued presence on the NRA board help advance the organization's agenda before Congress and the American public?
In a sense, as a gay rights activist, I can easily see the positive aspect of the NRA keeping a toilet sex troll, who is probably bisexual, on the board. Unlike his GOP colleagues in the Senate who couldn't find a bus fast and big enough to throw him under this week, the NRA shows no signs of asking him to resign or further explain himself. Craig's sex life and resultant public scrutiny, not to mention condemnations from conservative quarters, are of no concern to the NRA.
It says something that at the end of this scandal-plagued week for Craig, the NRA has not publicly asked him to step aside, nor has the enormous membership expressed any outrage or concerns over the revelations this week.
Knowing what we do now about Idahomo Larry Craig's predilection for tearooms, and his NRA connection, I think the gay gun owners' group, the Pink Pistols, should extend an honorary membership to him.
Click here to read the NRA page for Craig. Anyone care to place a bet he won't be on the NRA board for much longer?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Japanese Gay Youth Organize Protest for Pegah at British Embassy in Tokyo

I'm feeling quite honored and somewhat humbled to receive this message from one of Pegah's supporters in the UK. All I've done is share information, links to photos and videos, reports from the incredibly beautiful activists in Rome and Paris, action alerts to write letters to the UK Home Secretary, and my work all appears to be adding up to something of benefit to Pegah.
But there's also a secondary feeling of genuine accomplishment I have today, assisting the advocates around the globe who are staging actions and writing letters and giving them coverage on my blog.
After we (hopefully) win Pegah asylum in Britain, one of the wonderful things to come out of this international grassroots effort on her behalf is connecting with other activists around the globe. It is my deep desire that we all remain in touch, and coordinating future actions, once we know Pegah will not be returned to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
A word of advice to Frances in Sheffield and all other persons concerns about Pegah: keep sending me your updates and emails!
From the UK:
In a message dated 8/28/2007 2:39:54 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Michael

Even though we started Pegah’s campaign here in Sheffield we have to look at your blog to see what is going on worldwide. Thank you so much for all your support and work on Pegah’s behalf.

Here is some information and pictures from Japan

Best wishes

Frances Wells and other Friends of Pegah in Sheffield
It gives me great honor to share on my blog a report about recent actions in Japan for Pegah, along with photos of a demonstration held at the British embassy in Tokyo and links to a site with fantastic videos of our LGBT activist brothers and sisters preparing for and staging their protest. Click here to visit the Japanese pics and vids.
Many big thanks to the youth leaders organizing the embassy protests in Rome, Paris and Tokyo, and to all the LGBT everywhere involved in Pegah's campaign.
A report on the actions in Tokyo:
Subject: Support for Pegah is growing in Japan

Hi all,

I just want to let you know about our campaign in Japan and I would like this information to be published/mentioned wherever possible. (Please let me know if you do so and feel free to edit)

If you need more information please get back to me. I live in UK and I am translating news into Japanese on our Japanese campaign blog in order to
pass the information to Japanese people.

If you have any messages or news to Japanese supporter, please send me a message and I will translate into Japanese.

On August 27, a petition with 207 signatures calling for the British Government to grant asylum to Pegah Emambakhsh was delivered to the British Embassy in Tokyo, by a group of Japanese supporters. They also handed in a petition to the Foreign Ministry to ask the Japanese government to take action on this case. A visible appeal was made outside the British Embassy and Foreign Ministry by the group of supporters holding message boards.

Following the visit to the British Embassy, in a conversation the next day, it was confirmed to the group that the petition we submitted had been faxed to the Foreign Office in the
UK. It was also confirmed that it would be brought to the attention of the British Ambassador in Japan.
A spokesperson in the Foreign Ministry informed the group that the petition was passed on to the British Embassy along with a request for further details of the case.

The signatures were collected using the internet through a Japanese blog created for the campaign. Although it was very short notice, more than 200 people responded in 12 hours. A number of Japanese people have signed the online petition and sent faxes to the Home Secretary in the UK. News of the campaign was also reported in the independent Japanese press and in a number of personal blogs. Support continues to grow in Japan where many people feel passionate about this issue of human rights.

Yukiko Hosomi

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pink Panthers Stage Pegah Die-In at British Embassy in Paris

These photos came with a brief report late this evening and I'm more than pleased to see Pegah-related actions happening in the streets Paris, and I'm most proud to share all the multi-media reports coming my way.

It's been a privilege to serve as a conduit of information and images to benefit Pegah, and to be linked to a fabulous alliance of activists, primarily young queer activists from the looks of the people in the photos from Rome and Paris, is an honor for me.

When I look at the LGBT effort to save Pegah from deportation, I see gays coming together in public displays of activism and those staging the actions are in my view practicing "gays without borders." And we're looking out for our brothers and sisters, no matter where they live.

May all the activism for Pegah win her asylum from the British.

From the Pink Panthers:


The Panthères Roses of Paris (Pink Panthers) demonstrated tonight (monday 27th of august) in front of the english embassy. They are worried and revolted by the threaten of deportation from the UK to Iran of Pegah Emambackhsh.

Identified as a lesbian in Iran, she may be sentenced to death. The english authorities have to measure the responsabilities they can have in the death of Pegah Emambackhsh if her deportation ends by death penalty in Iran.

The times are really repressive now in Iran, and all behaviours considered as immoral are punished by flagellation and hangings. LGBT people are the direct victims of this violence that can lead to death penalty.

We ask the english authorities not to deport Pegah Emambackhsh and to give her asylum, as she has been asking since 2005. We will stay mobilized as long as we won't have the guarantee that Pegah Emambakhsh will be able to stay in total legality and safety in the United Kingdom.

Rome Protest Pics, Videos for Iranian Lesbian; Pegah's Italian Interview

The Pegah news from Rome this afternoon is that the youth-wing leaders of several Italian gay groups, Gruppo EveryOne, Arcigay and Arcilesbica, staged a well-attended and noisy demonstration at the British embassy today, with big rainbow flags blowing in the wind and activists holding posters of Pegah's image and demands that she be granted asylum.
Several videos from the truly inspiring Rome demonstration can be viewed at the Radio Radicale web site. Click here to see them.
Looking at the videos of the Italian gay and human rights activists protesting to the UK government, speaking out for Pegah's need for asylum and making a beautiful public display of much-needed advocacy for global LGBT citizens everywhere makes me very happy over the Rome action, and proud to be part of international network organizing solidarity with Pegah.

(The RomPres news agency was at the demonstration and released these photos afterward. Caption: Deputy of Italian Party 'Sinistra Democratica' Franco Grillini holds an image of Iranian Pegah Emembakhsh, in Rome, Italy, on 27 August 2007. Italian MPs and gay rights' groups stepped up a campaign on Monday to save Emembakhsh, being held in Britain whom they say will be stoned to death if she is deported by the British government. Some 50 campaigners took part in a protest outside the British Embassy in Rome while Environment Minister and Green party chief Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio - who is openly bisexual - said he would meet with British Ambassador Edward Chaplin on Tuesday to discuss the case of Pegah Emambakhsh.)
And finally today, Pegah granted an interview with the La Repubblica newspaper, which was translated using Google, so the English is rough, but you get the importance of her words.

From La Repubblica:

Pegah Emambakhsh has fear. It knows that esporsi, to tell its history can cost them the life. It has made in front of a judge and it has not been believed. To still repeat because it does not want to return in Iran means to travel over again a terrifying experience: the escape, a wait of two years, the dream of being able living in the light of the sun its omosessualità and the prison and the terror to then re-enter in its Country where it has left two sons, been born from an arranged wedding, and one similar, that it has been arrested, tortured and condemned to the lapidazione.
Pegah is tired. From 13 August it is locked up in the center of detainment of Yarls Wood close to Sheffield, where the life has tried to remove itself. It is tired, but in these days it has recommenced to hope that to the end, next tuesday, it will not take that flight of the British directed Airways to Tehran. From two alive years suspended between desire of living in a free Country and the fear of having to return in Iran. How it has lived, up to now, this wait?
"They are tired. To the beginning I was full of hope, even if was taken care for my father and my sons lacked me. I knew that United Kingdom is a opened Country, a country that receives all. Therefore I have decided to come here and I have asked asylum. To Sheffield I have found also of the friends who have helped me. Every a lot seemed that all it went for the best and that my question would have been received and every a lot said to me, instead, that the Home Office had not believed to me and that they would have forced to me to return in Iran. In those moments I would have intentional to be died ".
According to she, because they have not believed it?
"I do not know it. They are escaped because they are a lesbian woman, because I was myself in love of an other woman and was more and more difficult to hide to us. Then it has been arrested. I found in its same condition, if me never I would not have gone any, because they are a lot tied to my earth and I want much good to my sons. Perhaps they wanted of the tests, but I do not know that tests I could have carried ".
It has had news of its companion, after the arrest?
"Yes. It has been interrogated and condemned to the lapidazione, because they have judged it one immoral woman. It makes still much evil to speak me about she ".
On its case a movement has been created: many persons them are near, suffer with she, protest, send letters to the Home Office, to the governors, the embassies. They ask United Kingdom to grant them the asylum because it is a its right. This helps it to feel itself less single?
"Yes, these voices help to still hope me. From when they have capacity to me to Yarls Wood, I have not made that to think the dead women. I did not have more faith and I wished to also die not to return in Iran where something waited for me who is the much most ugly one, the much most painful one of the dead women. I believe in the goodness of God and to a sure point it is happened a miracle. "Pegah", has said a day to the telephone a friend to me, "all the world is speaking about you is been born a movement that asks to save the life to you. Your name is on newspapers, in Internet, is on the mouth of all ".
Hour many persons are interested me, also a member of the English Parliament. I not only have uncovered of having friends between the English movements for the rights of the homosexuals, but also in Italy. The person who follows to me and helps me here to Sheffield has created a name for these persons: Friends of Pegah Campaign ".
In Iran the homosexuals are forced to hide because if discoveries come, risk the torture, the pain of the one hundred lashes and, if they are "recidivi", the lapidazione or the hanging. Gay and the lesbian Iranians follow its case with trepidation and they consider it a symbol. Which test, thinking next to they?
"Worry, anguish. I only hope that the things change, than the laws change ".
It has a message for the authorities that can decide if to grant asylum to it shelters to you homosexual? "Saved their lives".
It has been condemned because of its way to love, only because it is various from that one of the majority. And it has had the courage to say it to all the world, that it represents for she the love?
"It is the more important thing. Thanks to the love the greater part of the men and the women create a family and realize the own life. It has been the love to guide my life and any thing happens to me, will be the love to guide to me ".
If its vicissitude will be concluded happily and its rights are recognized, it has already thought next to the future, to which dreams would want to realize?
"I want to walk in means to people, without to watch me to the shoulders and to repeat within of me: "They are free" ".
Aussie News: AIDS Patients Allegedly Buried Alive in Papua New Guinea

My friend Walter Armstrong, former editor of POZ magazine and ACT UP stalwart, alerted me to this horrific allegation making the rounds of the Australian press today that people with AIDS in Papua New Guinea may have been buried alive.
Here are excerpts from two news accounts from Down Under. A report on Radio Australia:

A Papua New Guinean woman says she has seen HIV-positive people being buried alive in the country's highlands.

The HIV-infected woman claims she witnessed other infected people being buried alive by their relatives when they became too ill to care for.

Our PNG correspondent Steve Marshall reports Margaret Marabe has spent several months carrying out HIV awareness campaigns in PNG's remote Southern Highlands province.

She says she saw five HIV-infected people buried alive by their relatives because they could no longer care for them.

"They were crying and calling out their relatives' names and called for help. Some said 'Mama Papa' as they were forcefully buried and covered with soil." [...]

An account from the Herald Sun:

Margaret Marabe, who spent five months carrying out an AIDS awareness campaign in the remote Southern Highlands of the South Pacific nation, said she had seen five people buried alive.

One was calling out "Mama, Mama'' as the soil was shovelled over his head, said Ms Marabe, who works for a volunteer organisation called Igat Hope, Pidgin English for I've Got Hope.

"One of them was my cousin, who was buried alive,'' she said.

"I said, 'Why are they doing that?' And they said, 'If we let them live, stay in the same house, eat together and use or share utensils, we will contract the disease and we too might die'.''

Villagers had told her it was common for people to bury AIDS victims alive.

Ms Marabe appealed to the Government and aid agencies to ensure the HIV/AIDS awareness program in cities and towns was extended to the rural areas, where ignorance about the disease was widespread.

Women accused of being witches have been tortured and murdered by mobs holding them responsible for the apparently inexplicable deaths of young people stricken by the epidemic, officials and researchers say. [...]

If these terrible claims are true, at minimum, more basic HIV/AIDS education should be implemented in Papua New Guinea immediately, efforts made to protect people with HIV/AIDS in this country, punishment carried out against those committing crimes against AIDS patients and much more media coverage reporting on the abuses.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Venice Mayor in Solidarity With Pegah; Sit-In Monday at UK Embassy in Rome

Dear Friends and Supporters of Pegah:
You probably are already aware of all the news on Pegah coming out of Italy today, starting with the mayor of Venice declaring his solidarity with her, the announcement of a sit-in protest at the British embassy in Rome on Monday, and that she is the subject of many mainstream news stories. Click here to see some of the articles.
But in case you are not aware of these developments in Italy, I'm linking to Google's opening page for Italian news, where articles about Pegah and a photo of her appear.
Click here to read about Venice's mayor offering support to Pegah, maybe him, I believe, the first non-British politician to offer solidarity like this.

I am hopeful that the activist efforts and dozens of news accounts in Italy over the weekend, coupled with lots and lots of blogs posting information on Pegah and people from around the world sending letters to UK immigration officials, will secure a positive outcome to Pegah's appeal for asylum.

This is what appeared on Google's Italian news page today:

Sit-in, lunedì, per Pegah Emambakhsh a Roma
L'Unità - 9 ore fa
Il volo che dovrebbe riportarla nel suo Paese è già stato deciso: la partenza è fissata per martedì 28 agosto alle 21,35 ora inglese (volo British Airways numero BA6633). Il governo britannico, infatti, ha negato l'asilo a Pegah Emambakhsh, ...
Londra espelle la lesbica iraniana La Stampa
Pegah, rischia lapidazione perchè lesbica Barimia
La Repubblica - Il Messaggero - GayNews - L'Opinione
e altri 40 articoli simili »

Bangor Daily News Chair Gave to GOP Sen. Susan Collins

(GOP Maine Sen. Susan Collins, in red jacket, watching her good pal George Bush sign a bill into law.)

Over at the liberal DailyKos blog yesterday, diarist Maineiac caused a stir with a diary about GOP Sen. Susan Collins and how she manages to attract the most positive coverage from the Bangor Daily News.

Senator Susan Collins gets amazing press from the Bangor Daily News. AMAZING. Her press release's complaints that she was being taped by the Allen campaign - while, gasp, marching in a parade - got the BDN to do a front page story and to run an editorial tut-tutting over it as bad for civil discourse in Maine. [...]

They are her biggest fans, excusing away every pro-war and pro-Bush vote. They help keep the myth alive that she is a thoughtful moderate.

Well, what almost no one knows is that the Executive Editor of the BDN (Mark Woodward)'s wife (Bridget Woodward) is on Senator Collins' Bangor staff. This is a clear conflict of interest. [...]

For a bunch of folks who are SO concerned with potential problems in how campaigns are run, the BDN is living in a big glass house.

As you can see, something is missing from Maineiac diary. What is it?

The Federal Election Commission files showing two Bangor Daily News employees donated in to previous campaigns of Sen. Collins. To be fair, FEC files also show the paper's employees have donated to Maine's other GOP Senator, Ms. Olympia Snowe, and the most recent donation from someone at the Bangor Daily News, um, the editor, contributed money to the DNC.
Of course, there's nothing illegal about reporters and newspaper employees giving money to politicians and PACs, but I do have a problem with news outlets not making such donations perpetually known to readers, no matter how long ago the donations were made.
And while the two contributions from Bangor Daily News employees to Sen. Collins were for previous elections, including a check from the deceased chairwoman Joanne Van Namee, the fact that the bulk of these donations went to GOP candidates indicates there may be a Republican bias at the paper, a bias probably still operational today.
These donations should be part of the information widely shared with Maine voters, and bloggers concerned with bringing much-needed transparency to corporate-owned mainstream news media outlets.


10/13/2004 500.00



02/26/2001 200.00

BANGOR, ME 04401


08/16/1999 250.00

09/28/2000 200.00

BANGOR, ME 04401


08/01/2005 500.00

BANGOR, ME 04402


09/15/1998 250.00

BANGOR, ME 04401


01/11/2000 250.00

Total Contributions: 2150.00

Friday, August 24, 2007

Updates on Pegah, Iranian Lesbian Seeking Asylum in the UK

I have two updates to share regarding Pegah and her quest to not be returned to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The first is from Pegah's support network in the UK, and the second updates comes from the Pink News service.

The third message is a note from Peter Tatchell summing up his call for caution in reading the news that the Italians may grant Pegah asylum.
A big thank you to all who've cared enough to contact the British authorities on Pegah's behalf and everyone who's blogged about her plight and raised much-needed awareness, not just for her, but for all LGBT Iranians.
The update from Pegah's support team:

Update on Pegah

Pegah now has some excellent legal representation. She has a very able solicitor and her barrister comes from the chambers of one of the leading human rights and civil liberties advocates in the UK. We believe Pegah now has the best legal team we could hope for.

Representations will be made by her lawyers and her MP, Richard Caborn to the Border and Immigration Agency on Tuesday 28th August.

We are very grateful for the huge upsurge of support for Pegah from around the world. Many, many thanks to you all. Pegah's situation is still very precarious so please keep up the good work.

Friends of Pegah Campaign
Sheffield, UK
This is an excerpt from the UK's Pink News story. Click here to read the full article:
A spokesperson for Italian government has confirmed that they will grant ayslum to a lesbian woman due to be deported from the UK to Iran.

Pegah Emambakhsh is currently being detained by British officials and she is scheduled for repatriation on Tuesday.

Her sexual orientation and her past life in Iran may lead to her being executed.

Even if she is not sentenced to death, she is likely to be prosecuted and tortured by Iran's religious officials.

Punishment for sexual intercourse among lesbians in Iran is 100 lashes and in case of recidivity, execution.

Italian equal opportunties minister Barbara Pollastrini has Italy's prime minister Romano Prodi's support over granting asylum to Emambakhsh, a ministry spokesman told news website Adnkronos International (AKI). [...]

And in response to the claims made in the Pink News story today, OutRage! spokesman and organizer Peter Tatchell sends word of approaching this news with deep caution:

Pegah - Italian asylum

I am very secptical about claims that the Italian government will / may give Pegah asylum. It might be true but I would urge extreme caution.

First, how could the Italian govermnet make such a decision? Have they seen Pegah's asylum claim and evidence? Not as far as I know. If not, how can they make such a decision, in accordance with Italian asylum law and procedures?

Second, UK law and practice stipulates that "failed" asylum claimants are deported to their home countries. There are no provisions for removal (voluntary or otherwise) to a third country like Italy.

An exception may be possible at the discretion of the Home Office Minister. But I have never heard of it.

Best wishes and solidarity! Peter

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Letters to UK Home Secretary Needed for Iranian Lesbian's Asylum

(Jacqui Smith, UK Home Secretary.)

Save Pegah - Write now!
An appeal has been issued by friends and supporters of Pegah Emambakhsh to write letters to the UK Home Office on her behalf, by Friday, August 24. Don't delay in contacting Home Secretary Smith with letters.
It is preferred that letters be faxed to her office in London, but don't hesitate to email letters or both fax and email letters.
Feel free to use the text below, which I encourage to rework and edit for your own letter, but just make sure you send a message to Home Secretary Smith, and include Pegah's Home Office reference number, which is: B1191057.
Send letters via email to:
Faxes should be sent to: + 44 (0) 207 035 3262.
And a big thank you from me to all who have already blogged about Pegah or sent letters to UK government officials, and to the many people who will write to Jacqui Smith by the end of this Friday.
August 22, 2007
The Right Honorable Jacqui Smith MP
Home Secretary
London, UK
Home Office reference number: B1191057

Dear Madame Secretary Smith:
I write today to beg you to grant Pegah Emambakhsh an immediate stay of deportation, allow her to remain in the UK, and permit her attorneys to submit new evidence regarding her request for asylum.
Ms. Emambakhsh is a lesbian Iranian national who sought asylum in the UK in 2005, but the claim failed despite appeals and authorities arrested her in Sheffield on Monday 13th August 2007. She now faces deportation to Iran on 27 August 2007 and I am deeply concerned for her, if the UK deports her to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

If returned to Iran, she faces certain imprisonment, likely severe lashings and possibly even stoning to death. Because of her lesbian identity, she is considered a criminal in her native country.
She managed to escape from Iran, after her female lover was arrested, tortured and subsequently sentenced to death by stoning. Her father was also arrested and interrogated about her whereabouts. He was eventually released but not before he had been tortured himself. These facts do not bode well for her personal safety, if the UK succeeds in deporting her.

Ms. Emambakhsh has a more than well founded fear of persecution if she is returned to Iran. She belongs to a group of people – gays and lesbians – who, it is well known, are severely persecuted in Iran.

According to Iranian human rights campaigners, many lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs came to power in 1979.

The UK Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) has chosen not to believe that she is in danger if returned to Iran, even though the UK government is well aware of the terrible situation that gay people face there.

The BIA will be committing a serious miscarriage of justice and a gross human rights violation if they proceed with Ms Emambhaksh’s deportation.
Please issue an immediate stay of deportation for her, so that her new solicitors can provide the Home Office with fresh evidence and testimony from expert witnesses.

Sincerely yours,
Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA, USA

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

UK Deputy Consul General Meets SF Gays Over Iranian Lesbian

(Hank Wilson, on the left, and yours truly on the right, standing in front of the UK consulate on Sansome Street.)

The deep worry I have over the fate of Pegah Emambakhsh is the reason why I picked up the phone this morning and called Mr. Robin Newmann, an official in the press and public affairs office at the UK consulate here in San Francisco, and request a meeting today with a consular employee to discuss Pegah's case.
Within an hour's time, Ms. Mary Gilbert, the Deputy Consul General, called me and quickly informed me of her limitations in doing anything of substance from San Francisco that might be of benefit to Pegah.
However, Ms. Gilbert did agree to a meeting at her office downtown in the Financial District this afternoon with myself and fellow veteran gay rights advocate Hank Wilson.
She was most gracious explaining her duties as an officer of the Foreign Office, handling cases involving UK nationals, while pointing out that Pegah's situation is being handled by the Home Office back in London. Basically, employees of the two offices do not attempt to influence the other, so Ms. Gilbert really couldn't, and didn't, promise to send a message to the Home Office.
But Hank Wilson still asked Ms. Gilbert to convey to her superiors in the Foreign Office that the American LGBT community wants to see Pegah granted asylum by the UK government and be allowed to remain there, and not subject to the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
With a flat-out statement that a message from her would do not good for Pegah, Ms. Gilbert still said she would write a memo to the Foreign Office back home that she had met with us. I asked that she also include one of our flyers demanding asylum for Pegah with her message to her bosses in the UK, and she agreed to send it along.
Hank and I are pleased the UK consulate and Ms. Gilbert moved so rapidly on our request and met with us. We are optimistic she will keep her promise.
As important, we feel communicating our concerns for Pegah directly to a representative of the UK government may have a beneficial affect on her request for asylum.

We were not allowed to take photos inside the UK consulate, but did snap one of us with a flyer outside the building before our meeting.
We remain in solidarity with Pegah and continue to work to prevent her deportation to Iran.

Iranian Lesbian's UK Deportation on Hold Until August 28

These are two messages that have been flying around the web this morning regarding Pegah’s and effort to keep her safe in the UK. The good news that she's been granted a short stay is reason to both rejoice and again commit ourselves to continue working on her behalf until she is granted asylum and does not face being returned to Iran:

Mr. Petrelis:

An update on Pegah -

It is 10.15am here. We are going to try and get a High court injunction to prevent Pegah's deportation on Thursday. Our advice is that Pegah can make a 'sur place' claim based on new or emerging evidence. This itself based on the fact that her details with name and photo are now all over the internet in many languages but most importantly in Farsi/Persian and essentially constitutes proof of her sexual orientation - something the Home Office had disbelieved.

It is also the case that the Iranian government closely monitor IRQO and all related sites so by now they will know that Pegah is gay and so it is not safe for her to be deported to Iran.

Please do anything that you think might help Pegah. The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (very experienced) are on the case and we still have hope but we are getting desperate here.

Kind regards,




We have just had some good news! - Richard Caborn, Pegah's MP has managed (together with the 'global' campaign, I think) to persuade the Home Office to defer Pegah's deportation until Tuesday 28th August.

Sarah Lawrence RC's PA [Royal Crown Public Advocate/Defender?] has just told me, “That Pegah will be deported on Tuesday 28th August, unless representations come in from Richard Caborn and others before that date."

Wilson & Co (solicitors) are currently looking at Pegah's papers and Sebastian at UKlgig [UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group] expects to be able to tell me what they think sometime this evening. Will keep you all posted.

Everyone - Many heartfelt thanks for your all your support - we couldn't have got this far without you...we still need to keep up the campaign though - no flagging now!


PS: Immigration people told Sarah Lawrence they had heard there was to be a demonstration at the airport - don't know who is organising this but they are clearly worried. Sarah believes that they are now in the business of covering themselves.

Monday, August 20, 2007

UK May Deport Iranian Lesbian to Death Sentence in Tehran on August 23

If you have a blog or post messages to lists and web site concerned with LGBT citizens everywhere and the violations of our human rights, please take some time in the next three days to do something and call attention to the plight of Pegah Emambakhsh, a lesbian from Iran who faces deportation from the UK, and certain danger if returned to the Islamic Republic.

Time is very much of the essence here, as this note makes clear: Pegah faces a flight back to Tehran in just three days:

In a message dated 8/20/2007 3:20:22 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Michael ... I have just heard that Pegah Emambakhsh is to be deported by the British Government on Thursday August 23 on the British Airways flight to Tehran (BA 6633) which departs from London Heathrow at 21:35.

It is 11pm in UK right now, so little chance of getting any further info today. But I will try to get an update Tuesday morning.

I've been asked by Iranians, gay and straight, human rights activists, and friends in San Francisco to get the word out about Pegah's case, especially on political blogs.

Feel free to cut and paste the text here, along with the photos, and share the words and images through your social and web networks.

This story appeared on August 17 in The Star UK:

AN IRANIAN lesbian who faces imprisonment and almost certain death because of her sexuality if sent home back home has been given an 11th hour reprieve [...]

Her supporters from Sheffield ASSIST - the Asylum Seeker Support Initiative - said they were relieved at the news, because for Pegah to be returned to Iran was "tantamount to a death sentence".

Ann Campbell, from ASSIST, said last night: "We are all either on a high or exhausted!

"The plane was taking off at 9.30pm last night and this only started on Monday so it's been a mad four days. Although all we have effectively done is buy some time - we don't know what will happen next - we now have time to get our forces together."

Pegah, who is suffering with mental health problems and suicidal thoughts as a result of the stress, has now been returned to Yarlswood detention centre in Bedford where she was taken after being arrested in Sheffield on Monday [...]

The 40-year-old Iranian - described by those who know her as "charming, incredibly kind, honest and intelligent" - sought asylum in the UK in 2005. She had escaped from her home country after her partner was arrested, tortured, and subsequently sentenced to death by stoning.

Her father was also arrested, interrogated and tortured for information on her whereabouts [...]

She said: "She endured an unhappy arranged marriage, she is filled with guilt about what has happened to her father, and she is not able to see her two sons [...]

The editor of the UK Gay News service, Andy Thayer, has been monitoring the situation and filed a story on Pegah's plight on August 16:

A gay Iranian woman came within minutes of being put onto a non-stop flight to Tehran at Heathrow this evening as the UK Government’s Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) – part of the Home Office – went through the final process of deportation.

It was only the late intervention of the office of Sheffield Central Member of Parliament Richard Caborn – the Minister of Sport – that prevented the deportation today [...]

If returned to Iran, Ms. Emambakhsh faces certain imprisonment and possible execution by stoning. Her ‘crime’ – she was in a lesbian relationship [...]

“The BIA will be committing a serious miscarriage of justice and human rights violation if they insist on Ms Emambhaksh’s deportation,” the group pointed out [...]

And this message from longtime international gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was shared late Monday night

In a message dated 8/20/2007 6:04:51 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Just to let you all know that I have been working on this case, advising and assisting Pegah's support team on legal issues, campaign strategies, new solicitors, new evidence, expert witnesses, fresh claims and injunctions.

Everyone is doing their best. Protests will be helpful, but the legal side is the most crucial right now.

Solidarity! Peter

You have the power to spread the word and help save Pegah from deportation to Tehran and torture. Please do what you can to increase global awareness of Pegah and her need to remain in the UK.
Ross Mirkarimi's August Art Salon and Gab-Fest Photos

Last Friday was the third Friday of the month, so it meant time for Supervisor Ross' monthly art party and community gathering in his City Hall office. I went to see old friends, meet new ones and snaps a few pics.

Mark your calendars: the third Friday of every month is an art show opening at Mirkarimi's Supe office and for a really good time, you should attend one of them. And let me grab a photo of you!

An Internet buddy of mine, Alexis Gonzalez from one of the local unions, and I both grew up playing, and loving, Laura Nyro's legendary album "New York Tendaberry."

This trouble-maker and First Amendant advocate Josh Wolf, recently released from the federal pen and now running for mayor of SF.

Josh tried to assure me he had the Mohawk and too-much-hair-on-top-of-their-head male vote, a laughable claim.

Sexy Marc Salomon expounding on the social benefits of queer public sex venues.

Honestly, I wasn't paying anything near close attention to what Marc was saying, probably something about the shaved-head male voting block.

Photojournalist Luke Thomas, on the left, listening to Ross Mirkarimi make a point.

This is Craig and his tee shirt is from the Guggenheim Museum Gift Shop.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Iran Spares Two Teens From Execution in Same-Sex Abuse Case

(Photo credit: Photo is that of 15 year old Nosrat, whose case set the precedent for this latest one. Nosrat is mentioned in the article, but he has not been involved in any same-sex activity.)

In the past year or so I've made the acquaintance of Lily Mazahery, an Iranian-American attorney, through our mutual interest of stopping executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Mazahery devotes much of her time helping women on Iran's death row, and she is equally concerned about that country's capital punishment meted out against homosexuals and teenagers.

Today Mazahery sends word that a Tehran court has commuted the death sentences of two Iranian teenagers, which she sees as a giant positive step forward in bringing civilized standards of human rights to Iran.
She doesn't say the words gay or homosexual, but the allegations of same-gender sexual abuse are integral to the case, and even without clear reported evidence of gay-specific charges, this story of interest to me as a queer rights activist because the death penalty is a gay matter and any reduction in the number of people sentenced to die in Iran is well-worth noting.

Here's the full report from Mazahery:

As legal experts continue the debate about the recent orders of two Tehran province judges, holding that the death sentence of a 15 year old boy, Nosrat, should be commuted because he had not reached the requisite mental maturity, in a separate ruling, the judges of Branch 74 of Tehran province’s general criminal court, used the same reasoning to commute the death sentences of 2 other teenagers today. Instead, the teenagers were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment each.
Last year, a 12 year old, along with his father, reported to the police station in the city of Ray to file a complaint against two teenage boys, named Ahad and Milad, whom the 12 year old accused of sexual abuse.
In describing the alleged incident, the 12 year old stated: “It was morning and I had just finished an exam and I was returning home from school when I saw Ahad and Milad in the street. They told me that they had a squirrel on the rooftop of their house. Because I love animals, I asked them to let me see the squirrel. We started walking together and entered a garden. They led me into a room and then we all went to the rooftop. When we got to the rooftop, there was no squirrel. Instead, Ahad and Milad abused me and then let me go.”
Based on the young teenager’s complaint, the police arrested Ahad and Milad on charges of rape and sexual abuse. Five judges of Branch 74 of Tehran province’s appellate court became directly responsible for investigating these allegations. In the first investigative meeting, Ahad and Milad admitted that they had sexually abused the 12 year old.
When the medical examiner confirmed the 12 year old’s allegations of sexual abuse, Ahad and Milad were once again questioned by the authorities, but this time, they stated that when they engaged in the alleged abusive acts, they were not in a normal state of mind.
Eventually, Ahad and Milad denied having sexually abused the 12 year old, stating that they had no intention of abusing or harming the 12 year old in any way. Their only intent, according to the accused teenagers, was to show their friend the squirrel on the rooftop.
The accused teenagers, who are 16 and 17 years old, maintained their innocence during the following proceedings. Accordingly, 5 judges of Branch 74 of Tehran province’s general criminal court, convened after the trial, after which two different opinions emerged.
Noting the confessions of Ahad and Milad, as well as other evidence presented in the case, such as the medical examiner’s report, two of the five judges sentenced the defendants to death by hanging. However, the majority of the judges refused to sentence the defendants to death, noting their young ages at the time of the incident, as well as the fact that they had denied the charges against them on 4 different occasions, and had stated that they never had the legally requisite intent to sexually abuse the 12 year old. The judges then proceeded to sentence the defendants to 10 years in prison.
This is the second time in the past month that the judges of Tehran province’s general criminal court have rejected executing defendants, whose crimes were committed when they were under the age of 18. The judges based their ruling on the argument that, at the time of the alleged crimes, the defendants lacked the requisite mental maturity to understand the nature of their actions.
Iran’s children’s rights activists consider these latest rulings to be substantial positive steps towards establishing legal standards that protect minor offenders in accordance with international human, civil, and children rights standards.
The cases of 15 year old Nosrat, 16 year old Ahad, and 17 year old Milad have been transferred to Iran’s supreme court for further review. Legal experts remain confident that the supreme court will uphold the ruling of the lower courts in these cases, and will issue a permanent commutation of the teenagers’ execution sentences.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Human Rights Watch Omits Israeli, Iraqi, Russian, UK Groups from Resource List

The gay division at the Human Rights Watch in New York recently web-published a global round-up of LGBT groups, and for unknown reasons, Israel, and that country's numerous gay organizations, are totally absent.
HRW shares links to groups addressing our issues and helping LGBT people in only three Middle East countries: Iran, Lebanon and Palestine.
From HRW's introduction to their list:
"These are links to groups worldwide which advocate for an end to discrimination and abuse based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This list is far from exhaustive."
Yep, not anywhere near exhaustive, and the question of why HRW would publish such a list without making sure it is exhaustive, must be raised. Plus, how hard could it have been for the multimillion-dollar HRW to Google gay groups in Israel, or in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa?
I applaud HRW for including the Middle East LGBT organizations that made the cut for the list, and hope many American gays visit the web sites for those groups.
It's beyond my comprehension how the gay staff at HRW could omit Israel and her LGBT advocacy organizations from their list. In a very concrete way, HRW has erased Israel, and her gay citizens, from the map, which is something Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has proposed as he's rattled his nuclear saber.
If the past is any indication, HRW's leading gay staffer will now engage in a full-frontal assault on me and my political activism, work to make raising these concerns as jeopardizing advancement of global gay rights, avoid squarely addressing the matter of why Israeli organizations are not on his group's list, and in every response the HRW gay staff will always employ unbridled condescension to show their alleged superiority.
Also missing from HRW's list are three very important advocacy groups: the Iraqi LGBT group based in London and headed by Ali Hili, who is helping gay people in Iraq and those living in exile; GayRussia, the organization led by Nikolas Aleyexev which has tried to stage gay pride marches in Moscow; and OutRage!UK, cofounded by Peter Tatchell, an activist group that really has set the standard for global gay activism.
If the HRW gay staffers are interested in providing their colleagues, activists and reporters with a truly inclusive and comprehensive resource list like this, they will quickly update and improve their LGBT guide.
Click here to visit HRW's incomplete list of global LGBT groups.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Nigeria: 18 Homosexuals Face Execution Under Islamic Law

The plight of gay people around the planet simply does not receive the proper attention it ought to from USA gay advocacy organizations. While LGBT political organizations in America remain woefully unconcerned and quiet about the human rights abuses our brothers and sisters face daily in far too many countries, I still want to throw a barrel-full of praise on the gay press here because a good number of American gay newspapers carve out editorial space to international LGBT people and issues.

That being said, here is some very depressing news, excerpted from the Agence France-Presse news service:

Eighteen men have been arrested in northern Nigeria for alleged sodomy, which carries the death sentence under Bauchi state's Islamic sharia law, the official NAN news agency reported Thursday.

Judge Malam Tanimu ordered the 18 remanded in prison until a further hearing on August 21 following their arrest on Sunday in a hotel in Bauchi city.

The court on Wednesday heard that the men, who were wearing female clothing, had come to the city from five neighbouring states to celebrate a gay "marriage".

Prosecuting police officer Tadius Boboi said the men's actions had contravened the sharia penal code adopted in Bauchi and other states in Muslim northern Nigeria eight years ago following the end of military rule . . .

In a Nigerian sharia state the governor must give his approval before punishments like death and amputation passed by sharia courts are actually carried out.

Click here to read the full AFP article.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Straight GOP South Dakota Politician Comes Out for Gay Equality

(Don Frankenfeld, an avowed Republican heterosexual, in costume, on the right. Photo credit: Rapid City Journal.)

Please allow me the supreme pleasure of introducing you to former state officeholder Don Frankenfeld, a straight GOP politician from South Dakota. He's just come out for gay rights in a big way by joining the board of that state's leading LGBT advocacy organization.

Frankenfeld has written an insightful and honest, not to mention humorous, coming out column for the Hog House Blog, which is based in South Dakota and covers politics from diverse perspectives.

I'd like to welcome this Super Hero costume-wearing man to the ever-expanding community of allies for the LGBT community and look forward to him using his political expertise and personal connections to benefit all citizens of the Mount Rushmore state, regardless of sexual orientation.

Reading over Frankenfeld's words, I hear echoes of what was said back in February by straight GOP Wyoming legislator Dan Zwonitzer, in his speech to colleagues debating a bill about gay marriage.

We LGBT people need to reach out to the Frankenfelds and Zwonitzers, when they publicly declare their support for our equality, and heap praise upon them, if only because we need them to help make America and her dream of freedom for all a reality. And putting them on web-based pedestals wouldn't hurt either.

Here's Frankenfeld's column, with comments from yours truly:

In July I became a founding board member for Equality South Dakota, an organization dedicated to securing and protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender South Dakotans. When I explained this to my wife, she wondered if there was something else I wanted to tell her. As it happens, she was already on to me, but for the sake of full disclosure to my new friends in the LGBT community, it is time to come out of the closet: I am a Republican. Also, I am straight – not that there is anything wrong with that.

This is a very disarming opening, one that shows Frankenfeld knows how to use humor to score points, and get his readers to think. I like that he mentions his wife, thereby establishing his heterosexual credentials, with reference to his GOP tendencies, not that I have a problem with that. He should be capturing the attention of fellow heterosexual readers with such admissions.

The fact is homosexuality baffles me, particularly when looking at the most fundamental physical aspect: an attraction to certain body parts and certain sex practices. I can’t understand why some guy would be mesmerized by my equipment, and want to do that with it, when he has the same equipment himself.

Wait a minute. I don’t understand heterosexuality any better. Over the years I have become accustomed to the thought that a guy would naturally be sexually attracted to a woman, particularly certain body parts. (I write from the perspective of a guy, as it is the only perspective I have.) Moreover, a guy might relish the thought of doing that. But why?

Thanks, Don, for being so up front about your bafflement with some aspects of gay sexuality. I have similar feelings, as a gay man, about a few things heterosexuals do in bed. :-)

Whatever your orientation, desire propels you, and is in turn propelled by intrigue, instinct and mystery. Sometimes sexual attraction is irrational, but always, it seems to me, it is trans-rational. So given the mystery of our own sexuality, who are we to judge someone else’s, as long as it is between consenting adults?

Damn, those are important words, words that I hope are read by thousands of South Dakotans.

I don’t expect my participation in Equality South Dakota to change the face of South Dakota, or its politics. I believe I can make a contribution, however. And yes, it is time to make amends, as well. I have had a long journey, with quite a distance yet to go.

I won’t detail my mental cruelty toward gays over the years, except to observe that I was fairly typical of my generation. During junior high and high school, gay-bashing was pretty much the only permissible, respectable manifestation of cruelty toward someone for what they were. I’m not saying that racism didn’t exist, only that anti-black or anti-Indian remarks were at least regarded as politically incorrect, and this somewhat inhibited bad behavior. Homosexuals had no such protection.

I sincerely thought homosexuality was a dangerous perversion, and as a teenager I was mean to those who I thought were “queer.” By college (at an all-male school), I came to know quite a few homosexual faculty members and classmates, and sometimes to put aside (but not eliminate) my squeamishness to form friendships.

When was the last time you read a straight GOP man confess his "cruelty" to gays, and in the larger context of other forms of bigotry, as he's standing up today for fairness and tolerance towards LGBT Americans? I wonder how many straight people will read that passage and totally identify with Frankenfeld. Quite a large number probably.

Early in my career as a state senator, a gay rights activist thanked me for my willingness to meet with him — never mind that our meeting was more or less in secret for our mutual benefit. He was not openly gay, and I wanted to be re-elected.

Later I was a testifying as an economic expert on behalf of a number of claimants to the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, some of whom were gay. I had the extraordinary gift of reading many deeply felt love letters of a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11 to his registered domestic partner of eleven years. The last of these letters was written on September 9, 2001, around midnight. “The time we are apart seems like years to me. It is a good thing when one’s presence is missed.” Aside from gender, these poetic letters are indistinguishable from those between any passionate and deeply committed lovers. My rare and privileged intimate glimpse into the private lives of this couple was transformational, partly because it was so moving and partly because it was so routine.

Remembering all the victims of 9/11, coupled with my emotions stirred by Frankenfeld's transformation on gays, in part, because of the tragedy of that September day, brought tears to my eyes. It's so uniquely American, no, human actually, when tragic events are turned into something that enlarges our connections to each other, as demonstrated here.

Lately I have been suggesting to my gay friends that they should take a Republican to lunch. That is because Republicans and the gay community need each other. Republicans need to be reminded that they are the party of Lincoln; the party of equality, opportunity and tolerance. And in South Dakota, gays need the understanding and compassion of the Republicans who are likely to control South Dakota government for the foreseeable future, and hence the destiny of gays with respect to many vital issues.

I don’t expect immediate or revolutionary changes. I do expect progress. I think Equality South Dakota can help.

Um, great suggestion about inviting someone from the GOP to lunch, but for a San Francisco resident such as myself, in a city where Republicans are as rare as snowflakes in Sturgis in August, I'll have to wait for a Republican lunch-mate passing through town before I can follow Frankenfeld's advice. Until then, I'll email a word of thanks to him, and share his wonderful column.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Gays Asked to Join Annual Biker Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota

Gay Americans continue to knock down barriers and find acceptance in some pretty unlikely places across the land.
For the first time ever, the gay community center of South Dakota will have a table at the Sturgis biker event in the Mount Rushmore state. Over the weekend I spoke with local gay leader Mike Coats, who told me about this step forward for gay South Dakotans and that the community center was invited to participate by an area bike shop.
The Gay Center West will have a booth at the Independent cycle tent at the top fifty rally venue in Piedmont. It is at Elk Vale Road, exit 46 on I-90 at Piedmont. The venue is open 10 AM until 7 PM from Sunday, August 5th through Saturday, August 11th. We will be passing out literature and soliciting donations. I've been told this is a first for the rally.
As if that bit of news isn't enough, friends of Coats report on their blog that this year's bike rally will see the second gay men's biker event.
The 2nd annual Gay Men's Biker Run is Wednesday, August 8th, 11 AM. Meet at Chute Roosters Restaurant and Bar in Hill City, SD. Entering Hill City from the north, Chute Rooster is on the left, as you enter town. We will be going to Rochford via Highway 385 and will lead for the run.
A link from Coats' blog leads to the official calendar of all events for the Sturgis biker rally, and it pleases my gay activist heart to see amid the list of Marine Corps, Christian and Alcoholics Anonymous functions, not to mention socials with Miss Sturgis, the gay men's bike rally is included. To me, this is tell-tale sign of advancement for all LGBT Americans and I extend deep thanks to the South Dakota gay community for their involvement with the Sturgis rally and related events.
The only thing troubling me about all this great news from our gay family in South Dakota is that there is word yet on a Dykes With Bikes rally. Let's hope the lesbians with hogs stage their own event and inform us of the details.
Oh, one final note, for those of us who find biker men attractive and sexy, Mike Coats promises lots of photos will be shared after all is said and done in Sturgis by the local gay community. Can't wait to see the pictures!