Wednesday, November 28, 2007

World AIDS Day Never About Gays;
JAMA Slams Gays for Alleged Silence
In the 19 years of World AIDS Day commemorations and themes, gay men have never been the sole and primary focus, even though gays and men who have sex with men comprise the majority of AIDS cases in the United States and make up a substantial number of infections in global HIV stats.
World AIDS Day in 2000, when the theme was "AIDS: Men Make a Difference," came the closest to minimally addressing gay male needs in prevention and recognizing all gay men living with HIV.
There are only fleeting references in that year's materials that even say the words homosexual or men who have sex with men, and gay is omitted entirely, leaving much room for gay-specific improvement in how this global day of action embraces gays in the fight against AIDS. And let's not ignore President Bill Clinton's message that year marking the day failed to once say gay or MSM.
The silence about gays and AIDS from the organizers of World AIDS Day is cause for concern, at least to me, and should also be of importance to gay advocacy groups and HIV prevention workers. However, I don't get the sense that gay or AIDS organizations give a damn about 19 years of not making gays the theme, or a strong sub-context, for December 1.
On the eve of 2007's World AIDS Day, the Journal of the American Medical Association is running an article by three leading AIDS experts, all former CDC HIV/AIDS directors, in which they heavily criticize gay men for our alleged silence about the disease today.
The full text of the JAMA commentary is not available for free online, just an excerpt is, but today's Washington Times writes about it and starting with the headline, Silence on HIV/AIDS Tied to Epidemic's Rise, silence is the central theme.

An HIV/AIDS epidemic is re-emerging in the United States among homosexual and bisexual men who are no longer frightened about the deadly disease and are returning to sexual risk-taking behaviors, public health officials say in a medical journal article released today.

The "silence on this subject is nearly pervasive," [say the authors of the JAMA article].

Too bad the JAMA authors, after slamming the gay community and calling for us to break the supposed silence, didn't go one important step further and advocate that their colleagues who coordinate World AIDS Day themes and actions end their silence over gays and HIV.

I'd like to know how the authors define this silence and how they measure it. Do they want ACT UP-style demonstrations again? Are the authors saying the multi-billion dollar AIDS groups are the silent ones?

The Wash Times further reports:

During the 1980s, community leaders galvanized homosexual and bisexual men with the slogan "Silence equals death." But this year, "AIDS is simply not as frightening as it was," they wrote. AIDS antiviral treatments now allow HIV-positive men to live reasonably comfortable lives and "[y]ounger MSM have largely been spared the visible devastation of untreated HIV infection."

The authors called for public health and community leaders to step up calls for responsible sexual behavior and HIV/AIDS screening and testing.

Whenever I read such statements from the JAMA writers bemoaning that AIDS is no longer killing gays like it once did, and the authors have repeatedly expressed views essentially wringing their hands that the epidemic and dying have radically changed for the better, I believe they're are speaking in code.
What I believe they are actually saying is they want more gays to die disfiguring painful deaths, all so that HIV prevention messages can return to being fear-driven, and young gay men can experience the horrendous decimation of the 1980s and early 1990s. "If only we were able to return to the bad old days, HIV prevention for gays would be so much more easier," the JAMA authors seem to say.
Let me now praise the authors for endorsing an end to discrimination faced by gays and men who have sex with men, according to the Wash Times:
In addition, leaders "must call for the end of stigma toward MSM, which may mitigate the internalization of homophobia leading to sexual risk behavior" and "advocate for legal domestic partnerships as a way to promote stable, longer term MSM relationships," they said.
Yes, we should applaud this call from the JAMA writers. I only wish they had proposed using the resources and attention of World AIDS Day to also endorse stopping the stigma and promoting more legal protections for gay relationships.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Young Dems of America Prez: About Our Membership Numbers . . .

Earlier this month I wrote an entry about the Young Democrats of America membership numbers and the wide disparity between what they claimed their numbers were and a contradictory figure reported in the Bay Area Reporter.
I received a reply from the YDA head David Hardt, who gives a good explanation about the membership stats.
He may be able to justify the very imprecise number of members because YDA by-laws, but I think any political advocacy group saying it speaks for X or Y or Z number of people who belong to the group in some fashion, usually dues-paying, should be able to be more exact in stating the number of members in his organization.
The YDA numbers would have more standing with me if there weren't a 100,000-plus discrepancy in its own memberships stats.
David Hardt's letter, in full:
Hi Michael,
First I wanted to say, I love your blog, I truly believe we need more people like you who are willing to speak out when the main stream media won't.
However, I felt I must respond to your blog about YDA "potentially" inflating membership numbers.
Your original post is below. Our "official" membership numbers are extremely hard to define because so many of our State and local chapters DO NOT require or allow membership roles to be submitted to YDA's National office. This includes both my local chapter of Dallas County and My State, Texas.
So "officially" at our last National convention, only reporting States that did turn in their membership roles we are over 150,000 in membership. But our own internal estimates have us at between 300,000 and 500,000 in membership.
My local chapter of Dallas County has more than 6,000 members on it's roles and this can be verified by our County party. However, none of those 6,000 members are listed with YDA. Not to mention, some Young Democrats Chapters like Colorado are legally prohibited from being "official" members of YDA by their State Parties. So even if we have those membership roles in house, we cannot count them.
So, again, I don't want to be negative to your blog in anyway, because I'm such a true believe in what you do, and as an openly gay activist, I know what your doing is desperately needed.
I only wanted you to be aware that our organization is NOT trying to inflate numbers, we are just in a very awkward place and we have to rely on estimates on how many members we really have. And most importantly, I was elected to represent all of our members, even if they can't legally be counted by their State Party, I will always stand up and fight for everyone of them.
Keep up the great work,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Straight GOP Progay WY Pol Zwonitzer
Runs for US House

Some interesting gay-related news out of the Equality State today. A straight pro-gay marriage GOP champion announced he's running for Congress next year.
In February, without any prodding from the Human Rights Campaign, the supposedly community leader for gay marriage, or a single gay advocacy organization for that matter, Dan Zwonitzer, in a committee hearing eloquently and movingly spoke in favor of marriage equality. Click here to re-read his terrific speech and then here for some of the positive feedback letters he received from around the nation and beyond the USA borders.
Dan, who does not sit on the committee that was considering a bill barring Wyoming from recognizing out-of-state gay marriages, went out of his way and risked political criticism and voice his young voice not just for marriage equality, but really for treating gay Americans with dignity and respect.
He's now tossed his cowboy hat into the race for the state's single seat in the US House of Representatives. I don't know what his chances are of winning, but I hope his candidacy gains traction and that he's again given the opportunity to speak up on gay issues, as the voters consider who to vote for.
Hey Dan, good luck with the run for Congress, thanks for your past support of gay Americans and I hope you'll continue to be an ally for us.
A state legislator from Cheyenne is the latest person to announce he intends to seek the congressional seat being vacated next year by the retirement of Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo.

State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, a Cheyenne Republican, announced Tuesday that he intends to run for the at-large seat in next year's election.

Zwonitzer, 28, is serving his second term in the Wyoming House of Representatives. He's on the Agriculture and Corporations Committees. He works as an auctioneer in southeastern Wyoming and helps to manage his families businesses in the Cheyenne area.

Monday, November 19, 2007

UK Govt Shares eFiles on Executions of Iranian
Gays, Women, Others

Less than a week ago I filed a request with the UK government for copies of their papers on executions of gays, which were the basis for a story in the Times of London. I am very pleased to share with you all of what was provided to me today, including the paper's original request for documents, in this unusually long blog entry.

Reading the documents gave me a sense of how at least one part of the British government monitors the death penalty in Iran, how and why it is meted out, and also raises important human rights issues about the executions with the Iranians.

We need more interest and pressure like this from governments about executions in Iran and the plight of its gay population, because it can lead to more respect for the human rights protections of gay Iranians and all Iranians.


19 November 2007

Dear Mr Petrelis

I am writing to confirm that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has now completed its search for the information which you requested on 14 November 2007.

I can confirm that the FCO does hold information relevant to your request. A copy of the information is enclosed.

In keeping with the spirit and effect of the Freedom of Information Act, all information is assumed to be releasable to the public unless exempt. The information supplied to you may now be published on our website together with any related information that will provide a key to its wider context.

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should write to me within 40 working days.

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the Information Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by the FCO. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Brian Dorrington
Information Rights Team


From: Kennedy, Dominic []
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 12:31 PM
Subject: The Times/Iran death penalty

Application under the Freedom of Information Act

Please would you let me know in writing if you hold information of the following description:

Since 2005, information concerning the death penalty being applied in Iran for homosexuality, adultery and/or sex outside of marriage.

I would like a copy of the information.

If any part of the information requested is covered by one or more of the absolute exemptions in the Act please treat this request as a request for that part of the information which is not covered by the absolute exemption.

If you need further details in order to identify the information requested or a fee is payable please let me know as soon as possible.

If you are of the view that there may be further information of the kind requested but it is held by another public authority please let me know as soon as possible. Please continue with this application as quickly as possible.

I believe that the information requested is required in the public interest for the following reasons:

1. To uphold public confidence that the Government monitors human rights abuses abroad;

2. To provide assurance that the Government applies pressure to other countries to improve their records on human rights and individual freedom;

3. To ensure that public funds are spent correctly protecting human rights abroad.

Dominic Kennedy
The Times
1 Pennington Street
London E98 1TA


Digest of Information Released in Response to Dominic Kennedy’s Freedom of Information Act Request (0773-07)

1) Extract of eGram from Tehran to Middle East and North Africa Directorate of FCO, dated 21 April 2005:

‘We have been unable to confirm reports that two men have been sentenced to death for homosexual activities. The case is alleged to have come to light after the wife of one of the men lodged a complaint, having discovered a videotape of the two men which her husband had made in order to blackmail his partner if he stopped paying him for sex.’

2) Extract of EU telegram from Portugal to Member States, dated 19 May 2005:

‘We also received similar information, via our local Embassy, regarding the case of Fatemeh, a woman sentenced to stoning for adultery and murder of her lover. Even though the veracity of this information is not yet confirmed, it gives rises to serious concerns on the possible ending of the moratorium on stoning, by Iranian authorities. Thus, Portugal would like to ask the Presidency to try to confirm the content of the sentence and, if it is the case, to promote an urgent demarche.’

3) Extracts from email correspondence between Embassy officials in Tehran about two boys suspected of being executed for homosexuality, dated 25 July-11 August 2005:

From: British Embassy Official, To: Officials of various Embassies, 25 July 2005

‘We believe Mahmoud Asqari was under 18 when hanged in public in the city of Mashad. This has been confirmed by Mr. Razzazadeh, Defence Lawyer for Mahmoud Asqari. Asqari was arrested at the age of sixteen and a half, according to the lawyer and spent some 14 months in jail. The lawyer had two more avenues of appeal open to him through 'Discernment Branches' of the Supreme Court' but the sentence was carried out before he could take these forward. It is our understanding that the other young man also hanged alongside Mahmoud was above 18. We believe his name to be Ayad Marhouni. There are three other boys wanted in connection with the crime and one of them, according to Razzazadeh, is also under 18.

‘The alleged crime was that the gang abducted and raped a 13-year-old boy in 2004. The court says they were hooligans who were prosecuted and tried for other offences as well, such as theft and drinking alcohol. In order to be convicted of rape (unless there are sufficient witnesses) is for the perpetrator to confess four times. Apparently Mahmoud Asqari had done so.

‘Yesterday it was reported in the press that head of Mashad Justice Department, Hassan Shariati had said the two were above eighteen and even the younger was born in 1987. Even if this is true, Mahmoud Asqari was under 18 at the time of commitment of the crime. According to Shariati, the other young man (Ayad Marhouni) was 20 at the time of the execution.

‘Our source said that since the ban on capital punishment for anyone committing a crime under 18 had not been in the form of a circular, provincial courts and judges were unaware of it and would like the international community to put pressure on the Judiciary to send out guidance in the form of a circular or order by Judiciary Chief, Ayatollah Shahroudi.’

From: British Embassy Official, To: NZ Official, Dutch Official, 11 August 2005

‘As Presidency of the EU we have sent in a Note Verbale, raised with Rahimpour

(DG Western Europe, MFA) and are still waiting for a call on Alaie (Acting head of human rights and women's affairs dept of the MFA). So response to talk of.

‘I know some Embassies have also acted bilaterally. The Dutch also had parliamentary interest - they may be able to tell you what the response to their approach was’

From: Dutch Embassy Official, To: British Embassy Official, NZ Official, 11 August

Our response to the parliamentary questions was as follows: there seems no indication that they were executed because of their homosexuality (as indeed no known cases of this occurring as far as we know), but because of certain crimes committed. EU protested this case with the Iranian authorities because of our concern with the legal procedures and especially the ages of the two young man. As far as we know they were juveniles when committing the crime, and at least one was certainly a juvenile when executed. This is against the assurances the Iranaut. gave us, etc./ moratorium, etc. Also: not all legal means to avoid the execution had been exhausted.’

4) Extract of EU telegram from the Netherlands to Member States, dated 29 July 2005:

‘Last but not least the Netherlands would like to suggest that the opportunity of the demarche be used to inquire explicitly whether homosexuality can in itself be a reason for execution. The Netherlands so far has no indication that that is the case, but gay rights groups argue that the two juveniles in Mashhad were executed just because of their homosexuality.’

5) Extract of EU telegram from the EU Commission to Member States, dated 18 August 2005:

‘The Commission wishes to draw to the attention of the Presidency and Member States to the reported sentencing to death of two individuals – Farbod Mostaar and Ahmad Chooka – in the city of Arak, on the grounds that they are homosexuals. The death sentence will likely be carried out on 27th August.

‘The Commission received information regarding the cases from the International Committee against Execution, but has been unable to secure corroboration from other sources. In light of the strong concerns which this information provokes, the Commission suggests that HOMs [Heads of Mission] in Tehran be requested to investigate the claims as a matter of urgency, with a view to possible further EU action.’

6) Extract of EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 22 August 2005, reporting an EU Presidency call on the Director of the Human Rights and Women’s Affairs Department at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 22 August 2005:

[this covers issues raised in points 4 and 5 above]

‘Given the imminent reported date of execution, the Presidency took the opportunity of the call on Mr Alaie to raise concerns about reports of a death sentence being handed down for consensual homosexual sex in Arak. The Presidency had noted the Arak General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s statement last week on a case with a similar name where the crime was kidnap and rape not consensual sex. The European Union was against the use of the death penalty for all cases but urged that in line with Iran’s international commitments it would only be used for the most serious of crimes.’

7) Extract of EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 06 September 2005:

The Presidency is also grateful to the Netherlands for further information that it was able to obtain regarding the case of Ahmad Chooka. Partners will recall that this case gained widespread coverage in the European press as a result of reports that Mr Chooka was being executed for being homosexual. According to a source in the Iranian judiciary, Mr Chooka, aged 25, and another individual, kidnapped a student who was subsequently knifed and raped before being released. Mr Chooka was charged with armed violence, kidnap, rape, public disorder and other more minor crimes. The Presidency understands that it was the charges of rape and kidnap that led to the death sentence being handed down. This case has yet to be considered by the Supreme Court.’

8) Extracts from EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 25 October 2005, reporting an EU Presidency call on the Head of the Human Rights Department at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 23 October 2005:

‘The Presidency sought clarification on the cases of four young men, aged between 17 and 23, who were hanged in the city of Bandar Abbas on 23 August. The Presidency also raised the case of Ayad Marhouni, who was executed in Mashad on 19 July, despite possibly being under the age of 18 at the time of his crime and while legal avenues of appeal were still open to him.

‘Mr Emadi said the moratorium was in place. But he said the Head of the Judiciary could not instruct judges to comply with it until new legislation is adopted. He would ask for clarification on all cases raised. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was already in touch with the judiciary on the cases of Sina and Mostafa. He also said that Ayad Marhouni was not a juvenile at the time of the crime and that he was executed for rape not for his sexual orientation as some media had reported.’

‘The EU also raised the case of Soghra, in the Varamin district south of Tehran. The Presidency believed Soghra had been given a sentence of stoning by Bench 71 of the Provincial Criminal Court for adultery and being an accomplice in the murder of her husband. The Presidency urged Iran to abide by commitments made in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and asked for clarification on this case and on the status of the moratorium on stoning. On behalf of the EU, the Presidency urged Iran to abolish execution by stoning. Mr Emadi said that there was also a moratorium on stoning. He was not aware of this case but would be willing to look into it, and asked whether the Presidency could supply further details.’

9) Extract from the record of a meeting between Embassy officials and a human rights lawyer ‘X’ in Tehran, dated 26 October 2005:

‘X was concerned about two cases in particular. The first is a juvenile who is being tried for homosexuality. It is not clear if he is facing a death sentence but we hope the get the verdict and more details soon.’ [N.B. no name was given for the individual]

10) Extract of EU telegram from Spain to Member States, dated 25 November 2005:

‘Spain would like to bring partners’ attention to the execution of two men in the Iranian city of Gorgan on November 13th. These men were hanged in a public square after being found guilty of homosexual relationship. Spain proposes that the Presidency issue a public statement condemning these executions, in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Death Penalty. The content of this statement could be to reiterate the EU position against the death penalty, express concern about the provisions of Iranian legislation that consider homosexuality a capital crime.’

11) Extract from EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 2 December 2005:

Partners will be aware of recent Western media reports alleging the execution of homosexuals. In these cases, it has not been entirely clear whether the individuals are homosexual, and if they are, whether they have been executed for offences relating solely to their homosexuality. In most instances, the offence for which the death penalty has been imposed is described in the Iranian media as rape or kidnap. But Western gay rights groups and NGOs have expressed concern that the 'real offence' is homosexuality, and that the number of such cases is rising. The Presidency proposes that the EU should seek information and pass on these groups' concern. On 13 November, two Iranian men convicted of sodomy, rape and kidnapping were hanged in public in Gorgan in Golestan province according to Keyhan newspaper. The two men were named Mokhtar N (aged 24) and Ali A (aged 25). Human Rights Watch has claimed that the crime in this case was "lavat" or sexual acts between men. Other recent cases have included two men being sentenced to death in March 2005 following the discovery of a video of them engaged in sexual acts; and the execution of Mahmoud Asqari and Ayad Marhouni in Mashad in July 2005 for kidnap and rape of a thirteen year old boy.’

12) Extract from EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 5 December 2005:

‘When enquiries have been made about reports of the execution of homosexuals, the Iranian authorities noted that other charges such as kidnap or rape had lead to the death sentence being handed down. Homosexuals generally do not face persecution.’

13) Extract of eGram from Tehran to Middle East and North Africa Directorate of FCO, dated 24 May 2006:

In 2004 Leila Mafi was sentenced to death for acts incompatible with chastity after she was sold into prostitution by her mother when she was just 8 years old and then later raped by her father and brother. Leila’s case received international media attention and a prominent women’s rights lawyer took up her case. The sentence was eventually converted to imprisonment and 199 lashes.’

‘Iran confirmed a moratorium on the implementation of stoning sentences to the EU during the first round of the EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogue. However sentences of stoning continue to be handed down, especially for cases of adultery. Last year Zhila Izadi, aged only 13, was sentenced to death by stoning after she became pregnant with her brother’s child. It is not clear if she had consented to sex. Both Zhila and her brother remain in the custody of the State Welfare Organisation.’

‘In 2004 the judge who prosecuted and convicted 16 year old Atafeh Rajabi himself placed the noose around her neck after finding her guilty of ‘acts incompatible with chastity’.’

14) Extracts from Iran Co-ordination Group filenote entitled ‘Iran Human Rights Cases’ dated 25 August 2006:

‘Ashraf Kalhouri, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Her sentence has now been commuted. This was possibly due to international pressure and EU action when the case was raised with the Judiciary. They promised to ensure the stoning moratorium was upheld. It is likely that Kalhouri will remain on death row indefinitely.’

‘Malek Ghorbany, was also sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.’

‘Atefeh Rajavi, was hanged in 2004 for crimes against chastity. The case recently featured in a BBC programme, which followed the case. The Iranians have yet to respond to the programme.’

15) Extract of email from Iran Co-ordination Group to Human Rights, Democracy and Good Governance Group, dated 16 November 2006:

The issue of homosexuality in Iran doesn't come up quite as often as other issues, but our standard line is as follows:

Persecution of homosexuals in Iran?

‘Homosexual activities are illegal in Iran and can carry the death penalty. We are aware of concern that homosexuals are being charged with crimes such as rape and kidnap and then being executed. We continue to monitor the situation carefully, but we are not aware of any individual that has been executed in Iran during the past two years solely on the grounds of their homosexuality. Although homosexuality is illegal in Iran and homosexuals do experience discrimination, we do not believe that they are routinely persecuted.

Last prominent case?

‘Two youths were executed in Mashad, Iran in July 2005, which heightened our concerns. We understand that the alleged offences actually included abduction and rape. One of the youths was under the age of 18 when he was publicly hanged. We raised this case bilaterally with the Iranian Ambassador to London, and the British Embassy also expressed the EU's concern to the Iranian MFA in August 2005. The UK, as Presidency of the EU, issued a public statement of concern on 26 July.’

16) Extract of EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 28 February 2006:

‘We have also heard a report that the Supreme Court has upheld a stoning sentence for Leila Qomi, who was convicted of adultery and assisting a man, Panjali, who killed her husband. Ms Qomi wanted to marry Panjali, but when her husband refused to divorce her, Panjali shot him dead. He has been sentenced to 100 lashes as the victim’s relatives have no complaint.’

17) Extract from the record of a meeting between the UK Inter-Parliamentary Union and members of the Iranian Majles on 1 May 2007:

Nigel Evans raised the cases of child executions and the executions of homosexuals. Yahavi explained that according to Islam gays and lesbianism were not permitted. He said that if homosexual activity is in private there is no problem, but those in overt activity should be executed [he initially said tortured but changed it to executed]. He argued that homosexuality is against human nature and that humans are here to reproduce. Homosexuals do not reproduce.’

18) Extract of EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 6 July 2007:

‘the UK would like to draw partners attention to reports that a woman (name and age not known)was executed in Gorgan, Iran on 18 June. She was sentenced and hanged for the crime of incest, after becoming pregnant by her brother. Her brother was absolved after expressing his remorse. This execution constitutes a contravention of Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states that the “sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes” and further demonstrates that unequal treatment of men and women in law. Similarly, the application of the death penalty in this case also goes against the EU guidelines on use of the death penalty. The UK recommends that the proposed demarche should also register our strong objection to this execution.’

19) Extract of briefing note for Dr Howells’ meeting with Iranian Ambassador Rasoul Movaheddian on 16 July 2007:

‘Key messages

- Shocked and disturbed to hear that Jafar Kiani [ja-FA ki-A-ni] was stoned to death for adultery, despite assurances given to the EU Presidency last month that a moratorium on stoning was still in place and the sentence would not be carried out.

- We condemn this utterly. Stoning is a cruel, inhuman punishment in violation of the most basic human rights principles and Iran’s own freely undertaken international human rights commitments.

- Deeply concerned that Mr Kiani’s partner Ms Mokarrameh Ebrahimi [mok-A-rem-eh eb-ra-HI-mi] is at risk of imminent execution by stoning. Urge Iran to uphold the moratorium on stoning and stop her execution. We remain strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.


We received reports in June that Jafar Kiani and his partner Mokarremeh Ebrahimi were due to be executed imminently by stoning. They had both been convicted for adultery and had already served 11 years imprisonment. Following international pressure, including EU representations, the executions did not take place on the scheduled date (21 June). The Iranian Foreign Ministry and Judiciary gave assurances that the moratorium on stoning (announced in 2002 by the Head of the Judiciary – Shahroudi) was still in place.

Despite this, on 10 July, an Iranian Judiciary spokesman confirmed that Jafar Kiani had been stoned to death on 5 July. Mr Kiani’s execution violates both the declared moratorium and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a party. The ICCPR states that “in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, the sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes” and that “no-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The stoning violates both these principles.’

20) Extracts from EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 16 July 2007:

The UK would like to inform partners that, in accordance with the Irish proposal in the COREU under reference, we summoned the Iranian Ambassador on 16 July. The UK condemned Mr Kiani's execution - a violation of both the declared moratorium and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a party. We reiterated the UK and EU's longstanding opposition to the death penalty in all cases, urged Iran to eliminate this inhumane punishment and to ensure that Mrs Ebrahimi would not be executed.’

‘The Iranian Ambassador stated that the Iranian government remained opposed to execution by stoning and assured that Mrs Ebrahimi's execution by stoning would not be carried out. A Judiciary delegation was currently in the region investigating the execution.’

21) Extract of eGram from Tehran to Middle East and North Africa Directorate of FCO, dated 17 July 2007:

On 5 July, Jafar Kiani was stoned to death in Qazvin province for allegedly committing adultery. This was the first confirmed stoning since 2002 (when Iran announced a moratorium). Early indications suggest the local judge ignored an order from Head of the Judiciary Shahroudi blocking the stoning. The Judiciary have announced that it will investigate the judge’s behaviour, though Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of the Judiciary's human rights committee, stressed on 15 July that 'stoning is based on Islamic

Sharia law and it is not contrary to any of our international obligations'.

‘Gender also often plays a role in use of the death penalty. A woman made pregnant by her brother was hanged for incest in Gorgan on 18 June. But her brother was absolved for his penitence.’

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Death of Gay Identity Politics:
Leno v Migden Debate on Nov 17

Today's debate between incumbent State Sen. Carole Migden and her challenger Assemblymember Mark Leno, scheduled at 3:00 pm at the State Building on Golden Gate Avenue, signifies the end of gay identity politics.

For the past two decades the gay political rule book mandated that only one candidate would run for a given office, and that the community had to be united that person. Another rule barred one gay politician from seeking a gay incumbent's seat.
As with too many races in San Francisco, a one-party town, we've also seen competing candidates, lively debates and proposals for improving the city are denied to voters because Democratic Party machine bosses prefer to determine whose turn it is to run for office and scare off any serious competitors.
Migden backers argue that Leno’s candidacy is destructive because it diverts financial and activist resources away from battling Republicans. In other words, Democrats should not challenge incumbent Democrats, particularly when the incumbent votes progressively on core issues.

What’s interesting about this argument is that it coincides with the longtime defense of the fabled Brown-Burton machine. The machine avoided nasty fights among Democrats by deciding who would run in certain races, and where resources would go in others.

Ironically, one of the biggest beneficiaries of a San Francisco Democratic Party political machine long scorned by the Bay Guardian and other progressives has been Carole Migden. Since leaving the Board of Supervisors in 1996, Migden has won a string of uncontested races for the Assembly, State Board of Equalization, and the State Senate.
For more than a decade Migden has not been challenged at the ballot box, and all the democrat trappings that come with a contested race -- debates, press scrutiny of incumbent's record, voters having a choice of more than one person to vote for -- have been left dormant. That is not healthy for a vibrant and open democracy.
Since Leno threw his hat into the ring months ago, breaking so many local and state Democratic Party machine rules, not to mention upending how progressive and gay politics play out, he's been a welcomed maverick to the race for the district three seat in the state senate, at least by voters like myself, people who want feisty debates and no more political coronations.
As local gay Democrats have wrangled with Leno's candidacy and Migden supporters have trashed him for running, while his backers questioned her imperial ways, all voters have examined their records and operating styles, something that wouldn't be happening if business as usual were ruling the day.
To my Green Party eyes, this race represents a true breakthrough for Democrats, progressives, and independent or Green voters, in that a competitive race is happening. But the much bigger monumental shift the Leno versus Migden race represents is in the gay community, which is witnessing the death of gay identity politics.
Giving voters a choice of two very capable and intelligent candidates, who just happen to be gay and Democratic, allows gays to enter a phase of political maturity in which we move away from Soviet-style elections and one-choice ballots.
And the hand-wringing by party machine hacks loyal to Migden about divisions in the supposedly otherwise united community isn't playing well like it used to.
The community, if you can call it that, of gay voters has never been monolithic in San Francisco, and anytime you hear a gay Democrat attempt to scare off a political challenger with the charge that she or he is dividing us, you can be sure that's a sign the current officeholder is nervous about reelection.

Former club president Jeff Sheehy lashed out at Leno for what he considers to be a "grudge match" against Migden. His comment that Leno is at fault for causing division in the community was met with loud boos.

"This race is going to divide this community and it is going to divide this club," he said after admonishing those who disrupted him. "It is disgraceful we are even having this race."

No, no, no! This is no disgrace at all. It's a blossoming of a better democracy and way of electing candidates in San Francisco. Get used to it and support competitive elections!

The Milk Club release on the debate:

When: Saturday, November 17, 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Where: The State Building, Milton Marks Auditoreum, 455 Goldengate Ave. (between Larkin & Polk)

Who: Belva Davis, Moderator; Candidate: Senator Carole Migden, Assemblyman Mark Leno, Police Commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese

What: The Harvey Milk Club is pleased to host a debate on Saturday, November 17th between candidates for the 2008 California state senate race in District 3. The debate will be moderated by award-winning journalist Belva Davis. This election is of special interest to San Francisco’s LGBT community because two of our leading LGBT elected officials, Mark Leno and incumbent Carole Migden, are both running, and the community would like to see an LGBT candidate win. We are fortunate to have two such strong LGBT candidates running. Other candidates participating in the debate include Joe Alioto Veronese.

District 3 covers the eastern half of San Francisco, all of Marin County, and much of southern Sonoma County. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club has not yet endorsed any of the candidates. The debate is an excellent opportunity for the Club and the public to learn more about the candidates and where they stand on the issues important to our community.

Friday, November 16, 2007

NYT on Female Condoms:
Rectums, Gays & Sodomy Omitted

The rectum simply doesn't get the respect and attention it very much deserves, especially when it comes to sexual pleasure and stopping infections like HIV.

The NY Times' piece on Tuesday in the Science section on the female condom talks about the device only in the context of vaginal intercourse and heterosexuals, which I find very odd given that straight people have anal sex, both for sexual stimulation and enjoyment, and as a form of birth control.

But the Gray Lady simply couldn't bring herself to say anal, anus, gay, men who have sex with men, homosexual, rectal or rectum in the story.

Memo to the Times: the female condom can easily be used during anal sex. Whether you're a woman or a man who engages in sodomy, the pouch can also stop diseases from spreading through the back door.

I've long been a champion of the female condom, which I refer to as an anal condom, as one effective way of stopping rectal transmission of HIV. Unfortunately, this internal life-saving pouch has never been promoted properly to gay and bisexual men by HIV prevention organizations, local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Click here to read the 1996 story from the Bay Area Reporter about the sad history of the federal government's unwillingness to approve and publicize the female condom for gay anal sex.

What is needed at this point, after the Times' omission of the rectum and gay men from its article, is a look by the gay and mainstream corporate press and activists concerned about HIV prevention, into any efforts targeting gays to use internal pouches for butt-sex and if there is research underway looking at efficacy and acceptability for female/anal/internal pouches in the gay community.

From the NY Times, November 15:

The female condom has never caught on in the United States. But in the third world, where it was introduced in the late 1990s, public health workers hoped it would overthrow the politics of the bedroom, empower women and stop the AIDS epidemic in its tracks.

It did not. Female condoms never really caught on there, either.

Only about 12 million female condoms are delivered each year in poor countries, compared with about 6 billion male condoms. Couples complained that the female version was awkward, unsightly, noisy and slippery — or, as Mitchell Warren, who was one of its earliest champions, now says, “the yuck factor was a problem.” Many women tried it, but in the end, it was adopted mainly by prostitutes.

Now scientists are trying again. A new design — much the same at one end, different at the other — has been developed, and its makers hope it will succeed where its predecessor failed.

“Over 15 years, there’s been no real competition, no second-generation product,” said Michael J. Free, head of technology at PATH, a nonprofit group based in Seattle that did the redesign. “There’s no lack of interest, but we’ve been stalled.”

However, the new design does not overcome the glaring drawback that doomed the first to be a niche product: it cannot be used secretly. For that reason, married women, now one of the highest risk groups for AIDS in poor countries, rarely use it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

London Times' Gay Iranian Hanging Sources Requested from UK Government

A story from London today about the British government's concerns regarding gay human rights abuses in Iran piqued my curiosity and I want to examine the same files the reporter did.
Since the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not yet sharing the source files mentioned in the news today on their web site, I have filed a request with the FCO for the documents they gave to the paper.
This request to the UK government, after years of filing Freedom of Information Act requests with various U.S. federal agencies, is my first such request on the international front.
Got my fingers crossed that the information officers at the FCO quickly email me what I want.
Information Rights Team
Information Management Group
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Dear Sir or Madam:
Under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act I hereby request copies of, or access to, all records recently released to the Times of London newspaper related to gays and lesbians in Iran and the matters of their executions and human rights violations.
On November 13 the London Times reported the following:

"Homosexuals deserve to be executed or tortured and possibly both, an Iranian leader told British MPs during a private meeting at a peace conference, The Times has learnt. [...]

"Britain regularly challenges Iran about its gay hangings, stonings and executions of adulterers and perceived moral criminals, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) papers show. [...]

"Under the Freedom of Information Act, the FCO released papers to The Times about the death penalty being used in Iran for homosexuality, adultery and sex outside marriage."

Click here and you can read the full Times story.

Please provide me with the entire files from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that were shared with Times of London editors and reporters that are referenced in the news account.

If at all possible, I would like the requested public records in their original electronic format(s) and sent to me via email transmission.

Unfortunately, the FCO has not seen fit to web-post what was released to the London Times. I spent this morning searching the FCO site and many of its web pages for these files, and they could not be found.
Along with the FCO search engine, I looked for the files at this URL of the FCO.
If the FCO has indeed web-posted the files, then kindly share with me the URL address for the documents.
I am further requesting a copy of the London Times' original Freedom of Information Act request that prompted the FCO to release the documents related to gay and lesbian human rights abuses and executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Should you have any questions or need clarification regarding my request, don't hesitate to contact me.
A prompt reply and acknowledgement of receipt of this letter is requested.
Sincerely yours,
Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA, USA

Monday, November 12, 2007

Young Dems Inflate Membership?/Gays = $690B/
NYT on Gay Muslims

Nuggets of interest from around the web in the past week:
The Bay Area Reporter's Matthew Bajko interviewed the openly gay director of Young Democrats of America, David Hardt, this week and who claims his group consists of more than half a million people:

The 31-year-old Hardt, who is openly gay and lives in Dallas, said the vote does not sit well with the majority of his groups' 300,000 members. He said he had surveyed chapter leaders across the country and heard from several thousand members about ENDA.

More than 90 percent of the people he heard from opposed a gay-only ENDA, said Hardt. Four years ago the Young Dems became the first national Democratic group to support a trans-inclusive ENDA, said Hardt.

That 300,000 stat doesn't jibe with YDA's statement about their membership:
YDA has chartered chapters in 46 states and U.S. territories with over 1,500 local chapters. Our 150,000+ members – including middle school, high school and college students as well as young workers, young professionals and young families – reflects the broad diversity of our nation and the Democratic Party.
Who's right here on YDAs memberships figures, BAR or YDA, and can they be independently verified? Like another Democratic Party affiliated advocacy organization, the Human Rights Campaign, the YDA leaders may be very creative with determining membership and hoping no one looks too closely at the membership rolls and numbers.
The lesbian consumer is very overlooked by advertisers, according to a recent and extensively detailed story in BrandWeek magazine, which threw out some mighty big numbers about the size of the gay wallet and our supposed economic power:
For starters, lesbians represent a little less than half of the estimated $690 billion buying power of the homosexual population in America, a number that's expected to reach $835 billion by 2011, according to New York research firm Packaged Facts.
In addition, while marketers have long salivated over the high average incomes purportedly enjoyed by professional gay men, lesbians are hardly scraping for pocket change. A 2002 study published in Contemporary Economic Policy found that they earn 30% more than their heterosexual counterparts. [...]

In addition, despite prevailing stereotypes of exaggerated frugality, recent studies demonstrate that lesbian-fueled domestic consumption patterns are, in many cases, as vigorous—if not more so—than any other.
Damn, $690 billion is a large number to throw around in advertising circles, and I love that it grows to $835 billion in four years. Of course, as with membership stats from YDA and the BAR, the figures may be inflated by creative gay numbers crunchers.
Using San Francisco as the backdrop, the NY Times last week examined the problems faced by gays in America. While the article broke no new political ground, it was welcomed in some activists circles just for shedding light on gay Muslims.
As is almost-required for such news stories, an Islamic cleric is quoted saying something ignorant, like HIV existed a long time ago and killed people in very ancient times:

Hostility is rooted in the Koranic story of Lot, which parallels the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. At Al-Tawhid Mosque in San Francisco, the imam, Hassan al-Jalal, a Yemeni with a short beard, printed a sheaf of Koranic verses that he said condemned homosexuals.

“This is the main sin in Islam,” Mr. Jalal said, describing how the town housing Lot’s tribe was lifted high into the sky and then dropped, killing all in the town before they were buried under what is now the Dead Sea. “He sent the flood to clean the earth from AIDS. There were no doctors at that time, but God knew they had a virus.”

All sects mandate capital punishment, he argued, although others differ. “Sunni, Shiite, they all agree that they have to be killed. But who does it? Not me or you, only by law.”

Muslim clerics reject being gay as biologically coded and advise anyone with homosexual stirrings to avoid temptation. They see America as rife with it given practices like open gym showers.

From Sodom and Gomorrah to gym showers, to the Islamic world, gays exist. Get used to it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

BAR: HRC Refuses to Name ENDA Pollster

(Che Tabisola, HRC research center director.)

The Human Rights Campaign, a group that could use a lot more transparency over its varied operations, won't tell the Bay Area Reporter the name of the pollster who surveyed members of the LGBT community on ENDA.
Earlier Tuesday, HRC trumpeted a poll it commissioned that showed 70 percent of the 500 self-identified LGBT folks surveyed were okay with the non-trans ENDA. We immediately asked who these people were – HRC members or subscribers of the Advocate? (The magazine was first out of the box to post the story about the survey, leaving some to wonder if the two were joined at the hip on this one.) Minutes later, we received a call from spokesman Brad Luna, who assured us that the 500 folks were "randomly" selected "from across the country" and were "not HRC members and not Advocate readers."

He declined to name the polling company that conducted the survey, which he said was done by telephone. [Emphasis added.]
Like the BAR, I too had questions about the basics of HRC poll, like the name of the firm that did it, methodology behind the results, list of all questions asked, if numbers were broken down by race, economic status, and if respondents identified as either L or G or B or T. But I couldn't locate answers on the HRC site, and if this basic info is posted there, or somewhere else on the web, please share with the me the URL.
Bully for the BAR in being somewhat skeptical of the HRC polling on ENDA, but I wish the paper in addition to reporting HRC refusal to tell us the pollster's name, the BAR told us why HRC is keeping their pollster, and more details on the poll, in the closet.
I did find a blog entry at the HRC site in which they were promising to help the community understand and interpret all the 2008 election polls and stats coming out these days, and their importance for LGBT voters.
Okay, HCR and Che Tabisola, please start with giving us more information on the ENDA poll. Posting the name of the pollster, more data, would go a long way in opening up HRC and its decision-making process, but HRC cannot stop there.
The nation's largest gay political advocacy organization has a further duty to also tell us about all of their full range of polling conducted this year. It's not enough for HRC to only tell us the data that backs of their leadership's views.
Who conducted HRC's poll on ENDA and why can't we know the name of the pollster from HRC? I've never heard of a special-interest group generating so much spilled ink over poll results, and no one knows who the pollster was. Surely there is nothing wrong with pollsters working with a gay group . . . is there?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

SF DPH/CDC: HIV Epidemic Over or Endemic?

Debate on Nov 8

The Centers for Disease Control-mandated but S.F. health department-administered HIV Prevention Planning Council will debate whether HIV is at growing epidemic levels infections or at endemic rates, meaning HIV is stable and contained within a particular group of people.

Item number seven on the November 8 agenda for the HPPC guarantees a provocative discussion will take place:

7. Epidemic/Endemic: What do we think about HIV in San Francisco? (Discussion item)

Objective: To provide HPPC members with an understanding of the difference of the terms endemic and epidemic and to discuss the implications of the terms in San Francisco.

The presenter is Dr. Willi McFarland, SF DPH and UCSF researcher and epidemiologist who gained international infamy in June 2000 when he told the San Francisco Chronicle the city’s HIV infections were at sub-Saharan levels of transmission, an allegation he eventually retracted. At the time, the U.S. Congress was considering funding for San Francisco through the Ryan White CARE Act, millions of dollars were at stake, and McFarland had pretty flimsy data to back up his claims.

In order to help the HPPC members and local gay community in the epidemic versus endemic debate, I’m sharing some recent HIV testing data that must be an integral component to determining where we are in controlling HIV in America’s key city for the disease, with implications for other U.S. cities.

The most comprehensive and largest set of data comes from the Counseling, Testing and Referral (CTR) funded programs across the city, and from diverse health care settings; clinics, private doctor’s offices, community-based organizations, etc.

The latest CTR figures:


19,090 / 699


20,376 / 735


21,973 / 736


20,735 / 644


17,714 / 336

The number of tests performed impacts the rate of positive results, which are declining, suggesting San Francisco may have progress from epidemic to endemic five or more years back, and we may be well into a persistent drop of HIV infections.

Bear in mind that some of the people tested are repeat testers, already knew their HIV positive status when they were tested, and may be counted twice. The positive results, well under one thousand annually, in a city with an estimated 55,000 – 60,000 gay and bisexual male community, should be discussed further among sexually active men who have sex with men.

The recently released 2006 annual HIV/AIDS epidemiology report, in Table 1.3 on page 4, provides the following HIV positive test results, without the figures for tests administered. This set of data, not sourced by SF DPH, is probably the CTR numbers, updated by late-reporting laboratories and clinics.

From the new SF DPH HIV/AIDS epi report:











As with the first set, this set is reinforcing the argument that HIV is really on a continuing downward trend.

Speaking of declining trends, the September 2007 quarterly AIDS surveillance report is out and shows full-blown AIDS cases and deaths still falling.

The current month STD report, through the end of August, in Table 3, testing at only one very important clinic, the STD control and prevention site on 7th Street, illustrates how monthly HIV positive results increases correspond accordingly when there is a jump in number of tests performed.

From the DPH monthly STD stats:

Year to date, August 2007

Tests: 3,392

Positives: 80

Year to date, August 2006

Tests: 2,037

Positives: 67

Putting aside tests administered and its influence, for both years, over eight months, San Francisco’s STD clinic saw less than 100 HIV positive results, which is a significant development.

The HIV and AIDS data must be examined in the larger context of STD numbers, so let’s start with the male rectal gonorrhea data. The 2006 annual STD summary, released last month, on page 2 reported the following:

“Gonorrhea in San Francisco was stable compared to last year with 2,413 cases and 2,469 cases in 2006. […] Male rectal gonorrhea increased by 6 percent from 486 cases in 2005 to 517 cases in 2006. This increase in rectal gonorrhea was due, in part, to increasing screening at Magnet, the gay men’s health center.”

Nice of DPH to admit testing rates, at least for male rectal gonorrhea, when increased, can drive up the number of infections detected.

The August monthly STD summary gives these numbers:

Year to date, 2006


Year to date, 2007


Fifty fewer rectal gonorrhea infections equals a 12% drop. I’d say, between the annual figures and the monthly stats, this STD, a prime marker for guessing safer sex practices among gay and bisexual men, safer sex is widely practiced.

Now, what about the syphilis rate? The annual STD report says this: “Syphilis cases of less than one year’s duration (including primary, secondary, and early latent cases) were stable with 427 cases in 2005 to 420 cases in 2006.”

So far, the monthly year to date syphilis rate is tumbling. Down from 364 cases in 2006 to 303 reported in 2007. This is a decline of 16%.

With HIV, gay gonorrhea and syphilis all dropping, the last thing I want to look at is the meth-related emergency room visits at SF General Hospital, from the monthly STD numbers.

There’s been a 13% decrease in such year to date ER visits. In 2006 through August there were 326 visits, compared to 284 in 2007.

All these drops, or increases that are attributable to more testing, are signs that San Francisco HIV/AIDS/STD/meth ER visits point to effective control and prevention of serious public health problems.

Will the HPPC discussion this Thursday acknowledge these facts and offer positive reinforcement to the gay and bisexual male community for this, as it debates whether we’re in an epidemic or endemic phase?

Show up at 3:00 p.m. on November 8 at the Quaker Meeting House, 65 Ninth Street, near Mission, and participate in the debate.