Amy Goodman, a veteran progressive journalist who along with Juan Gonzalez hosts the daily TV/radio show "Democracy Now!," spoke with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week and asked him about the July 19, 2005, hanging of two gay teenagers in the city of Mashad. He denies they were hanged for anything to do with homosexuality.
As one of the organizers who has helped organize annual commemorations about the hangings, I'd like to extend deep thanks to Goodman for raising the hangings and Iran's treatment of gays in her talk with the president.
Here is their exchange, excerpted from the full transcript:
AMY GOODMAN: July 19th is a day that is honored around the world, where two gay teenagers, Iranian teens, were hung. This is a picture of them hanging. They were two young men, named Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni. Do you think gay men and lesbians should die in Iran?
PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] No, there is no law for their execution in Iran. Either they were drug traffickers or they had killed someone else. Those who kill someone else or engage in acts of rape could be punished by execution. Otherwise, homosexuals are not even known who they are to be hung, in the second place. So, we don’t have executions of homosexuals. Of course, we consider it an abhorrent act, but it is not punished through capital punishment. It’s basically an immoral act. There are a lot of acts that can be immoral, but there’s no capital punishment for them.
I don’t know where you obtained these pictures from. Either they’re a network of drug traffickers or some other—or people who generally might have killed someone else. You know that we take our sort of social security seriously, because it’s important. What would you do in the United States if someone picked up a gun and killed a bunch of people? If there is a person to complain, then there’s capital punishment awaiting the person. Or drug traffickers, if they carry above a certain amount, volume, of drugs with them, they can be executed in Iran.
AMY GOODMAN: There is the death penalty in the United States, but many in the progressive community feel that it is wrong and are trying to have it abolished.PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] Well, there are different opinions about it. It’s lawmakers, legal professionals and sociologists that must examine it, see what best suits every society, because the rights of the society sit above the rights of the individual. I don’t wish to say anything about it, to make a comment, because there are experts who must do it.