Monday, April 20, 2009

HRW's 18-page Grudge Report
Against Gay Activists
Nearly three years ago, the international gatekeeper on gay matters, Scott Long of Human Rights Watch, made grand promises about a soon-to-be released report on gay Iranian people and issues.

Put aside for the moment the matter if any good ever comes of such gay-specific reports for LGBT people in the countries analyzed by Long, and stay focused on this simple question: Where is the report?

Here is what he said in June of 2006:

We’re finishing a report on human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Iran, which I hope will be ready for release by September. ...

Our report won’t be aimed at audiences in San Francisco or London. The readers that matter most are Iranian lesbians and gays, who are trying to assess their risks and options, and Iranian human rights workers campaigning for basic freedoms. ...

Reliability matters.

If reliability is important to Long and HRW, why have they never allowed that report to see the light of day?

One reason may be HRW's managing director of LGBT issues is more interested in writing an 18-page scholarly and exhaustive catalog of gay activists and reporters, among others, who have done things he didn't approve of in the past few years on gay Iranian issues.

The HRW/Long analysis appears in the March issue of Contemporary Politics, an intellectual journal with a hefty subscription price that does not make it's article available for free. However, you can read a PDF version of it here.

In the piece, titled "Unbearable witness: how Western activists (mis)recognize sexuality in Iran," HRW's researcher on gay issues spews most of his venom at UK activists Simon Forbes and Peter Tatchell, the Italian organization of three men GruppoEveryone, the Queerty, Towleroad, and news sites, reporter Doug Ireland of Gay City News, the conservative writers Bruce Bawer and Andrew Sullivan, the Spanish Federacion Estatal de LGBT, the Human Rights Campaign, DC activist Rick Rosendall and yours truly.

The mullahs of Tehran escape any serious criticism from Long and HRW in the 18-page list of grievances.

Long says in the beginning of 18-page grudge report:

"I work for Human Rights Watch, and this paper draws on research, including 100 interviews, that we conducted over three years into human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Iran."

Too bad the more than three years of research has not produced anything as damning of the Iranian politicians and Muslim clerics who oppress gays in Iran. HRW and Long are too busy going after Western gays who have dared to not kowtow to the dictates of Long.

At the end of his attack on gay activists, Long returns to the matter of the long-awaited gay Iranian report he's been promising to share with the world since 2006.

He writes:

"[The stories of LGBT Iranians] will appear in a report that will try to return the debate to the realm of fact."

Um, Scott, how about crafting a report that actually improves the situation for LGBT Iranians? Or are you more interested in carrying on your grudge and positioning HRW and yourself to be in charge of the debate?

It says much about what is wrong with HRW and Long and their approach to gay Iranian issues. HRW and Long have issued an 18-page report against gay activists first, while the report on gay Iranians is nowhere in sight.

Two weeks ago, this letter was sent to the editor of the journal that published the HRW grudge report. I hope they print it, because it makes many legit points about the longstanding problems with Long and his international gatekeeping:

Dear Prof. Holliday:

I do not know if Contemporary Politics publishes letters to the editor, but if it does, please consider this for publication.

I have published in the gay and mainstream press for over 20 years. Unlike Scott Long, I have always given people mentioned in my stories an opportunity to respond or comment. That Scott did not contact any individual he discusses in his essay and that he misrepresents and misquotes individuals is typical of the arrogance that he has displayed since day one at Human Rights Watch.

It has been apparent for years that Scott believes that he alone is qualified to discuss any aspect of the international gay rights movement, that he alone will decide which sources are credible and which are not, and that he alone will set the strategy for dealing with gay issues outside of the developed world. It is clear that Scott feels he owns international gay issues and that he believes that the rest of us are unqualified to comment or act on these unless we are repeating his views or following his instructions.

The lesbian and gay movement started decades before Scott came on the scene and achieved a great deal without any contribution from him. That movement will continue to advance in spite of Scott and it will thrive long after he has gone. Nobody in this movement needs direction from Scott and nobody has asked for such direction. Outside of that tiny, elitist group that shares Scott's views, I suggest nobody wants to hear from him.

Duncan Osborne
Associate Editor
Gay City News

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