International observers were recently alarmed by reports that three men were hanged in the Iranian city of Ahvaz for a series of crimes that included engaging in sodomy.
According to the Norway–based NGO Iran Human Rights, the Iranian Student News Agency said that on September 4 three men were convicted of 'unlawful acts' and acts against Sharia, based on articles 108 and 110 of the Islamic penal code. Iran Human Rights noted that "Articles 108 and 110 of the Iranian Islamic Penal code are part of the chapter covering 'Hadd' for sodomy. . . .Article 110 says punishment for sodomy is killing."
The three men, identified only by initials, were also charged with kidnapping and theft. Because of the variety of charges and the lack of due process in Iran – summary trials, the disregard for the right to defense counsel, and the practice of accusing political prisoners of criminal activity -- there is no way to know why these men were hanged.
The Iranian government has a deplorable record of persecuting members of Iran's gay, lesbian and transgender, community -- the size of which remains unknown, since many individuals fear identifying themselves.
The State Department's most recent human rights report on Iran notes that the law "prohibits and punishes homosexual conduct; sodomy between consenting adults is a capital crime." It says that those accused of sodomy often faced summary trials, and noted that "human rights activists and NGOs reported that some members of the gay and bi-sexual community were pressured to undergo gender reassignment surgery to avoid legal and social persecutions in the country."
In his most recent address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Barack Obama defended the human rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered -- or LGBT -- individuals around the world: "No country should deny people their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion; but also no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere."
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says, it is "hateful" to suggest that LGBT people "are somehow exempt from human rights protections. . . .All people's rights and dignity must be protected whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity."