Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — In its waltz with the world’s dictators, the Cuban government isn’t satisfied with just recently going to hug egomaniac Eternal North Korean President Kim Il-un, but now it’s receiving the Iranian head-of-state who rules the world’s leading country in homosexual persecution.
Raul Castro has invited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Cuba, who was traveling to the Americas to take part in the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, which took place on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.
The visit of an authority whose Government punishes homosexuality and transexuality with whip lashes, death penalties and conversion therapy is extremely dangerous; especially because I fear that Human Rights violations like these will influence those that the Cuban government already practices.
While it is true that Rouhani has considered thawing relations with the West, can be considered a moderate islamist and hasn’t openly expressed his homophobia (like his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did, who was also received in Havana), backward laws and practices, which have been legalized by Tehran, continue to remain intact today.
Just a hundred days after Rouhani was elected into office, Iranian guards arrested “a homosexual network”, in the city of Kermanshah, near the Iraq border. There, military forces broke into a bar where they were having a birthday party and took away 80 people, many of them with tattoos, wearing make-up or rainbow flag bracelets.
According to an English document leaked by Wikileaks, Iran has executed between 4,000 and 6,000 gays and lesbians between 1979 and 2008.
On the other hand, it is estimated that around a thousand homosexual Iranians are seeking refuge in Turkey alone, waiting to be relocated to other countries.
The most recent case that I have been able to find is the hanging of 19 year old Hassan Afshar in a prison in Arak, in the Iranian province of Markazi, last July 18th, after having been charged for the alleged crime of “forced anal sex between men”. Nevertheless, the fact that the Iranian penal system classifies consensual acts of homosexual sex as “rape”, so that they can justify the death penalty more easily, is commonplace.
It’s impossible for us to know the real number of executions that Iran carries out relating to homosexuality, however, more than the number of victims, the most systematic problem is the constant fear of persecution, as well as isolation and invisibility that non-heterosexual people suffer there.
A few years ago, the government in Tehran launched a series of raids known popularly as the “terror raids” where police seek to, with civil cooperation, “clean the streets and cities of evil people and criminals”, homosexuals being amongst them. Something like this happened in Havana a decade ago in the ’90s, when police used to turn up at illegal gay parties.
Currently, Cuba and Iran share the same intolerance towards political opposition and freedom of the media. At this meeting between Hassan Rouhani and Raul and also with Fidel Castro, it’s possible that they will swap their experiences with regard to this intolerance so as to perfect their respective political systems, as well as the most important thing: business.
All of the above is already revolting. Nevertheless, personally, as a gay Cuban, I feel a great malaise in having to share the same ground as the person directly responsible for the persecution, torture and murder of our LGBT people living in his Asian country.
Hassan Rouhani: you are not welcome in Cuba, as I’m pretty well certain you’re not welcome in Iran either.