Despite witnesses withdrawing their allegations.
“Confession” secured after ill-treatment in prison.
Amnesty International calls for Urgent Action.
London – 14 November 2007
“Sentencing Makwan Moloudzadeh to death violates Iranian law and international human rights conventions,” said gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the UK LGBT rights group, OutRage!
“Executing a person for an offence they allegedly committed when they were a minor, below the age of criminal responsibility, is particularly heinous and barbaric.
“Makwan is the latest victim of Tehran’s on-going homophobic campaign of imprisonment, torture, flogging and hanging,” he said.
Makwan Moloudzadeh, a 21 year old an Iranian Kurd, has been sentenced to death in the city of Paveh, following his conviction for an act of sodomy that he committed while still a minor, aged 13, with another minor, also aged 13, according to Amnesty International.
See the Amnesty International briefing below and here:
“Under Iranian law, same-sex acts are illegal and punishable by death. The Iran penal code also stipulates that the age of criminal responsibility is 15 lunar years and offenders under this age are exempt from criminal punishment,” added Mr Tatchell.
“At worst, according to Iranian law, Makwan should have received up to 74 lashes, not a sentence of death. Males under 15 are classified as minors and are usually not subject to criminal sanctions, especially not the death penalty.
“Makwan was 13 at the time of the offence. His partner was also 13
“The Iranian authorities allege that Makwan raped the other boy but the offence of male rape does not exist in the Iranian penal code. Moreover, no one involved in the case accused Makwan of rape, according to research by the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
“As in the UK and the US, in Iran all sex involving children is automatically deemed sexual assault – even if it takes place with consent between partners of the same age.
“Following alleged physical ill-treatment in prison, Makwan is said to have made a confession under interrogation. At his trial, however, he reportedly protested his innocence. Several people who made allegations against Makwan have since withdrawn their claims.
“Under these circumstances, it is particularly reprehensible that Iran intends to proceed with this execution.
“OutRage! urges everyone – gay and straight – to support the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission’s campaign to save Makwan’s life. We also call on our friends and supporters to write appeals for clemency to their local Iranian Ambassador,” said Mr Tatchell.
Following this campaign, the Iranian Chief Justice, Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, nullified the death sentence on Makwan Mouloodzadeh. His case is being sent for retrial, which we hope will result in his acquittal. Our thanks to everyone who lobbied the Iranian authorities and helped secure this successful, life-saving outcome.
1) International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission campaign
2) Amnesty International URGENT ACTION
3) OutRage! report on Iran’s state murder of gays
1) International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission campaign
IGLHRC requests that you send letters in English or Persian to the following Iranian officials, requesting that the order of execution in the case of Makvan Mouloodzadeh be withdrawn:
The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, His Eminence Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei: [email protected] and [email protected] and [email protected]
The Honorable Chief Justice, His Eminence Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi: [email protected] and [email protected]
Iranian President, His Excellency Dr. Mahmood Ahmadinejad:
Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Council (Parliament), His Excellency Dr. Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel: [email protected]
Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Mr. Manuchehr Motaki: [email protected]
Please also email a copy of your correspondence to IGLHRC at: [email protected]
His Eminence Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
I am writing with regard to reports of the pending execution of Mr. Makwan Mouloudzadeh, a 21-year old Iranian citizen from the city of Paveh in Kermanshah Province. On June 7, 2007, Mr. Mouloudzadeh was found guilty of multiple counts of anal rape (ighab), allegedly committed as a minor when he was 13 years old. The Seventh District Criminal Court of Kermanshah sentenced him to death. Despite his lawyer’s appeal, the Supreme Court has upheld his death sentence.
Mr. Mouloudzadeh’s sentence violates international law, as well as various legal codes of the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to Article 6(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Articles 49 and 111 of the Islamic Penal Code, crimes committed by minors cannot be punished by death.
Moreover, although no one ever accused Mr. Mouloudzadeh of rape, the judge used a principle known as “Knowledge of the Judge” to issue a ruling finding the defendant guilty. This is a violation of Article 120 of the Islamic Penal Code, which clearly states that the knowledge of the judge should be obtained through “conventional methods.” All parties involved in this case told the court that their statements made during the investigation were either untruthful or coerced, facts that make the court ruling invalid under Article 116 of the Islamic Penal Code.
Furthermore, unlawful techniques and procedures were used to gather evidence for this case, which according to the Section 3 of Article 3 of the Legal Amendment of the Laws Governing Public and Revolutionary Courts, puts into question the legality of the court ruling.
As the highest-ranking religious and political authority in the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is within your legal and constitutional power to order the postponement or the cancellation of the execution, request a reexamination of the case, and even grant amnesty to Mr. Mouluodzadeh. I plead with you to use your authority to save the life of this innocent citizen.
I would like to thank you in advance for your kind attention to this important legal case, and potentially for saving the life of Mr. Makwan Mouloudzadeh.
(Name, address, date and organization)
2) Amnesty International URGENT ACTION
LIBRARY MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
AI Index: MDE 13/125/2007 26 October 2007
Iran: Death penalty/imminent execution: Makwan Moloudzadeh (m)
UA 278/07 Death penalty/imminent execution
IRAN Makwan Moloudzadeh (m), aged 21, child offender
Child offender Makwan Moloudzadeh, an Iranian Kurd, is believed to be at risk of imminent execution. He has reportedly been convicted of lavat-e iqabi (anal
sex) for the alleged rape of a 13-year-old boy. Makwan Moloudzadeh was aged 13 at the time of the alleged offence. His death sentence has been passed to the Office for the Implementation of Sentences and he is due to be executed in public, near his home.
He was reportedly arrested on 1 October 2006 in Paveh, in the western province of Kermanshah. He was detained in Paveh Prison and later transferred to Kermanshah Central Prison. Following interrogations in Paveh during which he was reportedly ill-treated, he was tried by Branch 1 of the Kermanshah Criminal Court and on 7 June 2007 he was sentenced to death. The witnesses and the two people who had pressed charges against him withdrew their claims after the trial. Under Iranian law, children (boys of up to 14.7 years) are to be flogged for lavat (“homosexual acts”).
However, the judge relied on ‘elm-e qazi, the “knowledge of the judge” to determine that penetration had taken place and that Makwan Moloudzadeh could be sentenced to death. Makwan Moloudzadeh lodged an appeal on 5 July, which the Supreme Court rejected on 1 August. Several witnesses have withdrawn their testimonies and signed notarized written statements to that effect.
During his trial, Makwan Moloudzadeh reportedly maintained his innocence.
Previously, however, he was reportedly ill-treated during interrogation and “confessed” during interrogation that he had had a sexual relationship with a boy in 1999. He is reported to have gone on hunger strike for 10 days to protest against his ill-treatment in detention. Prior to his trial and conviction, on or around 7 October 2006 Makwan Moloudzadeh was reportedly paraded through the streets of Paveh riding on a donkey, with his head shaved. People in the street shouted abuse and threw things at him.
Article 1210(1) of Iran’s Civil Code sets the ages of 15 lunar years as the age of criminal responsibility for boys, and nine lunar years for girls. Makwan Moloudzadeh was reportedly born on 31 March 1986 and, at the age of 13, was a minor under Iranian law at the time of the alleged offence. According to Article 49 of Iran’s Penal Code: “Children, if committing an offence, are exempted from criminal responsibility. Their correction is the responsibility of their guardians or, if the court decides, by a centre for correction of minors.”
Furthermore, in this case the judge used the customary practice of “judge’s knowledge” to override Article 113 of Iran’s Penal Code which states, “If a minor has anal sex with another minor, each will receive up to 74 lashes unless one of them was forced to do so [in which case he will not be punished].”
International law strictly prohibits the use of the death penalty against people convicted of crimes committed when they were under the age of 18. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has raised concern about child offenders’
criminal responsibility being determined by judges, using subjective and arbitrary criteria such as the attainment of puberty, the age of discernment or the personality of the child. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran has undertaken not to execute child offenders. However, since 1990, Iran has executed at least 24 child offenders, with a further two reportedly put to death on 17 October 2007. At least 78 child offenders are on death row in Iran; at least 15 Afghan child offenders are reportedly under sentence of death.
For more information about Amnesty International’s concerns regarding executions of child offenders in Iran, please see: Iran: The last executioner of children (MDE 13/059/2007, June 2007)
3) OutRage! report on Iran’s state murder of gays
Victims often framed for kidnap and rape
The Iranian government is executing gay and bisexual men under the cover of rape and kidnapping charges, according to a major new investigation by Simon Forbes of the UK-based gay and lesbian human rights group OutRage!
Mr Forbes’s nine-month investigation, published today by OutRage!, is based on information gathered from multiple, independent and credible sources inside Iran. His research reveals:
* Executions by Iran’s security forces, and ‘honour killings’ by families in the south western province of Khuzestan
* Secret hangings in prison
* The method of hanging is designed to cause slow, agonising strangulation
* Internet entrapment of gay Iranians using foreign-based online gay dating agencies
* A pattern of framing gay people on charges of kidnap, rape and paedophilia
* Claims of rape are sometimes made to save the family’s honour or to save the passive partner from execution, and are part of an Iranian government propaganda offensive to scapegoat and demonise gay people
* Hypocrisy of the mullah’s attitudes towards the abuse of young girls, the rape of both males and females in custody, and widespread sodomy in religious colleges
Our investigation exposes the state-sanctioned torture and murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by the Iranian clerical regime.
“This pioneering investigation is based on information from credible, verified sources inside Iran. It provides clear evidence of homophobic honour killings, arrests, torture and executions,” said OutRage! spokesperson Peter Tatchell.
“Our research confirms a pattern of framing same-sex lovers on charges of kidnap and rape, in order to discredit them, discourage public protests and deflect international condemnation.
“The information on which the Home Office bases its rejection of most gay Iranian asylum claims is partial, badly researched and glosses over gay human rights abuses by the Iranian regime.
“Until Iran’s anti-gay laws are repealed, the UK, EU and US should permanently halt the deportation of lesbian and gay Iranians. So long as Iran criminalises same-sex relations, it will not be safe for gay people to return to Iran.
“Deportations are tantamount to a sentence of death. Any gay asylum seeker sent back to Iran is likely to be arrested, tortured and executed.
“Under the European Convention on Human Rights it is illegal to deport people to countries like Iran where they would be at risk of torture and execution,” said Mr Tatchell.
Iran – The State-Sponsored Torture & Murder of Lesbians & Gays Men New evidence of how the clerical regime frames, defames and hangs homosexuals
By Simon Forbes of OutRage! London, UK
With editorial input by Brett Lock and Peter Tatchell of OutRage!
The shocking photos of the execution of teenagers, Mahmoud ‘Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, in the Iranian city of Mashhad on 19 July 2005, bought home to many people for the first time the barbaric, inhuman and violently homophobic nature of the Iranian clerical regime.
Their executions were, of course, just two of many state-sanctioned murders of children, unchaste women, gay people, and ethnic, political and religious dissidents.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been repeatedly condemned by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for widespread and severe human rights abuses, including the abuse and execution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Limited official information about sodomy executions
Detailed and reliable figures concerning Iranian executions for lavat (sodomy) are hard to come by, as the government rarely gives out information concerning its criminal justice system. It seems particularly reluctant to provide statistics on sodomy cases, much as Britain and Europe were reluctant to reveal the true scale of executions three hundred years ago when sodomy was a capital offence.
Internet entrapment of gay men
To catch gay men, the Iranian authorities are increasingly resorting to entrapment via internet chat rooms. They arrange a date online, turn up at the agreed rendezvous point, and then arrest and charge the victim.
This is confirmed by Amir, a 22-year-old gay Iranian from the city of Shiraz, who was arrested by Iran’s morality police.
Through a Persian translator, Amir gave the US journalist Doug Ireland a firsthand account of the anti-gay crackdown.
Ireland wrote it up on his blog:
‘Amir set up a meeting with a man he met through a Yahoo gay chat room. When his date turned out to be a member of the sex police, Amir was arrested and taken to Intelligence Ministry headquarters, “a very scary place,” he says. “There I denied that I was gay-but they showed me a printout from the chat room of my messages and my pictures.”
‘Then, says Amir, the torture began. “There was a metal chair in the middle of the room-they put a gas flame under the chair and made me sit on it as the metal seat got hotter and hotter. They threatened to send me to an army barracks where all the soldiers were going to rape me. The leader told one of the other officers to take [a soft drink] bottle and shove it up my ass, screaming, ‘This will teach you not to want any more cock!’ I was so afraid of sitting in that metal chair as it got hotter and hotter that I confessed. Then they brought out my file and told me that I was a ‘famous faggot’ in Shiraz. They beat me up so badly that I passed out and was thrown, unconscious, into a holding cell.
‘”When I came to, I saw there were several dozen other gay guys in the cell with me. One of them told me that after they had taken him in, they beat him and forced him to set up dates with people through chat rooms-and each one of those people had been arrested; those were the other people in that cell with me.”
‘Eventually tried, Amir was sentenced to 100 lashes. “I passed out before the 100 lashes were over. When I woke up, my arms and legs were so numb that I fell over when they picked me up from the platform on which I’d been lashed. They had told me that if I screamed, they would beat me even harder-so I was biting my arms so hard, to keep from screaming, that I left deep teeth wounds in my own arms.”
‘After this entrapment and public flogging, Amir’s life became unbearable. He was rousted regularly at his home by the basiji (a para-police made up of thugs recruited from the criminal classes and the lumpen unemployed) and by agents of the Office for Promotion of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice, which represses “moral deviance”-things like boys and girls walking around holding hands, women not wearing proper Islamic dress and prostitution.
‘Says Amir, “In one of these arrests, Colonel Javanmardi told me that if they catch me again that I would be put to death, ‘just like the boys in Mashhad.’ He said it just like that, very simply, very explicitly. He didn’t mince words. We all know that the boys who were hanged in Mashhad were gay-the rape charges against them were trumped up, just like the charges of theft and kidnapping against them. When you get arrested, you are forced by beatings, torture and threats to confess to crimes you didn’t commit. It happens all the time, and has to friends of mine.”‘
This compelling testimony by Amir to Doug Ireland reveals the use of internet entrapment, a threat of execution for mere homosexuality, the torture of gay men to extract false confessions, and the implied admission by an Iranian colonel that the youths in Mashhad were hanged because of their sexuality – and not because they raped and kidnapped, as was officially claimed by the Iranian authorities at the time of their hanging.
Hanging by slow strangulation
Hanging is now the normal method of killing ‘sodomites.’ Although not as cruel as stoning, it should be born in mind that the way it is carried out is designed to ensure that the neck is not broken. Instead, death is induced by slow, painful strangulation. Relatively thin ropes or even wire are often used to maximise suffering. The knot is placed at the side of the neck to prolong the agony. We can see from photographs in the case of Mahmoud and Ayaz that death did not come quickly. The windpipe can take several minutes to be slowly squeezed shut.
The Gorgan case
One notable public execution, in November 2005, was in the northern town of Gorgan near the Caspian Sea. The sole internal Iranian press report in the Kayhan newspaper read as follows: “Execution of two criminals:- Gorgan – Kayhan reporter: Sentence of execution of two people by the name of Mokhtar N and ‘Ali A for the crime of homosexuality (lavat) came to be carried out in the Shaheed Bahonar Square, Gorgan. The criminal records of these two people [included] kidnapping, knife-wielding, rape (tajaavoz beh ‘onf), harassment and fighting. They were aged 24 and 25 respectively.”
The men were publicly hanged from two cranes. Unlike the Mashhad hangings in July 2005, photography of the execution was actively discouraged, although a poor quality picture was sent to the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organisation. A report by Iran Focus suggested that the reason for the execution was simply for lavat and that the other crimes listed were previous convictions.
Subsequently Human Rights Watch also suggested that the executions were for consensual homosexual conduct.
Amnesty International wrote to the Iranian authorities about the case. As of early February 2006, four months later, they had received no reply.
Paula Ettelbrick, of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said shortly after these executions: “It’s clear that a pattern is emerging in which young men are executed as couples and that the crimes they allegedly committed always involve some form of sexual assault of another male.”
The Kermanshah case
Also in November 2005, three men were hanged in a prison in the city of Kermanshah. In this case they were accused of kidnapping and rape (tajaavoz) of a 19 year old.
For more details about this triple execution, and the executions in the preceding Gorgan case, see Doug Ireland’s expose:
This report from Doug Ireland also includes an interview with Mojtaba, a 27 year old gay man from the city of Shiraz. His partner was arrested and Motjaba narrowly escaped arrest by fleeing to Turkey. The fate of his arrested partner is unknown.
Two cases in Mashhad
In the city of Mashhad, there have been two relatively recent cases of pairs of males being executed, at least one of which involved juveniles. Both instances involved an almost identical string of charges. There is the hanging of Mahmoud and Ayaz in July 2005. The other case was at the end of December 2004 and was reported in the Iranian newspaper Kayhan.
Evidence received from people in Mashhad suggests that the hanged teenagers, Mahmoud ‘Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, were lovers, not rapists as the regime alleges. Moreover, extensive investigations reveal that the regime’s claims against the youths are riddled with inconsistencies, contradictions and implausibilities.
In both the Mashhad cases, sodomy charges appear to have been embroidered with additional, non-consensual charges, probably in part to discourage international condemnation and protests. The authorities presumably reasoned that there would not be much international sympathy for people executed for sexual assault.
As we have seen in each of these different cases, whenever men are executed for sodomy, the defendants are invariably accused of the kidnap and rape of a younger male. Such allegations need to be treated with extreme scepticism, as they tend to follow a suspiciously stereotypical formula.
The tactic of defaming the victims
This current tactic of adding charges of rape, child abuse and kidnap to the sodomy charges against gay and bisexual men is in marked contrast to the early days of the Islamic Republic. In the 1980s, a period when even most western democracies were avowedly homophobic, there was no need to disguise the execution of homosexuals. No one gave a damn. Even Amnesty International ignored the plight of terrorised LGBT people.
Since the early days of theocratic rule in Iran, much of world has moved on, with a growing understanding of LGBT people, and an increased revulsion against homophobic persecution.
The Iranian dictatorship now realises it is not good PR to execute people for merely being gay. That risks an international outcry. To pre-empt condemnation, the Iranians now craftily pin on same-sex lovers additional charges involving paedophilia, violence and rape. It is a clever tactic.
There may be a further explanation for the standard Iranian formula of charges of homosexuality being often accompanied by charges of kidnap and rape. The regime clearly does not want its people to view same-sex relations as something a respectable person might engage in with consent. That could present lavat as something desirable and positive, and this might encourage tolerance – and even curiosity and experimentation. The clerical regime wants to depict sodomy in the worst possible light to deter and discourage its practice. To do this, it needs to present gay and lesbian people as repellent, dangerous individuals. In these circumstances, the mere charge of lavat is not sufficient. To prompt revulsion and support for executions, homosexuality needs to be associated in the public mind with violence and child abuse.
This is a very familiar tactic used by despotic regimes to discredit and marginalise dissidents. History teaches us that scapegoated and demonised minorities are often subjected to false smears and slurs, sometimes of a sexual nature. During the period of segregation in the southern United States, for example, false charges of rape were often pinned on young black men, and these charges were then used to justify lynchings or judicial executions. As we know, the real motive was to punish black men for consensual interracial sex, while ‘saving’ the reputation of white women.
Claims of rape to avoid execution
Claims of sexual assault by the passive partner are not uncommon in Iranian sodomy cases, as they know this is their only chance of escaping death. It is also a defence sometimes put forward by parents keen to save the lives of their sons who face lavat charges. Such claims are not unsurprising attempts to prevent an execution.
Iran’s hypocrisy concerning sexual abuse
It would be a serious mistake to think that the regime is genuinely concerned about preventing sexual violence and the sexual abuse of children.
The late ruler of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, treated lightly the subject of sex with young girls. He said:
“A man can marry a girl younger than nine years of age, even if the girl is still a baby being breastfed. A man, however, is prohibited from having intercourse with a girl younger than nine, other sexual act such as for[e]play, rubbing, kissing and sodomy is allowed. A man having intercourse with a girl younger than nine years of age has not co[m]mitted a crime, but only an infraction, if the girl is not permanently damaged. If the girl, however, is permanently damaged, the man must provide for her all her life.” Khomeini himself married his wife, Batul, in 1930 when she was aged ten and he was 28.
Rape of both males and females is not uncommon among those held in custody. Women and girls on death row are often raped by prison guards the night before the execution to ensure they are not virgins and do not go to paradise.
Amnesty International has evidence that prisoners are subjected to “various forms of sexual abuse, including rape of both men and women prisoners. Many former prisoners interviewed by Amnesty International became so distressed when asked about sexual abuse that they broke down and could not describe their experiences.”
Hypocritically, the regime tacitly sanctions this sexual violation of prisoners. It is a known method of humiliation and torture, used by the regime to break the will of detainees and to get them to make confessions to crimes, both real and imaginary.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is qualitatively more homophobic than almost any other state on earth. Its government-promoted and religious-sanctioned torture and execution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people marks out Iran as a state acting in defiance of agreed international human rights conventions.