Hossein Alizadeh was speaking recently at a hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to mark the one year anniversary of Hassan Rouhani’s election as Iran’s president.
The talk served to take stock not only of LGBT rights, but also his treatment of religious minorities, women, political opponents, and others.
The Iranian president’s election had sparked a wave of hope for reform and a reversal of his predecessor’s approach that “there are no homosexuals in Iran.”
However, Alizadeh, the Iranian-born immigrant, reported that Iran’s abuse of its LGBT population continues unabated with the government still employing “morality police.”
He testified that “even discussion about sexual rights, gender equality, and homosexuality is met with violent reaction from both the judicial and law enforcement bodies.”
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) also noted that “In Iran, the LGBT community is all but silenced.” He reported that same-sex relations is regarded as a crime punishable by death in Iran and that Iran is on a list of only seven countries where same-sex relationships are punishable by death.
Referring to the “horrific, discriminatory, and unsafe environment for anyone who is gay or lesbian in Iran, “ Rep. David Cicillini (D-RI) asked about the plight of the journalist who blogged about former president Amadinejad’s denial of homosexuals in Iran.
Alizadeh responded that several journalists have been imprisoned for merely writing about homosexuality and a newspaper was shut down the day after an editorial about homosexuality was published.
While Cicillini expressed hope that “our continuing to raise this issue in hearings will help to advance [the cause of LGBT rights in Iran] as well” Deutch added that “Human rights cannot take a back seat in negotiations with Iran.”
Deutch asked Alizadeh to share with Congress what it’s like on a human level to be a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender in Iran under the current regime.
Alizadeh explained “that this is not only about LGBT people, it is about sexual rights. It is about autonomy over your body. It is about the rights of individuals to decide who they want to love.”