t1larg.parade.afp.giTurkey: Gay Iranians, their friends, supporters and LGBT activists celebrated Pride Week in neighboring Turkey as same-sex relations or its support can often be met with capital punishment in Iran.

A group of gay and Lesbian Iranians took part in the annual Istanbul LGBTI Pride Week festivities in Istanbul June 26  in an attempt to continue their “fight” against Iran’s restrictive laws on same-sex relations, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Shadi Amin, a coordinator for the Iranian lesbian and transgender network 6Rang, said they chose Turkey because it is “the nearest possible spot to Iran,” the newspaper said.

“We want to tell Iran that we are everywhere,” Amin said.

Iran’s gay community seeks Turkey as a destination to escape punishment in Iran where the authoritarian Islamic regime consistently enforces anti-gay repression and homophobia that remain codified in law.

Iranian law criminalizes any consensual same-sex relations with punishment ranging from 100 lashes between women and the death penalty for those between two men. The Islamic Penal Code also criminalizes same-sex touching and intimate kissing, which are punishable by up to 74 lashes.

Transgender men and women fare slightly better where Iranian clerics have declared gender reassignment no more of a sin than “changing wheat to flour to bread.”

Iran has the highest amount of gender reassignment surgery carried out anywhere, except Thailand.

Medical records show that between 2006 to 2010 there were 1,366 Iranians who acquired permits for a sex change operation giving rise to the suspicion that gay people who are suppressed and restricted by law from entering into relationships with members of the same sex may seriously consider a sex change.

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com; english.alarabiya.net