By Karmel Melamed (Newsweek)
As an Iranian American reporter I frequently receive messages through social media from an array of young people living in Iran who the regime labels “infidels” or “undesirables.”
Perhaps the most painful messages I receive come from young Iranians who are part of Iran’s secretive LGBTQ community. They fear for their lives, especially if the government or neighbors discover their sexual orientation.
The fear comes from the Iranian Ayatollah regime’s strict Shiite Islamic prohibition against homosexuality. Those deemed gay, lesbian or transgender are subject to arrest, torture or execution for their sexual preference by the regime’s authorities.
The calls for help from my Iranian LGBTQ compatriots have recently increased following a new United Nations report that found lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children were subjected to horrific electric shocks. Some were forced by the regime to take hormones and strong psychoactive medications.
The message from Iran’s LGBTQ is clear: Why is President Joe Biden and his administration, who claim to be pro-LGBTQ, dead silent concerning our suffering?
Last year when all Democrat presidential candidates, including Biden and openly gay Pete Buttigieg, endorsed giving the Iranian regime another deal or economic lifeline, many LGBTQ in Iran who contacted me were shocked.
“How can President Biden, who claims to be supportive of gay rights and has just nominated a gay man like Buttigieg and also nominated a transgender like Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of HHS, say absolutely nothing about the mullahs’ horrific human rights abuses toward us gay and lesbian in Iran?” a member of the LGBTQ in Iran recently asked me.
Further, the regime’s Ayatollah Abbas Tabrizian wrote on his Telegram account: “Don’t go near those who have had the COVID vaccine. They have become homosexuals.”
Following this statement, LGBTQ in Iran who are in contact with me said they were surprised no one from the Biden administration condemned Tabrizian or openly criticized the Iranian regime for their homophobic comments.
Others asked how the Biden administration has been pursuing a new Iran deal without raising LGBTQ and other human rights abuses the regime is responsible for. I had no response to give.
The Iranian regime’s 42-year track record of LGBTQ abuse is bone chilling and horrendous to anyone who values human life. Iran’s current regime follows Sharia or Islamic law that strictly prohibits homosexuality.
According to Iran’s penal code sections 108 and 110, homosexuality is punishable by death.
These difficult circumstances imposed by the regime have made life unbearable for Iran’s LGBTQ.
“The LGBT community has in fact been driven underground as forced to hide their identity and live in fear,” said Roya Boroumand, co-founder of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, a Washington, D.C.- based non-profit which monitors human rights violations by the Iranian regime.
“The lack of judicial transparency due process of law makes it very difficult to have a clear picture about the number of men who are executed for their sexual conduct,” she said.
Even more frightening, gay men in Iran are pressured to undergo gender reassignment surgeries to be “cured” of homosexuality.
While I do not hail from the LGBTQ community, the dire situation for my fellow Iranians who only seek basic personal freedoms compels me to speak up for them.
The LGBTQ community in Iran is facing a serious humanitarian crisis that we living in America and abroad can no longer ignore.
Even though the Biden administration has only been in office for a little over a month, they have correctly condemned the human rights abuses of protestors by the totalitarian Putin regime in Russia. So too must the Biden administration vocally condemn all human rights abuses carried out by the Iranian regime.
If President Biden and his administration continue to claim to be champions of LGBTQ causes, they have a responsibility to speak out in support of the LGBTQ in Iran to try to stop their suffering.
This administration can no longer push for negotiations with Iran on its nuclear issue without also demanding the regime end its human rights abuses against the innocent and LGBTQ who live in the shadows.