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Rex Wockner
International News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Iranian fears execution if sent home Mehdi Kazemi fears he'll be executed if the United Kingdom forces him to return to Iran.

Kazemi went to London to study in 2005 and Iranian officials later arrested his boyfriend, Parham, charged him with sodomy and executed him, according to Kazemi's father.

Kazemi then sought asylum in Britain but was rejected. In 2006, he then fled to the Netherlands, which detained him and is now preparing to return him to the UK.

The UK had been planning to send Kazemi back to Iran when he returned to British soil but, on March 13, following extensive media coverage and political pressure, the Home Office agreed to review his case one more time before forcing him to go home.

"The Iranian authorities have found out that I am a homosexual and they are looking for me," Kazemi said in a recent letter to UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

In a statement given to activist groups, Kazemi elaborated: "Around [the] end of April 2006, my uncle called me again and informed me that my father had informed him that the authorities had executed Parham and that I must not return to Iran as the authorities would do the same to me. ... Parham was charged with [the] crime [of] being homosexual and was executed." According to Kazemi's father, Parham named Mehdi as his lover prior to his execution.

Leading British Gay activist Peter Tatchell commented: "The Home Office decision to deport Mehdi back to Iran is shameful and reckless. ... Gay men in Iran are hanged from public cranes using the barbaric method of slow strangulation."

Tatchell said the UK government is "callous [and] more interested in cutting asylum numbers than in ensuring a fair, just and compassionate asylum system."

Britain's Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association also has taken up Kazemi's cause, saying that "deporting Gay and Lesbian people to Iran is akin to deporting Jews back to Nazi Germany."

Meanwhile, The Independent reported March 7 that an Iranian Lesbian who fled to Britain after her girlfriend was arrested and sentenced to death by stoning also is at risk of being sent home.

Pegah Emambakhsh, 40, issued a statement March 6 saying: "I will never, never go back. If I do I know I will die."

Emambakhsh's asylum claim was rebuffed by the Court of Appeal in February. She now plans to ask the High Court to review the case.

Iran is known to have executed several teens and men accused of engaging in sodomy, although in nearly all the cases that have been publicized in recent years the individuals were accused of other crimes as well, such as rape.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has said it suspects that other charges often are tacked onto sodomy cases to prevent the public outrage that would accompany executions carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult Gay sex. The group also has said it believes executions solely for Gay sex are taking place out of the public eye.

"[O]ur suspicions [are] that their current practice really is to rid society of Lesbians and Gay men," the organization said last year.

Human Rights Watch, on the other hand, has said it cannot fully document any executions in Iran in recent years carried out solely for the crime of consensual adult Gay sex.

Last September, during a speech at Columbia University in New York City, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was asked about the nation's treatment of Gay people.

He responded: "We in Iran - we in Iran, firstly, we don't have hamjensbaz [a derogatory term for homosexuals meaning people with loose morals who chase people of the same gender for sexual pleasure] like you have in your country. In our country, there is no such a thing. In Iran, such a thing does not - in Iran, in Iran, absolutely such a thing does not exist as a phenomenon. I don't know who told you otherwise."

ILGA conference canceled The International Lesbian and Gay Association has canceled its 24th World Conference which was to take place in Quebec City, Canada, May 14 to 18.

"[A recent site visit] confirmed the impressions of the current lack of preparedness at this late date and the lack of funding necessary for the conference to take place," ILGA's board co-chairs said in a statement.

The primary local organizer was the Coalition Gaie et Lesbienne du Québec.

ILGA did not reschedule the conference but did put out "a formal call for new proposals from ILGA member organizations for hosting the world conference later this year." It gave interested parties less than a month to submit proposals.

The board said any local organizer must take on partial responsibility for paying for the gathering.

"ILGA does not have the capacity to fully fund the conference," the co-chairs said. "The local hosts have in the past fundraised for resources, especially to bring scholars from the Global South."

ILGA is a 30-year-old federation of more than 600 GLBT organizations and associated members, such as city governments, from 90 countries.

British Gays fight blood ban A new British group called Bloodban is seeking to overturn the nation's ban on blood donation by non-celibate Gay men, the BBC reported March 7.

Organizers are circulating a petition that they plan to deliver to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The National Blood Service believes Gay men are too high-risk because of the short gap between one's getting infected with HIV and when the virus can be detected by a blood test.

Bloodban says people should be excluded based on their lifestyle, not because of their membership in a particular social group.

The activists propose that Gay men be banned as donors only if they have had unprotected sex in the past 18 months.

Israeli bashers sent to prison Four Jerusalem Gay-bashers were sent to prison for two to eight years March 6 by the Tel Aviv District Court, Ynetnews reported.

Typically, the bashers used a decoy cruiser to pick up men seeking sex with men at Tel Aviv's old central bus station. Once in the victim's car, the decoy would direct him to another location where the other bashers joined in beating, stripping and robbing the victim.

Two other men have been indicted for nearly identical crimes at Jerusalem's central bus station. In one case, one of the bashers bit off a portion of one victim's ear, Ynet said.

Netherlands plans legalization of park sex It will no longer be illegal to have sex in Amsterdam's Vondel Park under regulations set to take effect later this year, De Telegraaf reported March 7.

"Why should we try to maintain something that is actually impossible to maintain, which also causes little bother for others and, for a certain group, actually signifies much pleasure?" asked Oud-Zuid district Alderman Paul van Grieken.

People having sex in the park will be expected to do so only after dark and out of public view. They also must not leave condoms lying about.

Meanwhile, the police institute's National Diversity Expertise Center is advising other cities to follow Amsterdam's lead. It said legalizing park sex would help protect Gay men from Queer-bashers.

The Amsterdam branch of the Dutch national Gay group COC (now known only by its formal initials) welcomed the news.

"Cruising is something belonging to all times and banning it does not work anyway," said chairman Dennis Boutkan. "They do it surreptitiously and mostly without others being annoyed by it. [B]y agreeing on rules of behavior, safety can be increased."

Spanish Gay-marriage PM wins re-election Spanish voters re-elected Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero on March 9, apparently unperturbed that he made Spain one of only six nations that grant Gay couples access to full marriage.

Zapatero's Socialist party took 43.7 percent of the vote, besting the conservative Popular Party, which grabbed 40.1 percent.

Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa and the U.S. state of Massachusetts also have opened up ordinary marriage to same-sex couples.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

"Quote, Unquote" - by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

"I have 24 [birds] now. ... Nothing else matters to me but my birds. They were born into a life that's just not fair. I do the best I can. They're not caged, they get the best food. I don't know what I did in my life to deserve these beautiful creatures. They can live to be over 100. I say to my Gino, 'You're gonna miss me one day, Gino.' And I have my big homosexual bird, Reggie. I love him so much. He's Gay, though. There are girls around but he just loves the boys. I'm at peace with myself when I'm around those birds."
-Former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss during an interview about Gov. Elliot Spitzer with Newsweek stringer Steve Friess, March 11. See

"The pilot had been picked up for Will & Grace, and now it was all about casting. And I was sitting in the Bel Air home of a very famous Gay director. And when I told him about the script he said, 'Just make sure you don't make it too butt-fucky.' And I said, 'What does that mean?' And he said, 'You never want the American public to have to think about butt-fucking.' And it could not have been better advice. ... I could have gone full-tilt in the first 13 episodes. But I chose to not do explicit stuff, and edgy, edgy Gay stuff. Because I wanted people to stay with it, get comfortable with it."
-Will & Grace co-creator Max Mutchnick to, March 5.

"I really haven't [ever kissed a woman]. And if I had, I'd have let you know. I'd have told you years ago."
-Oprah Winfrey on her TV show, February 25.

"As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for Gay and Lesbian couples - whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage. Unlike Senator Clinton, I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). ... While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against Gay and Lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does."
-Barack Obama in an open letter to the LGBT community, February 28.

"Most heterosexuals do not understand that it's illegal to get married in 49 states in the U.S. for Gay couples; they don't understand that even if you have a legal contract with your spouse, your legal next of kin can and will challenge it, if you die or get sick; most heterosexuals have no idea that America bars Gay spouses from immigration, and bars all HIV-positive non-Americans from even entering the country. ... The main reason for this, I think, is not so much homophobia, as the fact that most heterosexuals simply cannot imagine falling in love with someone, and being told by their own government that they cannot marry him or her. The experience of Gay couples is simply beyond most straight people's experience. If it happened to any of them, there would be outrage."
-Gay writer Andrew Sullivan on his blog, February 27.

"Marriage equality for Gay and Lesbian couples is another barrier that's falling, and I couldn't be happier about that. ... I have several friends that have outlasted both of my marriages, that are raising wonderful children together, that have been together in Gay unions for over 25 years, so they're doing a better job than I am. ... When my children look at a loving, committed relationship, some of their finest role models are the Gay and Lesbian couples that they have had in their lives."
-Ugly Betty actress Vanessa Williams (who plays Wilhelmina Slater) accepting a Human Rights Campaign award at the group's annual Manhattan dinner, February 23.

"On February 12, an openly Gay 15-year-old boy named Larry, who was an eighth-grader in Oxnard, Calif., was murdered by a fellow eighth-grader named Brandon. Larry was killed because he was Gay. Days before he was murdered, Larry asked his killer to be his valentine. ... [S]omewhere along the line the killer, Brandon, got the message that it's so threatening and so awful and so horrific that Larry would want to be his valentine that killing Larry seemed to be the right thing to do. And when the message out there is so horrible that to be Gay you can get killed for it, we need to change the message. ... Larry was not a second-class citizen, I am not a second-class citizen, it is OK if you're Gay."
-Ellen DeGeneres on her TV talk show, February 29.

"This is an election year and there's a lot of talk about change. I think one thing we should change is hate. Check on who you're voting for, and does that person really, truly believe that we are all equal under the law? And if you're not sure, change your vote. We deserve better."
-Ellen DeGeneres on her TV talk show, February 29.

"We are facing an uphill battle again in countries that you thought you'd crossed, you'd done that, you've covered that territory. Because people think, 'Well, you know, even if I do get HIV, I'm going to be OK.' They don't realize the toxicity of the drugs they have to take. And I just think it's so reprehensible, with the information available to them. But they do it and so we have to help them."
-Elton John to CBS News, February 25.

"I would look for love all the time and I made a decision, 'I'm not going to look for love anymore,' and when I made that decision, love walked through my front door and found me [in the person of David Furnish in 1993]. He's incredibly intelligent. He's not afraid to be honest. He had his own car, his own place. This was new for me. I mean, this is Elton who took hostages and took people's lives and completely just said, 'Right, you're putting your life on hold. You come around the world with me.' Which of course always ended in tears."
-Elton John to CBS News, February 25.

"I couldn't wear some of my giant chicken outfits to the Oscar party, A, because I wouldn't fit in them anymore, and B, because, you know, I'm 61 years of age next month and I don't dress as flamboyant as I used to. ... I'm nowhere near the fashion victim that I was a long time ago."
-Elton John to CNN's Larry King, February 25.

"I'm in a fantastic relationship. It's been about four years. I'm in love with [Christine Marinoni] because she's her. If she were a man, would I be in love with her? I don't know."
-Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon (Miranda) at a press event for the upcoming Sex and the City movie, according to New York's Daily News, March 6.

"I'm really just a drag queen. I'm flamboyant, over the top. I have big hair and the clothes. Maybe that's why I'm so popular with the Gay community!"
-Singer Patti LaBelle to Instinct magazine, March issue.

"I love to tell the story of the fact that a year ago we celebrated our 10th anniversary at the White House holiday party. And I got to say to the president of the United States: 'Mr. President, I think you remember meeting my partner Lauren. It's our anniversary tonight!' To which he responded, 'Well, how many years has it been?' And we told him, 'Ten years, Mr. President.'"
-Openly Lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., to the newsletter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, in the current issue of the undated publication.

"[No] peering into someone else's stall. ... No standing or climbing on fixtures. No sitting, kneeling or lying down on the floor. No sitting on fixtures not meant to be sat upon."
-Restrictions to be imposed in public toilets by a measure under consideration in the Minnetonka, Minn., City Council, which is unhappy that cruisers have turned a city park's restroom into a tearoom, according to WCCO-TV. Violators would be charged with a misdemeanor and banned from all public toilets in the city for one year.

"It's fast approaching the end of the Bush era, 12 combined years of miserable, silver-spoon governorship by one of the lumpiest, dorkiest, least appealing clans of desperately shrill powermongers in the world, Barb and Jeb and George and George Jr., Laura and Barb Jr. and Jenna and beer bongs and fake IDs and old coke habits and running AWOL from the Air National Guard and it's all felt like a particularly insufferable episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, wherein the Clampetts go to Washington and screw three generations out of any sense of hope or environmental protections while getting the world to despise us for everything we used to stand for. Wacky!"
-San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford, February 22.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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