Now that the repressive regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has finally left the scene since he was ineligible to run again in 2014, and the perceived more moderate administration of Hassan Rouhani has risen to power, an easing of tensions between the U.S. and Iran seems more possible, at least more so than at any time previously since the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979.
The Obama administration is currently engaged in critical negotiations with the Iranian government to limit that country's capacity to manufacture and deliver nuclear weapons. In addition, Iranian jet fighters have joined with other countries, including the U.S., Jordan, and Egypt, to degrade and eventually destroy the terrorist group ISIS that has been relentlessly grabbing formally sovereign territories in the Middle East, and savagely raping and murdering citizens and foreign visitors throughout the region.
During this potential thaw in relations, I propose an additional agenda item to add to President Obama's list of objectives with the Iranians. Let us not forget that since Iran's revolution, which replaced the Shah with an orthodox theocracy, many segments of the population have experienced repression under Iranian Sharia law -- of the many segments, in particular, include Iran's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* (LGBT) inhabitants.
Since 1979, some human rights activists estimated between 4000-6000 LGBT people have been executed in Iran. Same-sex sexuality between consenting partners in private is defined as a crime. Iranian law condemns men involved in sexual penetrative acts (sodomy or lavat) with the possibility of death, and so-called non-penetrative acts with flogging. After the fourth non-penetrative "offense," the penalty is death.
Women convicted of engaging in same-sex sexuality (mosahegheh) may be made to undergo flogging with 50 lashes. And also, following the fourth conviction, they too are eligible for the death penalty (Articles 127, 129, 130).
Examples are many. Two gay Iranian teenagers, 18 and 17-years-old, were hung in the streets of Iran on July 19, 2005, in Edalat (Justice Square) in Mashbad, Iran. Reports of the widespread repression of homosexuals in Iran have been verified by Human Rights Watch and the Iranian Student News Agency.
Following the Islamic Revolution, trans* identity and expression were also classified as a crime. However, the government reclassified this in 1986 as "heterosexual" if the person undergoes gender confirmation (formerly known as "sex reassignment") surgery. Today, Iran stands as the country performing the most gender confirmation surgeries in the world, second only to Thailand. Iranian trans* people, however, still suffer frequent harassment and persecution.
Repressive regimes around the world currently and throughout history have scapegoated, oppressed, and murdered LGBT people. The time has long since passed that we speak out against repression in all of its forms. Though I am not naïve enough to believe that we will soon witness general human and civil rights legislated and enacted in this authoritarian theocracy anytime soon, maybe we can now see, however, some progressive movement in the plight of LGBT people in Iran.