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Old 11-16-2007, 09:08 AM   #16
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Iranian spared from execution
21-year-old had been scheduled to hang for ‘crimes’ committed at age 13
By Mike Stuckey
Senior news editor
MSNBC
updated 7:33 a.m. ET, Fri., Nov. 16, 2007

Amid international criticism ignited by a crusading journalist, Iran’s chief justice has spared the life of a young man who had been sentenced to be executed as the result of a cousin’s accusations of homosexual acts years earlier.

Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Sharudi nullified the imminent death sentence of Makvan Mouloodzadeh, 21, for violations of Iranian law and Islamic teachings, Saeid Eghbali, the defendant’s attorney, told msnbc.com this week.

Had Sharudi not intervened, Mouloodzadeh would have joined hundreds of his fellow Iranians, some of them just children when they committed their alleged crimes, who are hanged each year in jail yards and public squares. The executions are often carried out via a method designed to enhance and prolong their suffering: A rope is placed around the condemned person’s neck and he or she is hoisted from the ground with an industrial crane.

“This is a stunning victory for human rights and a reminder of the power of global protest,” said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which worked to draw attention to Mouloodzadeh’s case.

With overtones of homophobia, suspicions of political retaliation and a conviction based on activities that allegedly occurred eight years earlier, when Mouloodzadeh was just 13, his case captured the attention of a number of international groups that are trying to pressure Iran into improving human rights for women, gays and children.

The groups charge that Iran has increasingly used the death penalty for people convicted of crimes that occurred when they were children or teens.

“Iran leads the world in executing children,” Human Rights Watch said in a summer press release that charged the nation with putting to death at least 17 juvenile offenders since the beginning of 2004, “eight times more than in any other country in the world.”

By comparison, according to statistics compiled by Amnesty International, Sudan executed two juvenile offenders in the same time period, while China, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia executed one each. The United States last executed a person for crimes committed as a juvenile in 2003, but is second only to Iran in such killings since 1989, having put 19 juvenile offenders to death to Iran’s 24 in that 18-year period.

Mouloodzadeh’s case came to light through the reporting of Mitra Khalatbari, a 21-year-old journalist who works for a Tehran newspaper and publishes a Persian-language blog called “Scream of Silence.”

It is a stark reminder of the differences between Western justice systems and those of Islamic nations, which consider adultery and homosexuality to be capital crimes, mandate precise numbers of whip lashes for certain offenses, allow relatives of a murder victim to decide whether the killer is to be put to death or pay them blood money, and place a higher value on the lives of Muslim men than non-Muslims and women.

In a telephone interview with msnbc.com that was translated by Hossein Alizadeh, a spokesman for the gay and lesbian rights group, Khalatbari said Mouloodzadeh’s trial “took place behind closed doors” in June. Because of her reputation for previously covering such cases, she learned about Mouloodzadeh’s death sentence afterward from his uncle, who lives in Germany.

Through interviews with family members and others, Khalatbari learned that Mouloodzadeh, from Kermanshah province in the north of Iran, was arrested without warning in September of last year. Mouloodzadeh, who at first believed that he had violated prohibitions against smoking or something else during the holy month of Ramadan, had his head shaved and was paraded through town on a donkey, a state-sanctioned humiliation ritual.

Mouloodzadeh’s family was later informed that he had been accused of numerous acts of rape and sodomy, which allegedly occurred when he was 13. The allegations were made to authorities in a letter from Mouloodzadeh’s cousin.

Attorney: No victims until police rounded them up
“That was the statement, in that letter, that triggered the whole arrest,” said Eghbali, whose interview with msnbc.com also was translated by Alizadeh. Even with the letter, the attorney said, there were no alleged victims until the police went out, arrested some men and coerced them into saying that they had committed sodomy with Mouloodzadeh as youngsters.

Even though none of the men ever alleged that Mouloodzadeh raped them and all eventually recanted their stories that any sexual contact had occurred, a local magistrate used a legal maneuver called “knowledge of the judge” to find Mouloodzadeh guilty anyway and sentence him to death, a fate upheld by Iran’s Supreme Court, Eghbali said.

“This is a scandal, a judicial scandal, because they just decided on the basis of pretrial information to pass the sentence,” said Eghbali, who noted numerous other procedural errors in a 10-page appeal to Ayatollah Sharudi.

Although the Islamic Penal Code, which is the law of the land in Iran, mandates the death penalty for homosexual acts, it also establishes an elaborate procedure to prove such cases. “If you want to follow the letter of the law, it is next to impossible to sentence someone to death based upon sexual crimes,” Eghbali said.

The case simply didn’t add up to Eghbali, who would not comment on suspicions raised elsewhere that Mouloodzadeh may have been singled out because he had relatives who have opposed Iran’s rulers politically. “What I can tell you as a lawyer is that Makvan was not tried as an innocent person until proven guilty,” Eghbali said. “From the get-go, they decided to build a case around his personality and introduce him as someone who is nothing but trouble.”

In New York, a spokesman with the Iranian Mission to the United Nations would not comment on Mouloodzadeh’s case.

Now that the death sentence has been commuted, the case will be returned to the local court for retrial, Eghbali said, although the timetable is unclear. Eghbali said he had not spoken with Mouloodzadeh since the young man learned of his reprieve but planned to travel soon to the Kermanshah jail to discuss the case with his client.

Alizadeh, of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said Mouloodzadeh was fortunate that journalist Khalatbari was able to write about his case.

“The only reason this young man managed to escape is that he had a relative in Germany that knew someone in Iran and that someone was a reporter and she was brave enough to make a fuss about it,” he said. “I’m sure there are many people like him who die because there was no one to hear their story.”

Many of those people, Alizadeh said, are gay, women, religious minorities or ethnic minorities. Mouloodzadeh, for instance, is Kurdish, the ethnic group that faces more discrimination than any other in Iran, said Alizadeh, himself a native of the country.

Khalatbari said she was “100 percent certain” that attention on the case swayed the ayatollah. “The judiciary and government is very sensitive to pressure, especially international pressure,” she said. “Sometimes, when a reporter finds out and starts making a fuss, they cancel the executions.”

Internal conflicts
The case also highlights the Islamic republic’s internal conflicts on how to deal with homosexuality.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad garnered headlines on a recent visit to the United States when he skirted a question on the execution of gays in Iran, declaring, "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country." But this week, the Times of London quoted Mohsen Yahyavi, a member of the Iranian Parliament, as saying that gays should be executed or tortured.

Alizadeh says the government often tries to avoid appearing as if it is executing citizens just for being gay by adding other criminal charges, such as drug trafficking or rape.

Some observers remain convinced that such was the case with Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, whose 2005 public hangings while they were still teenagers sparked worldwide outrage. While the pair was convicted of rape in addition to homosexual acts, some gay rights activists believe the youths were executed merely for engaging in consensual sex. Other rights groups have chosen to focus on the fact that the hangings violate international treaties prohibiting the execution of minors, which Iran has signed.
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Old 11-16-2007, 11:57 AM   #17
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and this is why we'll criticize governments for their treatment of women, but not of gays.
Absolutely true, and it highlights the hypocricy of socially conservative Christians attacking Muslims and Islam when they are more than willing to cooperate for socially retrogessive ends.

Of course arguing by degree (we may not support the homosexual lifestyle but we don't execute them) doesn't remove the underlying motive.
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Old 11-16-2007, 11:59 AM   #18
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Of course arguing by degree (we may not support the homosexual lifestyle but we don't execute them) doesn't remove the underlying motive.


and yet, thoughts like this are brought up whenever gays get uppity and ask for rights -- "yeah, well, at least we Christians aren't summarily executing you like the Muslims would do."
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Old 11-16-2007, 12:14 PM   #19
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Believe it or not - but I don't think an attitude like that will solve all the world's religious problems.

I think what is said of homosexuality in the Qur'an has been exaggerated, it's not a reoccurring theme, and has been interpreted differently. Not that such extreme homophobia could ever be justified, but there actually is no religious reason the theocracy is mistreating Iranian homosexuals to such an extreme extent.

http://www.metroweekly.com/feature/?ak=2458

"There's nothing in the Koran that speaks against homosexuality. The Lut [a.k.a. Lot] story speaks about heterosexual men who use homosexual sexual acts as a form of punishment. When you read it literally, it says, ''men who turn away from their wives or mates.'' Gay [men] don't tend to have [female] mates unless it's a cultural situation they're forced into, by family or culture."
Religious texts are infinitely subjective (which makes the claims of absolute truth a little ironic). I don't doubt that people can relegate minor events away, or hold them up to an interpretation that is suitable for them. I also think that a lot of people take issue with this form of religion because it removes the certainty that they expect; a faith that is malleable and dynamic is not how their God should govern peoples behaviour (since we need strong faith to be good). If that faith is offered up there is always a large section of society that will reject it in favour of more hardline certainty that maintains the status quo and justifies the prejudices of the society for a lot of people. How many people are willing to go one way or another or any other is conditional upon the innumerable influences and conditions within the population.

I doubt that any rational argument that homosexuality as it is practiced today should be accepted can overcome the plain gut reaction that faggotry is gross and gay men should be punished, especially in conservative societies. Islam does not make people homophobic any more than Christianity makes people homophobic (both are man made religions that were written with the social norms over a millenia ago). The reason that I think it's fair to say that God is that the religious structures that have dominated are so often the patriarchal and exclusionary ones and a God in that image would be every bit the bastard (take the God of Pat Robertson for instance).
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Old 11-16-2007, 05:47 PM   #20
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and yet, thoughts like this are brought up whenever gays get uppity and ask for rights -- "yeah, well, at least we Christians aren't summarily executing you like the Muslims would do."
I suspect you are paraphrasing and not actually quoting anyone.

Please remember that in many of these countries, Muslims that convert to Christianity face the same fate as homosexuals. Exclusion from their families and death threats.
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Old 11-16-2007, 05:57 PM   #21
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Yes, apostacy is a crime against God, but Christians live under Islamic rule as people of the book.
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Old 11-16-2007, 06:11 PM   #22
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I suspect you are paraphrasing and not actually quoting anyone.

Please remember that in many of these countries, Muslims that convert to Christianity face the same fate as homosexuals. Exclusion from their families and death threats.


yes, a paraphrase, but accurate in intent.

why must i "please remember"? i'm well aware that it's tough to be christian in some of these countries, let alone jewish, or, god forbid, homosexual.

are you trying to draw some sort of equivalence between global christian suffering and global gay suffering?
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Old 11-16-2007, 06:13 PM   #23
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Yes, apostacy is a crime against God, but Christians live under Islamic rule as people of the book.
Usually segregated into Dhimmitude.
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Old 11-16-2007, 07:18 PM   #24
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Yes, in the same medievalist manner that Jews were treated in Christian Europe (at the best of times), but look at the proper Kafirs.
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Old 11-16-2007, 08:06 PM   #25
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Religious texts are infinitely subjective (which makes the claims of absolute truth a little ironic).
And which is why I'm always, always doubtful of anybody who claims to have that "absolute truth" when it comes to religion. Writing is weird that way, everyone's going to take from it what they want and every interpretation is no more or less valid than another. I can write a story, and people will take things away from it that I never thought of when I wrote it.

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I doubt that any rational argument that homosexuality as it is practiced today should be accepted can overcome the plain gut reaction that faggotry is gross and gay men should be punished, especially in conservative societies.
I'd like to think that that isn't true, but sadly, you're right-those who have a problem with it will, for the most part, likely remain that way. There've been a few people who have changed their line of thinking, but not many.

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Originally posted by A_Wanderer
Islam does not make people homophobic any more than Christianity makes people homophobic (both are man made religions that were written with the social norms over a millenia ago). The reason that I think it's fair to say that God is that the religious structures that have dominated are so often the patriarchal and exclusionary ones and a God in that image would be every bit the bastard (take the God of Pat Robertson for instance).
That makes sense. And I fully agree that the religion itself can't be blamed for people thinking the way they do, because there's religious people of all stripes who don't have a problem with homosexuality at all. I still personally prefer to view God differently, to continue to view this being as more loving and caring, but I understand where you're coming from, too, and like I said earlier, if he is indeed the way you describe, then I'd simply say he's not worth following. Many people wouldn't follow a human being who is that cruel, why God would get a pass is beyond me.

Angela
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Old 11-16-2007, 08:16 PM   #26
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I fully agree. Nobody should ever have to feel shame about that sort of thing. I just can't imagine how awful it would be to have to hide it from your own family. The rest of society, for the most part, you'd only have to deal with them for a short time and then move on (unless, of course, you live in a place like Iran). But your own family-it's not always as easy to just disengage yourself from them.

Very sad. You said that was a couple of years ago-I hope that man has gone on to find the happiness he deserves, or if he hasn't yet, that he someday will.

Angela
I last saw him about a 1 year 1/2 ago, but I still keep in contact with my old paralegal and, a few months ago when I asked about him, my old paralegal said he's still the same . . . . same ol', same ol'. My old paralegal also definitely feels the fellow attorney is in the closet.

He's the dutiful son, who lives with and takes care of the mother. His brother and sister are off living their own lives, and he gets to live in the same house he grew up in and take care of his Mom.

It used to make me very sad because he is such a sweet, nice and intelligent guy, and at one point I thought we were almost, almost going to move past friendship into more intimate territory, but it just didn't happen and after that I just had to let it go and move on.

Like you Angela, I wish him the best and hope one day he can have true freedom to love and be loved.
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Old 11-16-2007, 08:27 PM   #27
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I last saw him about a 1 year 1/2 ago, but I still keep in contact with my old paralegal and, a few months ago when I asked about him, my old paralegal said he's still the same . . . . same ol', same ol'. My old paralegal also definitely feels the fellow attorney is in the closet.

He's the dutiful son, who lives with and takes care of the mother. His brother and sister are off living their own lives, and he gets to live in the same house he grew up in and take care of his Mom.

It used to make me very sad because he is such a sweet, nice and intelligent guy, and at one point I thought we were almost, almost going to move past friendship into more intimate territory, but it just didn't happen and after that I just had to let it go and move on.
Aw . He certainly sounds like a great guy from what you've shared, that's admirable that he's taking time out of his life to take care of his mother. It may not be the perfect life, but that's good to hear he's at least doing all right.

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Like you Angela, I wish him the best and hope one day he can have true freedom to love and be loved.
Indeed. Best of luck to him.

Angela
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Old 11-18-2007, 12:47 PM   #28
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Lovely .

*Continues to feverently hope for the day when, all across the globe, people just won't give a damn about someone's sexual orientation anymore*

Angela

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