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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 18 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 42
Iran arrests 17 Gays and 'devil-worshippers'
Section One
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Iran arrests 17 Gays and 'devil-worshippers'

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Iran's Revolutionary Guard says it has broken up 'a network of homosexuals and devil-worshippers' in the city of Kermanshah, near the Iran-Iraq border.

The Guard, a paramilitary group closely tied to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, claims to have raided a birthday party being held in a public hall and arrested a number of people, including some Iraqis.

According to the Guard's website, the arrestees had been under surveillance for some time. The partygoers were dancing when the raid commenced.

While the Guard did not say how many people had been arrested altogether, foreign news reports put the number at 17 or more. Eight were said to be married to each other.

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the raid took place on the night of October 8, targeting a party of about 80 people, including both straight and Gay Iranians. At least 17 people who had tattoos or were wearing makeup or rainbow bracelets were blindfolded and taken to an unknown location, according to a local source.

Partygoers were filmed by the Guard and had their mobile phones confiscated.

While the Iranian government has sometimes labeled Gay people as 'satanic,' the so-called 'devil-worshippers' may have been Yazidis, members of a pre-Islamic religion whose principal figure is sometimes called Shaytan - the name used for the devil in the Quran. Almost all Yazidis are ethnically Kurdish, and Kermanshah is in the Kurdish area of Iran. Kurds also live in the adjoining section of Iraq.

GAYS STILL RISK DEATH
Until recently, Gay sex was punishable by death in Iran, but a 2012 amendment to the penal code altered the penalty. Under the new penal code, tops will receive 100 lashes if the sex was consensual and they were unmarried, but bottoms will still be executed regardless of their marital status.

Punishment for Lesbian sex is 100 lashes for all involved, but the death penalty can be imposed for the fourth offense.

Since the new penal code has gone into effect, the government and the police have more or less ignored Gay people, but the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij religious militia have been actively tracking down Gays and punishing them.

Official treatment of Gay people is said to vary dramatically depending on where they are arrested and by whom. Those arrested in provincial cities like in Kermanshah would usually be at greater risk, as would Yazidi Gays.

While Yazidis are considered infidels, simply being a member of that sect is not in itself a crime. However, members of minority religions are often charged with other offenses, the most serious being 'waging war against God' which can bring the death penalty. The same charge was also applied to a Gay couple arrested and sentenced to death in 2008.

In September 2007, Iran's former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously denied that Gay people even existed in the Islamic republic.

'In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country,' he told a jeering audience at Columbia University during a UN visit.

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