Homosexuality in Iran

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For hundreds of years, the homosexual community, heretofore referred to as the LGBT community, has experienced discrimination and persecution around the world. However, the world has progressed since the times of such irrational displays of hatred and fear as the blood libels of Europe or the Salem Witch Trials. Yet, there are still places that are shrouded in retrogressive, un-liberated policies of the Middle Ages. Iran is one of these seven remaining countries in the world that still employs the death penalty as punishment for homosexuals acts. Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights have been reduced to nothingness. According to numerous human rights watchdog organizations, Iran’s treatment of people who have committed such “crimes”1 is in direct and flagrant violation of the most essential human rights. Although the Iranian government claims that they have never executed anyone for said crime of homosexuality, this is of course disputed by many sources, including viral internet videos of gay men being publicly hanged.2 “Human rights activists and opponents of the Iranian regime claim between 4,000 and 6,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed in Iran for crimes related to their sexual preference since 1979” (The Telegraph). The unjust treatment and persecution of homosexuals in Iran has led to numerous deaths by stoning, hanging, and suicide, along with the fleeing of many Iranian homosexuals to surrounding countries to try to [1] seek political asylum. There are several factors, historical, religious, and socio-political, that culminated in the social backwardness that is evident in Iran's horrific and unjust treatment of its own homosexual citizens.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a land whose social and cultural landscape has been shaped by a myriad of religions, including Zoroastrianism and Islam, and the sweeping influence of European interference. Conveniently situated in between the Middle Eastern nations and the Eurasian continent, the expansively vast Iran (636,372 square miles) is literally the bridge between two worlds. After the unification of the ancient Iranian tribal peoples, there were four dynasties that preceded the Muslim conquest (651 AD). The peoples of Persia before the Muslim conquest adhered to the teachings of Zoroaster, which stressed equality, the prohibition of slavery, and human rights. The Zoroastrian religion flourished during the time of the Achaemenid Dynasty, and the Persian region in this period saw an unmatched measure of prosperity and peace. The battle of al-Qadisayyah in 632 AD marked a turning point in Persia's history as it released the flood gates and made possible a full-fledged Muslim invasion and subsequent conquering of Persia. Although the Muslim conquest of Persia left the conquerers in control of a huge portion of the unified Persian territory, the Persian conversion to Islam is considered to be a gradual and complicated process. By the 9th century, Islam was the majority religion of the region, and the conversion of native Persians to the Islam had a profound affect on their lives; similarly, the interaction of the unique Persian identity with Islam had a singular affect on Islam in the region. The Middle Ages in Iran saw accomplishments in arts, literature, sciences, religion, mathematics, and architecture that paralleled that of the European Renaissance.

The Early Modern Era (1501-1925) ushered in a new period for Persia. Under the auspices of Shah Ismail I and his Safavid Dynasty, Persia was united into the first Shia Islam state. Following this initial unification were a series of political moves in which the leaders of the dynasty moved the capital of the state from city to city. Two more dynasties followed the Safavids, in spite of their weak leadership and political scandal, they managed to maintain sovereignty until the corruption of the Qajars yielded increased colonization efforts and...
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