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Activists mark day against homophobia [21 May, 2008]

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Approximately 15 people gathered outside Women and Children First, 5233 N.  Clark, for International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO, first marked in 2005) May 17.  Following comments by Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network (GLN) and Arsham Parsi of IRQO (Iranian Queer Organization), they marched down Clark Street to Gerber/Hart library, 1127 W. Granville, and a reception for the latter speaker.

Thayer said that IDAHO’s focus this year was “the repression of LGBT people in Moscow.” According to him, the government has ordered a “preemptive suppression of the impending Russian Pride in Moscow on May 31.” He spoke about the need for “solidarity among LGBTs in all countries.” Parsi said: “I’m honored to be here in solidarity with queer people in Russia...All governments and citizens of the globe should respect human rights with actions, not just words.”

Despite the presence of Parsi and flyers about Moscow Pride, the march also included statements about same-sex marriage, as marchers chanted “Obama, Obama, let Mama marry Mama!” and “Moscow Pride: Da! Fascism: Nyet!”

Although the specific political issues in Iran, a country with a vastly different geopolitical history than Russia, did not seem clear to all marchers, they seemed to be focused on a larger issue.  When asked how he saw the issues facing gay Iranians in the larger context of Iranian politics, a GLN member said, “I don’t know.  I can’t really address that.  The people there are not given equal rights.”

At Gerber/Hart, Parsi offered specifics about Iran.  According to him, “[i]n Iran, homosexuality is punishable by law,” and it’s difficult to prove that Iranian queers are persecuted for their sexuality because “court materials make no mention of their sexual orientation at all.” The same, according to him, is true for feminists who are arrested for “supposedly breaking the peace, not for being women.” He said that Western activists have to act “very carefully and cautiously” in supporting Iranian victims of homophobia.

Parsi responded to questions, including one from an audience member who said that an Iranian acquaintance had told him in 1973 about the pervasive corruption in Iran, and asked if it was the same now.  Parsi remarked that he was born in 1980, and that “98 percent of the money goes to 2 percent of the people in Iran.” In response to a question about whether a possible change in government might mean more human rights in Iran, Parsi asked, “Are gay and human rights perfect in the United States?” He also addressed the issue of war against Iran: “People don’t become democratic with military attacks.”

Originally published in Windy City Times, 21 May, 2008


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