In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
— Martin Luther King Jr., US Black civil rights leader & clergyman (1929 – 1968)
Is the persecution of some permissible while others like our courageous journalist, Akbar Ganji clearly not and perhaps easier to admonish? I have mixed feelings when I read the responses condemning the injustice that Mr. Ganji has endured, while the silence becomes deafening.
What I am alluding to is the response, or lack of, to the public hanging of two young men or should I say boys, Mahmoud Asgari (16) and Ayaz Mahroni (18) at time of their execution, July 19, 2005 in Mashad, Iran. This is after serving fourteen months in prison, probably enduring more than the 280 lashes for theft, disturbing public order, and consuming alcohol. They were accused of raping another boy a few years younger than them who at the time was 13-years old.
And I wonder why I haven’t heard from the people of the Iranian diaspora whether in self imposed exile, refugees, intellectuals, and millionaires speaking out against the atrocity of this act. What about this case creates such a void? Is there confusion as to the veracity of its injustice? Why the silence?
So I inquire in this manner to make a public nuisance of an issue that for too long has been kept under wraps.
The incident is a clear violation of human rights, more specifically of children’s rights, of international treaties (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child) to execute a minor (the US only caught up with this a few months ago by abolishing the juvenile death penalty). Is it not?
I wonder if it’s confusing to know whether to stand up and support two boys who may have committed an atrocious act such as rape. Or if it was consensual [a practice that is only far too common among adolescent boys and often talked about even if rarely documented in contemporary Iran], is it perceived as supporting another atrocious act, namely sex between young men (boys)?
I wonder if people believe that the boys received a fair trial, even though Mahmoud-the-sixteen-year-old’s lawyer, was quoted as saying, “The Judiciary has trampled its own laws” since the courts usually commute death sentences in the case of children to five years in jail.
Do men or boys who rape young girls get executed, based on the same criteria that these boys were condemned?
Reports indicate that the boys did not know admitting to homosexuality would lead to death. So this is clearly confusing. These boys have the audacity to declare an identity that is often discounted as a Western invention. Perhaps it is this then that slows down the transmitters. They were not just having sex as is anecdotally common place and the butt of every other Iranian joke, but declaring an aspect of self to be reckoned with. A self in opposition to Sharia Law.
At this moment I am not so much concerned with the practices of the Islamic Republic. This is not the first time they have executed based on sexual orientation. It is the mostly secular, over-educated, mostly middle and upper class Iranian “exiles”, oppositionists of every color, who are nowhere to be heard. I know you couldn’t possibly agree with the executions. Why the silence?
I am saddened and disappointed by the lack of response (az sokootetoon kar shodeem) to what clearly reads to me as injustice and a grave violation of human rights.
Links to articles on the topic:
Witnesses to an Execution
Full Story Behind 'Iran Gay Hangings' Mired In Controversy
Rex Wockner, Editor-At-Large
Human Rights Watch
Iran: End Juvenile Executions