Waymon Hudson

Presidential Candidates weigh in on Iranian Gays

Filed By Waymon Hudson | April 24, 2008 11:50 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Iran, John McCain, refugee, seeking asylum

Deportation of gay Iranian refugees is essentially a death sentence, according to Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Equality Forum. The issue recently came into the spotlight with 19 year old Mehdi Kazemi, who was first denied asylum in the UK and then the Netherlands after his lover was executed in Iran. Kazemi's deportation is still in limbo.

image3927901g.jpgNow Equality Forum is asking the Presidential candidates to encourage British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to halt the deportation of gay Iranian refugees. While Republican nominee John McCain did not respond to any inquiries, both Democratic candidates' campaigns did.

Read their statements after the jump...

Obama's campaign, the first to respond, said in a statement Monday that the senator 'believes that the United States and countries around the world have both a legal and a moral obligation to protect victims of persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

'Under an Obama administration, the United States will lead by setting a strong example, which includes making clear that asylum for persecuted people is a bedrock principle of American and international law,' says the statement. 'Moreover, Obama will exert diplomatic pressure and employ other foreign policy tools to encourage other nations to address human rights abuses and atrocities committed against LGBT men and women.'

Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesperson, would not say whether Obama planned to write to Brown on the issue, as Equality Forum requested.

Lee Feinstein, the Clinton campaign's national security director, said Tuesday that it was tracking the case of Mehdi Kazemi, a 19-year-old gay man living in Britain who faces execution if returned to Iran.

'The campaign has discussed this issue with the U.K. government,' he said. 'We were encouraged to learn that the deportation order for Mr. Kazemi has been deferred and is now under review.'

Feinstein said the campaign would 'continue to follow this issue closely.'

Finally the campaigns are discussing important issues and policy rather than flag pins and "gotcha" moments. International human rights are extremely important and it is a place where our country can make a positive impact if we are committed to it.

I was especially heartened to hear Obama include gender identity and the need for diplomatic pressure in his statement, as well as Clinton's proactive discussion with the UK government.

Perhaps most telling of all is McCain's deafening silence on the issue. You would think someone who has been on the receiving end of torture and human rights atrocities would have the fortitude to stand and do the right thing.

If this doesn't draw a distinct line in the sand for our community, I'm not sure what will.

(h/t GayPolitics.com)

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So, if Obama says " . . . the United States and countries around the world have both a legal and a moral obligation to protect victims of persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity," does that mean he will insist that the
only ENDA he will sign is a fully inclusive one? After all, American is one of the most abusive countries in the world when it comes to LGBT people and our rights . . . unless you're rich.

Nice to see the candidates so strongly committed to the rights of non-Americans over those of us who were born here.

Perhaps most telling of all is McCain's deafening silence on the issue.

Maybe he's just honoring the National Day of Silence this week.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 24, 2008 2:02 PM


The United States is not one of the most abusive countries in the world to LGBTQ persons. You do not have to look far to find much worse.

Odd that you say it is not abusive if you are wealthy. Larry Craig is pretty well off, but that did not protect him because he is a hypocrite. Mark Foley lived near me in Florida and his friend is a doctor, but he was a hateful Republican hypocrite.

Our government has one set of standards for how Americans live domestically and an entirely more abusive one that it employs toward foreigners.

The plight of this poor young man made the news in a sympathetic manner. It is a rarity. Now embrace any victory for him as a victory for you and use it to prevail rather than expressing envy.

Attend the next Transgender Day of Rememberance near you, then get back to me. November 20, 2008.


I agree that things aren't as safe as many think here in America for the LGBT community, especially when you start looking at the class divide. However, we shouldn't turn our backs on other members of our international family who need our help and support, like the Iranian LGBT's.

That sounds suspiciously like the "look out for us first, then come back for everyone else" attitude that the ENDA debacle was based on. Fighting for the rights of the LGBT community shouldn’t stop at our borders.

I really would like us to try and protect our international LGBT friends. Truly. But, it pisses me off when no one wants to spend the time cleaning up our own backyard. It's not, "look out for us first." It's more like, "Why the hell don't you care about us at all?"

If a non-inclusive ENDA passes and is signed by a President, I'm applying for asslymn to another country that actualy cares about ALL of its citizens. And, I gave eight years of my life protecting this country to be told I don't deserve to have all the rights everyone else gets. BS!

I'm not disagreeing with you, Monica. You know we are on the same page about ENDA and full-inclusion. I just don't think this is a case is "either/or". We can work for protections both here and abroad.

I think that any life lost to hatred is something to be outraged by, regardless of what country it occurs in.

At least I know that if I needed it, I have a shoulder to cry on with you.

We would in fact be in a better position across the board, all of us Monica, if the US commits as a matter of foreign policy to protect LGBT's around the world.

There was a remarkable discussion on trans-equality last eve at a local university. I attended and was very moved as the panel included just about the entire Transgender spectrum.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 24, 2008 10:53 PM

Monica, I don't believe there are any transgender days in Thailand. Every day is transgender day here. All due respect, but this is a posting about a young man's life or death. Yes transgender persons die. Yes Matthew Shepard died.

You know what keeps me awake at night?

The knowledge that the cost of rice doubling has plunged a billion people in this world into the possibility of starving.

The complete removal of full generations of people in Africa through drought, disease, starvation and the fact that my government gives more to Israel than to the entire African continent.

So if your budget for food is over a dollar a day, please keep all the good things you have in perspective and consider the thousands of children who die every day. Again, I will repeat, this government sets one domestic standard and an entirely different one for those outside our borders.


Life is not an either/or situation. You're comparing apples and oranges. The plight of Iranian gays doesn't need to be balanced on the back of your anger over ENDA.

To diminish the men being hung and dismembered in order to lift up your own dead is distasteful to me. There should be no comparisons - dead is dead. Both are atrocities that should be stopped immediately.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 25, 2008 12:49 AM

The unending murder campaign against GLBT folk In the Middle East, the Caribbean and Africa by muslims and christians is chilling and demoralizing for our brother and sisters there. The statements by the two Democratic candidates constitute a net gain for our movement in spite of the fact that they were driven by rank election season hypocrisy on the part of Obama and Clinton. Both Democrats and Republican McCain have histories of pandering to bigots. They all three kept silent while ENDA and the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes bill were axed by Pelosi and Frank. That’s why I think it’s deceptive to imply that Obama and Clinton support us and should get our votes. That delusion is based on the dodgy idea that politicians do anything but lie during elections and then betray their constituents at their leisure afterwards.

The cases of Medhi Kazemi and Iranian lesbian Pegah Emambakhsh highlight the double threat facing our people in Iran. According to Peter Tatchel and Doug Ireland thousands of gays and lesbians may have been murdered. The situation is immeasurably worsened by Hillary Clinton’s nuclear saber rattling and her lies about nonexistent Iranian nukes. Ditto for the support shown by all three candidates for the colonial zionist apartheid state and the invasion and colonization of Iraq. Those activities make it easier for the very unpopular regime of the ayatollahs to survive by scapegoating and lynching our brothers and sisters.

Besides Iran, the other danger spot is Iraq. All three candidates flatly refuse to withdraw US troops. About six months ago we got word of a heartbreaking development in Iraq. They ran out of money and closed down most of their GLBT safe houses. They need safe houses because the US colonial administration arms muslim sects who’ve declared fatwa against our bothers and sisters and hunt them down and murder them by the hundreds. (Like all civilian death counts in Iraq there are just way too many people getting murdered by US, English and quisling types keep an accurate count.) None of the three candidates have addressed the US sponsored murder campaign except to vote to fund it.




Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 25, 2008 5:16 AM

Thank you Bill for the lighter side of the news!

Accept it dude, the world is imperfect and so are our leaders. As we agree that every religion is corrupt and the persecution of GLBTQ folk is based in religion we would need to move some mountains and uproot some cultures to end it completely.

So we...kill everyone and let God sort them out?

The world is doing a pretty good job of that without any organized activity.

No politician deserves our support? Really?

Although I kind of agree I also have no intent of moving into an armed camp somewhere in Montana. Unless there are really, really cute uniforms.

None of you seem to be getting it. For the last decade, we have been keeping track of the transgender people being killed all over the world, many executed by the police and officials in other countries. It still happens today. Not once have I ever heard of anyone other than transgender people speak out on this. Never. No Presidential Candidate cares about them. No LGB people care about them. Don't ever accuse me of not caring for those men in Iran. But, I'm accusing all of you for not caring for the other transgender murders by officials in other countries.

Dead is dead, alright, unless tour are a transgender person. Then your death is invisible.

I have to give Monica that argument.
We really do not raise much of a fuss about T deaths.
It is hypocritical of us not to ... yet in so many ways, it is the attitude so aptly displayed by the leadership.

Trans blood is how G/L rights are paid for, an unwilling and immoral price.

Great that they released statements! Too bad the US doesn't have human rights credibility anymore!

The best and fastest thing we can do for these people in Iran is to stop torturing people ourselves. Then maybe we'd be in a position to criticize.

I know, I know, that sounds bitchy and stuff, but I'm just in a bothered mood about the fact that the US gov't tortures people. These statements are definitely a step in the right direction.

To my lovely M & M's (Maura & Monica)-

I would ask that in your very understandable anger you not paint all of the community with such a broad stroke. To say that no one in the gay community speaks or cares about trans death is insulting for someone like me who works hard to bring trans, GI, and GE issues to the forefront.

There are many of us who see the fight for LGBT rights as one struggle and do our best to fight for them equally. Saying things like "none of you care about trans death" is hurtful and just wrong.

Now, something I don't quite get is how again everyone on the thread seems to be going after the Dems, who at least are showing movement on the human rights issue. Hell, Obama even used "gender identity", which we can use if he gets elected to hold his feet to the fire on GI and GE issues here and abroad (like Monica suggests).

Why do we not attack McCain for not even caring? Sure we should expect it, but we shouldn't let it fly either.

It was in the heat of the moment and I apologize to all of you for that.

A little background: For four years, I kept and updated the stats from the Remembering Our Dead list. Every time a new person was added, I would pull off the date, location, cause of death and anything else that was important.

I had to read and reread over and over the names on the list, trying to keep an emotional distance while pulling off the stats. It was not an easy task, but it was important so we can used the figures in our lobbying efforts. It helped.

Over and over I would see trans people, some were even known activists in their Latin American countries, who were tortured, beaten, stabbed and shot by the police in those countries. Some received all of those at one time.

The silence from the GLB community was deafening. The silence from American officials were deafening. Only Amesity International spoke up, but no one listened to them.

The pain of constantly looking at the names on the list became too much to bear. Ethan St. Pierre took over the task, but it has taken its toll on him as well.

So, when I read about the hangings of gay men in Iran, I cry for them and their families, as I did for all the trans people murdered by the police in other countries. But, only trans people shed their tears for the trans dead. Are the deaths of the gay men more important? They shouldn't be, but compared to the transgender deaths, apparently they are . . . by the politicians pandering for votes.


I know the feeling. I do work for a national hate crimes memorial and see the faces and stories of the dead too often. It does take a toll.

And too often, the majority of the murders are against transpeople or those that don't conform to "gender nroms". Class, age, and race are also huge factors that are often overlooked.

That's why I’m so passionate about making sure as many stories get out as possible- be they trans, gay, white, Iranian, or any other group. None are "more important" than the others. They are all reasons for action and outrage. They are all connected.

I just have a horrible feeling that many people here in America don't care about the plight of others in different countries. Xenophobia, isolationism, and just plain elitism all play horrific roles in allowing these atrocities to happen.


I have to say that I'm deeply offended by some of your comments here. Your apology helps, but I believe your feelings shone through before your apology. Suffice it to say:

But, only trans people shed their tears for the trans dead.

I disagree.

Attend the next Transgender Day of Rememberance near you, then get back to me.

Watch your friend die from a cracked open skull as the offenders run away. Watch the big jock from the football team swing a crowbar at your head as you block with an already broken forearm. Get gang raped by three men who hold your head in a bucket of mop water while they sodomize you with the broom handle.

Then get back to ME.

All violence is disgusting and degrading. But weighing one against the other and choosing sides in a narcissistic game of "Me First and the Gimme Gimmes" is despicable. I condemn all violence against the LGBT community - not just my own clutch. I'd hope you do the same.

My statements stand until I see more proof of candidates caring about the trans deaths, and people posting articles of those deaths on this blog.

The universal violence against the LGBT community world-wide cries out for justice.

I am only familiar with the murder of transgender persons from my typing the list of persons for a Transagender Day of Remembrance activity. I couldn't work on it for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time.

But these deaths are no more significant than the deaths of LGB persons. We do need an International Memorial for all of the people who were murdered because of who they were or for who they loved.

The violence against our community SIMPLY MUST STOP. Now.

I was reading and hearing about this issue before any one asked Hillary or Obama about it but not a word here? I was waiting to see if this would be brought up by any of the bloggers nope not till now?I may have missed a posting but while this was makeing the news nada that I ever saw.

Btw it's legal to become a transwoman in Iran you just have to live the nonlife of a Iranian woman.To be gay is a crime then there President says theres no gays in Iran to.


This is a follow-up post to the one I did a while back when this was first in the news. The link is embedded in this post to the original story, so you did indeed miss one.

I would also suggest, Cathy, that you can search for "Iran" on the site (just use the search box at the top of the page) and you'll find several articles dealing with homosexuality in Iran.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 26, 2008 3:54 PM

Actually Bilerico is one of the few blogs that keeps up with this issue. Several blogs couldn’t be bothered to mention it or approached it from a pro-Bush or islamophobic perspective. In my opinion that's a critical mistake.

Our movement is international to its core. Whatever our nationality or ethnicity we have far more in common across borders and cultural barriers than we have with our fellow citizens. Unfortunately, as Shakay points out, one the things we have in common is "universal violence against the LGBT community world-wide ". We share international goals and an international culture that binds us together. It's very important, in my opinion, that we come to the aid of our (real) brothers and sisters, especially in the epicenters of violence, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria and Jamaica.

To ignore their plea for help is cruel and the sorriest sort of internalized homophobia.