Labour MP Chris Bryant argues that Iran’s treatment of gays and lesbians is as much of a concern as their nuclear ambitions.

It’s all too easy for Europeans to take our rights as gays and lesbians for granted.

Yet in my lifetime homosexuality was illegal in Britain and in countries as diverse as Spain, Greece and Poland there were dictatorships that punished any sex between men with imprisonment or hard labour.

The advances we have made in recent years, with civil partnerships or gay marriage, with legalised gay adoption, with gays not just in the military, but able to parade in gay pride marches in uniform – all these are dramatic changes.

And there is still further to go. We need to make it illegal for a restaurant or a hotel or an adoption agency to turn someone away just because of his or her sexuality.

But there are other countries where the situation for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people is far graver. In particular we should be particularly worried by the almost fascist activities of the regime in Iran where gays are regularly subjected to torture, to harassment and even the death penalty just for being gay.

Last year two young men, both in their teens, were arrested, tortured and eventually executed in Mashhad in Northern Iran. There were trumped up charges, but the execution was horrific. Because the hangman (who had unusually covered his face so that he could not be recognised) had placed the knot to the side of their heads, they weren’t killed by the drop, but dangled, struggling for life until they were eventually suffocated.

The pictures of their execution were shocking, but equally worrying is the fact that Iran executes anyone under the age of 18. This is in direct contravention of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a signatory. Only three other countries still execute minors, yet Iran has at least 20 people on death row.

It is understandable that Britain and the rest of the international community is worried about Iran developing a nuclear weapon, especially when the Iranian President says he believes Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth, but we must also challenge Iran on its grisly human rights record.

Gays should be pushing the government not just for ourselves but for our brothers and sisters around the world.

Chris Bryant is Labour MP for Rhonnda

This article first appeared in October issue of The Pink News which is out now