Iran court sentence four men from the town of Choram, in the Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, to death by hanging for sodomy.

Four men named ‘Saadat Arefi’, ‘Vahid Akbari’, ‘Javid Akbari’ and ‘Houshmand Akbari’ are due to be executed shortly after their verdict was approved recently by high court judges, according to a report from the Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) in Iran.

The four men are said to be from the town of Choram, in the Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province of Iran.

According to HRANA and JOOPEA, these four men will be hanged for sodomy according Shari’a law.

A gay activist based in Iran said: ‘Although being gay is not a crime based on Iranian criminal law but this is the most clear statement against same sex-acts in past months.’

He added that ‘there wereof our other men hanged in past five months.’

London based Iranian Human Rights Lawyer, Mehri Jafari said: ‘I am horrified and saddened to have heard the news about these four men. Not only with regards to the execution which is about to take place, but the fact that is beyond our control.

‘There are two important issues in this case; the location of the alleged occurrence and the interpretation of the Sharia’ law that a Hodud (strict Sharia punishment) is eminent.  Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad is one of the most undeveloped provinces in Iran and it is obvious that a lack of access to lawyers and fair trial can be considered a serious issue in this case. After this announcement it is very likely that the execution will be carried out soon, and the remote location makes it difficult to exert any influence on the process.’

Mehri further pleaded: ‘I hope international organisations act quickly and effectively on this specific case.’

Gorji Marzban chairperson of the Austrian-based Oriental Queer Organization (ORQOA) said: ‘The recent death sentence for the four Iranian men is a shocking reality and demonstrates the discrepancy between Western and Islamic perception of queer life. The rhetoric of announcement makes the link between same-sex sexual activity, or sodomy with corporal punishment very clear. Last month the Iranian authorities hanged a young man and the local news agencies/authorities were intentionally unclear about the reason for the death penalty. In the case of these four men we have a clear text attributing the reason for hanging is sodomy.

‘The judicial denial of same-sex relationships in Iran stems from its relationship to Shari’a law and patriarchy. This is a warning signal not only for the queer population of Iran but also for all types of gender inclusive the heterosexuals who have sexual relations outside marriage.

‘The death penalty has failed to eradicate homosexuality from Iran but it was successful to force queer people into the closets. Sooner or later any Islamic community is obliged to integrate queer people. We believe that Iranians should gain more gender equality and rights and wholly condemn such an archaic sentence to murder which is inherently unislamic!’

Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its 2011 – We are a Buried Generation: Discrimination and Violence Against Sexual Minorities in Iran - stated that because trials on moral charges in Iran are usually held in closed sessions, it is difficult to determine what proportion of those charged and executed for same-sex conduct are gay and in what proportion the alleged offense was consensual.

Because of the lack of transparency, Human Rights Watch said: ‘It cannot be ruled out that Iran is sentencing sexual minorities who engage in consensual same-sex relations to death under the guise that they have committed forcible sodomy or rape.’

The issue of the death penalty for same-sex acts is further compounded by the fact that the Iranian legal code does not differentiate between rape and homosexual acts.

Furthermore, in many cases, it is often unclear whether the accused has actually committed a sexual act or it is a mere accusation based on some dispute. Even in the cases where the same-sex act has happened, often it is not clear whether the individuals involved are actually gay or it is an occasional act of sexual gratification.

Iranian Human Rights activists constantly note the fact that the two genders are strictly segregated increases the tendency for same-sex acts among the youth, in a phenomena that is also similarly known in single gender prisons. Indeed this phenomenon happens throughout highly segregated societies in the Middle East and North Africa.