An event launching a report on the way the internet affects LGBT life in Iran will be hosted in London this week, days after it was announced that the country was to execute four men on sodomy charges.
The British non-profit organisation Small Media has released a report, ‘LGBT Republic of Iran: An Online Reality?’, looking at how the internet is used by Iran’s gay and transgender citizens and the danger of online entrapment, which can be read online here.
At the event in London’s Shoreditch on Wednesday evening, on the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia, Small Media’s Director of Operations, Dr Bronwen Robertson will present an overview of the report’s findings.
The event will also include a music performance from Iranian guitarist Ramtin Montazemi, a Q&A panel of Iranian experts moderated by the Guardian’s Brian Whitaker, a poetry reading of work by Iranian LGBT literary activists, a short video screening about LGBT asylum seekers in Turkey, and video messages from LGBT Iranians enduring the repression of the Iranian government.
Bronwen Robertson, Director of Operations, Small Media said: “As a lesbian who lived in Iran for more than a year, I know first-hand how oppressive Iranian society and the regime can be. This research report was a passion project for me.
“The threat of the ‘national internet’, which has been a hot topic in the media of late, is very real for Iran’s minority communities, and because Small Media believes in the power of technology to affect change, we are particularly concerned at the heightened repression of online activity in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“The voices in our report cry out for action. Not only do LGBT Iranians feel excluded from their society, they also fear entrapment and risk severe punishments, such as torture and even death.
“In 2007, Ahmadinejad famously denied the existence of homosexuals in Iran. But what thrives beneath the densely woven fabric of the regime are vibrant LGBT communities who need our help”.
Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation said: “This is an extraordinary report which documents the normally hidden, silenced voices of LGBT Iranians. These are moving personal testimonies of the isolation, fear, alienation, suffering, rage and defiance of sexual minorities living under the harsh homophobic rule of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“They show that despite state repression and the frequent compromises they are forced to make to protect themselves, many Iranian LGBTs manage to get on with their lives and to forge a sense of community and solidarity.
“The Peter Tatchell Foundation is honoured to work with Small Media to help raise awareness of the lives and aspirations of LGBT Iranians – to give them a platform to speak for themselves.”
A 26-year-old gay man from Bandar Anzali said in the report: “If I said I saw myself as being part of this society, I’d be telling the biggest lie of my life. I don’t see myself as part of this society at all.
“That’s because of my homosexuality and the Iranian people’s mentality about homosexuality … I usually refer to Iran as ‘your country’ instead of ‘my country’ or ‘our country’ … Words can’t describe how important the internet is for me … Because I live in a really small city, where the homosexual community (if there even is one in our city!) is very very secretive … the only way for me is the internet.”
An 18-year-old trans man from Tehran said: “The internet is very important for me. Before I had the internet my entire life was dedicated to playing computer games. I use the internet for research, information, chat, entertainment … I’m online about 9-10 hours per day. I connect to the internet using Wi Max. I found most of my trans friends online and then I met them in real life.”
Admission to the event, which takes place at 6.30pm on 16 May at Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre in London, is free but must be reserved in advance. You can register for the event here: goo.gl/ZLjRL