by Leander Milbrecht
These are incredible figures: More than four out of ten queer Iranians*, almost half of all respondents, have already been victims of sexual violence or even rape – mostly from their own families. This is the result of research by the leading Iranian queer organisation 6Rang, which shows how widespread violence against queer people is in the Middle Eastern country.
The report is entitled “Hidden Wounds: A research report on violence against LGBTI in Iran”. It highlights in particular the fact that LGBTIQ+ who have been victims of violence and discrimination have no one to turn to. Tragic: 73 per cent of those interviewed said they had already thought of suicide.
In the organisation’s new survey, 230 queer Iranians* were interviewed, most of whom were under 35 years old. It revealed shocking results: 62 per cent, almost two out of three respondents, have already been victims of violence by their immediate family members. In almost a third of the cases, this violence was of a sexual nature. Moreover, more than one in three respondents is under pressure to enter into a forced marriage.
A large part of the abuse is committed by the family – but not all of it. Workplaces, schools, universities, sports centres, colleagues and friends can also become sources of abuse. 15 percent of the interviewees stated that they had been victims of sexual violence at school or university, an incredible 42 percent experienced sexual assaults in public places.
The Iranian queer activist Shadi Amin, who runs the human rights network 6Rang, fled Iran in 1983 and now lives in Germany. She commented about the report:
“This community is even more deprived than women of the protection of the law and justice. Conversely, if they go to the police, they may be subjected to increased violence or face criminal charges because of their sexual orientation or gender identity”.
The report states: A large part of the abuse takes place in secret, is concealed, not made visible, not reported to the police – and not processed by the victims. Many queer people are too afraid to speak out because the state is not on their side.
The police are more likely to be attackers than helpers: one in twelve respondents said they had been arrested at least once because they are queer. Of them, 28 % experienced physical or verbal violence by the police, 13 % sexual violence.
People in the 6Rang survey also do not trust medical professionals – more than half of them also stated that their family was unreliable and lacking support.
Amin warned that the report shows the importance of psychological care provided by counselling institutions independent of the state:
“If these are lacking, the LGBTI community will continue to suffer in different ways every day”.
Trans* or death: How Iran wants to eradicate homosexuality
Human rights violations are commonplace in Iran. In its annual report 2019, the Hamburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution confirmed a high number of executions in Iran – including many people who were convicted and executed because of their same-sex orientation.
Moreover, queer activists have long accused the country’s regime of wanting to “wipe out” homosexuality in Iran by means of a perfidious tactic – by forcing gender-altering operations. While homosexuality in Iran is punishable by death, transsexuality has been legal since 1987.
Last year, 6Rank’s Shadi Amin spoke to the British newspaper The Sun about the danger posed to the entire community by religious extremists in the government of Iran on the occasion of a UN report on the death penalty still imposed and executed in Iran.
Amin made it clear that the regime would regard homosexuality as a disease that must be cured in order to strengthen the country. And the only way to cure it is to force gender changes. According to Amin, the government would rather carry out mass operations on homosexuals than executions, because the country’s leadership would know that the world was watching them.
“The government believes that a gay man has the soul of a woman and that one should change his body. The regime gives homosexuals two options – to be arrested as a homosexual and risk punishment or even execution, or to change his body”.
In the end, all that remains is social banishment
Government data show that about 4,000 gender reassignment operations are performed in Iran every year. Amin and other activists claim, however, that these numbers are much higher in reality. Moreover, according to Amin, not many surgeons with trans-specific experience perform the state-funded operations – most of them are plastic surgeons.
Although transsexuality is legal in Iran, trans* people are rarely accepted. And the situation of those affected is not simplified after the forced operations. It is not just the state that simply abandons people afterwards, but also the family. Moreover, according to Amin, many people would no longer find employment and would have to turn to prostitution – which would ultimately expose them to sexual and physical violence.
- sydney-sims-3zgllN5P7Mc-unsplash: Foto: Sydney Sims / Unsplash / CC0
- 721px-Shadi-Amin-IWSF-2013: By Effat.assar / CC BY-SA 3.0 / wikimedia.org/
- abishek-JblqZzRbYIU-unsplash: Abishek / CC0 / Unsplash
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