In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country.... In Iran we don't have this phenomenon, I don't know who told you this.
So said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during his controversial speech at Columbia University yesterday.
To which the obvious response is: then why do you need these laws:
Iranian law punishes all penetrative sexual acts between adult men with the death penalty. Non-penetrative sexual acts between men are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are punished with death. Sexual acts between women, which are defined differently, are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are also punished with death.
And if there are no homosexuals in your country, then what was going on here:
On Sunday, November 13 , the semi-official Tehran daily Kayhan reported that the Iranian government publicly hung two men, Mokhtar N. (24 years old) and Ali A. (25 years old), in the Shahid Bahonar Square of the northern town of Gorgan. The government reportedly executed the two men for the crime of "lavat." Iran’s shari`a-based penal code defines lavat as penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts between men.
Maybe that's it, Mr. President. You weren't making a statement of fact - but of intention.
See also here and here.
Ahmadinejad's reality-denying outburst creates a dilemma for po-mo leftists who back gay rights but don't want to condemn him for fear of seeming to, you know, impose 'our' values on another culture. Andrew Sullivan has fun with an example of po-mo circle-squaring:
This is an email sent out by the Columbia Queer Alliance. It beggars belief. Here's the throat clearer:
"We condemn the human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian government under the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. We admonish the policies that make same-sex practices punishable by torture and death, as well as those that restrict the freedoms and self-determination of women."
That's a relief. But then the pomo knee jerk kicks in:
"We stand in solidarity with our peers in Iran, but we do not presume to speak for them. We cannot possibly claim to understand the multiple and diverse experiences of living with same-sex desires in Iran. Our cultural values and experiences are distinct, but the stakes are one and the same: the essential human right to express our desires freely.
Moreover, we would like to strongly caution media and campus organizations against the use of such words as "gay", "lesbian", or "homosexual" to describe people in Iran who engage in same-sex practices and feel same-sex desire. The construction of sexual orientation as a social and political identity and all of the vocabulary therein is a Western cultural idiom. As such, scholars of sexuality in the Middle East generally use the terms "same-sex practices" and "same-sex desire" in recognition of the inadequacy of Western terminology.
President Ahmadinejad's presence on campus has provided an impetus for us all to examine a number of issues, but most relevant to our concerns are the complexities of how sexual identity is constructed and understood in different parts of the world."
Ahmadinejad was right, you see? There are no gays in Iran.