Anti-gay Eurovision protests intensify in Iran

Homophobic Muslims take to streets of two cities in Iran, furious at rumors of a gay pride event during the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan

Anti-gay Eurovision protests intensify in Iran
14 May 2012

Angry homophobes took to the streets of two Iranian cities on Friday (11 May) to protest rumors of a gay pride event during next week’s Eurovision Song Contest in neighboring Azerbaijan.

The kitsch European pop tournament will begin in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan in the Caucasus, on 22 May, with the grand final held on 26 May.

In January, gay scene website suggested that a gay pride could take place in the city during the lead-up to Eurovision, but removed the article a few days later.

The news sparked fury in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with officials, religious leaders and members of the public slamming Azerbaijan for allowing an ‘outrageous’ party and parade for ‘perverts’.

Tensions over the event continued last week as crowds of anti-gay demonstrators reportedly gathered outside the Azerbaijan embassy in the city of Tabriz after Friday prayers, shouting slogans such as ‘Azerbaijan is a Muslim country and it is not a place for fags’ and ‘Aliev go to hell’, referring to the country’s president.

Iranian news agency JoopeA reported that the crowds were called upon to protest by Ayatollah Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari, a prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric and a personal representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader.

The imam had previously denounced the leadership of the Republic of Azerbaijan and warned the Baku government to cancel the gay parade or expect widespread demonstration and public anger.

Crowds shouting similar homophobic rhetoric also met in Astara, the nearest city in Iran to the Azerbaijan border, around the same time on Friday.

However, a counter protest was held outside the Iranian embassy in Baku, with people demanding Iran stop interfering in Azerbaijan’s affairs, saying ‘Iranian Islam is not Islam’ and ‘Iran sends terrorists to our country’.

Azerbaijan has mostly ethnic Azeri Shi’ite Muslims, who make up over 30% of the population of the neighbouring Islamic Republic of Iran.

Azerbaijani officials have repeatedly denied the rumors of any gay pride parade.

Gay activist Rusian Balukhin, who runs Azerbaijani site, stated that ‘among Baku’s gays and lesbians there is no one even dreaming of demonstrations or parades’.

He added that staging an event like that would be irresponsible and counterproductive given the current, rather intolerant social climate for Azerbaijan’s LGBT community.

Last year, in an interview with Gay Star News contributor Paul Canning in LGBT Asylum News, Rusian Balkukhin stated that while homosexuality is legal in Azerbaijan, it is not yet tolerated and that the community needs basic psychological help, rather than full blown gay rights campaigns, at this stage.

Hossein Alizedah of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Comission (IGLHRC) speculated that the critique from Iran ‘over the possible gay-parade in Baku is used as ‘a hook’ by Tehran to leverage more public pressure on the Azeri government’ to loosen its ties with Israel.

Other experts have pointed out the roots of the conflict go back at least to 2011, when the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev in his New Year’s speech stated that he would like to be a leader for Azeris around the world, to which Iran responded by stating the Azerbaijan was a former part of Iran.

Experts also note the tension between a secular Republic of Azerbaijan versus an Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as disputes over the marine boundaries in the Caspian Sea which is rich in oil and gas resources.



No thumbnail available

Straight London banker suffered ‘years of anti-gay abuse’ at work

Man accuses colleagues of sending him streams of hardcore gay porn and calling him 'fat homo'
No thumbnail available

A gay guide to Zen living and traveling

Forced to minimize his life down to 30kg at airport check-in, our reporter Gareth Jonhson has a spritual awakening worthy of Bruce Lee. Moving from London to Japan, he reflects on zen, peace and what shoes to get rid of in a pinch
No thumbnail available

George Michael returns to music with summer single

Gay singer/songwriter has announced the release of his latest single to thank fans for support
Heal's new Pinner collection explores store's heritage

Heal's new Pinner collection explores store's heritage

The new collection embraces traditional crafts and Ambrose Heal's principle of furniture being beautiful, yet durable
No thumbnail available

Happy anniversary! 10 love nests to celebrate 1 year of gay marriage in England and Wales

29 March marks 12 months since the first same-sex wedding in Britain
No thumbnail available

Nashville school rejects children being raised by two gay dads

The married men, one of whom is a pastor, were seeking a faith-based school in which to enroll their son and daughter
No thumbnail available
John Oliver spells out why you can’t use religion to discriminate against gay people

John Oliver spells out why you can’t use religion to discriminate against gay people

The TV host and commentator laid into those who use religion as an excuse to refuse services to LGBTI people and why the US needs Equality Act
84% of Filipinos oppose gay marriage

84% of Filipinos oppose gay marriage

Survey finds only 4% 'strong agree' with legalization
No thumbnail available

NBA legend Magic Johnson talks gay topics with Jay Leno

He hopes Jason Collins lands on a team and is proud of his own gay son