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Rouhani-Obama meet overshadows Iran’s queer voices

Rouhani-Obama meet overshadows Iran’s queer voices

New and projected as moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s telephone conversation with American President Barack Obama Friday made news worldwide, being the first contact between the top leaderships of the two countries after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.

Jubilant hopes of a thaw between Washington and Tehran and better prospects for world peace deflected attention from an important event for Iran’s underground community of LGBTs, the Iranian Queer Voice Celebration Week observed from 24 September.

This is the 11th anniversary week with celebratory events taking place in the USA, Canada and Europe as homosexuality remains a criminal offence in Iran, governed by Islamic laws.

A former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has in the past denied that there were any homosexuals in Iran and there are reports of men being put to death for sodomy.

One of the highlights of this year’s celebrations was the announcement of the 2013 awards to people and organizations who have contributed to the Iranian queer community/cause.

Instituted by the Toronto-based Sepas Group, the awards commemorate Saviz Shafaei, the first Iranian gay activist who died in 2000 of cancer.

The Sepas Group was formed by a number of Iranian queers mostly living abroad, who wanted to recognize and highlight Iranian queer’s art, culture, activism and also thank Iranian queer alliances for their contribution to the cause.

This year, the Sepas awards go to Dr Arash Naraghi, a Philosophy academic from the University of California, Dr Victoria Tahmasebi, a specialist in women and gender studies, and popular Iranian singer Shohreh Solati.

The group said Naraghi was chosen for his series of publications and articles on homosexuality, Tahmasebi for her long time support of queer issues and Iranian queers in her academic field, and Solati for her public support of Iranian queers.

The award also goes to the online Persian magazine Aghaliyat for raising awareness about Iranian queer human rights and social life.