The Repression in Iran

What, then, of the executions of homosexuals in Iran between 1979 and 1984? The problem is a confusion of terms, because the „homosexuality“ meant in Iran is far different from the western concept of it. In Iran „homosexuality“ has become a negative label, as it has in other Islamic countries, but fortunately with less extreme consequences. The label „homosexuality“ refers to behavior that clashes with the God-given order of society and with the social role pattern, it is behavior that violates public decency, and is moreover seen as a typical example of western decadence. […]

In past centuries the Arabs ascribed homosexual behavior to Persian influence, and nowadays it is mostly regarded as originating from the West — a rather paradoxical viewpoint, because it used to be the other way around. Western society is viewed as shameless and depraved, permissiveness making license public and ultimately leading to social chaos. „Homosexuality“ epitomizes this western decadence, this „unbridled riot of wantonness.“

[…] As is the story of Lot, it is today „homosexuality“ that has become symptomatic of evil behavior in general. „Homosexuality“ would inevitably lead to chaos and decay, and therefore „homosexuals“ are considered as antisocial, and as a threat to social order. Ayatollah Khomeini (who died in 1989) alluded to this idea, asserting that „homosexuals“ had to be exterminated because they were parasites and corruptors of the nation by spreading the „stain of wickedness.“ „Homosexuality“ not only is seen as evil in itself, but provides a convenient label for stigmatizing bad people in general. This broad-gauge definition underpinned what happened in Iran, where „homosexuality“ was often deployed as a generic label to be applied at will to persons adjudged criminals, whether rightly or wrongly. It did not matter much what they did, it was enough to know that they were antisocial and therefore evil. In this way, for example, political opponents could be eliminated without any legal justification. […]

But what occurred in Iran is certainly not typical of the attitude toward homosexual behavior in the whole spectrum of Islamic countries. Even in Iran it may be regarded as exceptional. The executions of „homosexuals“ took place in an atmosphere of revolutionary turbulence, with strong reactionary and anti-western accents that led to excesses and an overall atmosphere of terror. […] In practice homosexual behavior is usually treated tolerantly [in Islam] as long as it is discrete and harms no one. This tolerance was well characterized by the words of an unknown Arab poet: „As the boy looked at it, my thing moved, and he whispered: ‚It is splendid! Do let me try its love making.‘ I answered ‚Such an act is reprehended, in fact many people call it unlawful.‘ He said: ‚Oh them; oh them! With me all things are lawful.‘ And I was too polite to disobey.“

From: Maarten Schild, Islam, in: The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality.