June 19, 2019

Reporter Challenges Iranian Foreign Minister on Executing Gays

FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq, May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily/File Photo

An openly gay reporter for the German tabloid Bild challenged Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in a June 10 press conference in Tehran.

The reporter, Paul Ronzheimer, asked Zarif, “Why are homosexuals executed in Iran because of their sexual orientation?” Zarif replied, “Our society has moral principles. And we live according to these principles. These are moral principles concerning the behavior of people in general. And that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed.”

According to The Washington Post, Ronzheimer’s boyfriend helped him form the question to Zarif. The question reportedly caused a stir among Iranian officials in the room.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who was holding the press conference with Zarif, remained silent on the matter. German Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth told Bild afterwards, “In Iran and seven other countries worldwide, homosexuals face the death penalty. That is inhuman and completely unacceptable.”

United States Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is openly gay himself, told the German Press Agency, “The Iranian regime has violated basic principles of the United Nations. UN members should honor (the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights) if they want to be members at all. The criminalization of homosexuality plainly violates this declaration.”

In 2007, then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared in a speech at Columbia University that there are zero gays in Iran. According to Human Rights Watch, homosexuality in Iran is a crime that can result in multiple lashings and death. Iran’s judicial system frequently relies “on confessions extracted through physical torture and extreme psychological pressure” to imprison Iranians on sodomy charges.

Human Rights Watch also notes that Iranian authorities frequently harass and abuse gays. A 42-year-old gay man named Navid told Human Rights Watch that in 2007, two members of the Basij, one of the paramilitary forces in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, detained Navid in his house, where he alleges they beat and sexually assaulted him.

Human Rights Watch estimates that thousands of Irianians identify as LGBTQ.