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Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

The Iranian President Isn’t Welcome Here in Cuba

September 19, 2016 |

Isbel Diaz Torres

Hassan Rouhani, presidente de la República Islámica de Irán. Foto: Hispan TV

Hassan Rouhani, presidente de la República Islámica de Irán. Foto: Hispan TV

HAVANA TIMES — In its waltz with the world’s dictators, the Cuban government isn’t satisfied with just recently going to hug egomaniac Eternal North Korean President Kim Il-un, but now it’s receiving the Iranian head-of-state who rules the world’s leading country in homosexual persecution.

Raul Castro has invited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Cuba, who was traveling to the Americas to take part in the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, which took place on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

The visit of an authority whose Government punishes homosexuality and transexuality with whip lashes, death penalties and conversion therapy is extremely dangerous; especially because I fear that Human Rights violations like these will influence those that the Cuban government already practices.

While it is true that Rouhani has considered thawing relations with the West, can be considered a moderate islamist and hasn’t openly expressed his homophobia (like his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did, who was also received in Havana), backward laws and practices, which have been legalized by Tehran, continue to remain intact today.

Just a hundred days after Rouhani was elected into office, Iranian guards arrested “a homosexual network”, in the city of Kermanshah, near the Iraq border. There, military forces broke into a bar where they were having a birthday party and took away 80 people, many of them with tattoos, wearing make-up or rainbow flag bracelets.

According to an English document leaked by Wikileaks, Iran has executed between 4,000 and 6,000 gays and lesbians between 1979 and 2008.

On the other hand, it is estimated that around a thousand homosexual Iranians are seeking refuge in Turkey alone, waiting to be relocated to other countries.

The most recent case that I have been able to find is the hanging of 19 year old Hassan Afshar in a prison in Arak, in the Iranian province of Markazi, last July 18th, after having been charged for the alleged crime of “forced anal sex between men”. Nevertheless, the fact that the Iranian penal system classifies consensual acts of homosexual sex as “rape”, so that they can justify the death penalty more easily, is commonplace.

It’s impossible for us to know the real number of executions that Iran carries out relating to homosexuality, however, more than the number of victims, the most systematic problem is the constant fear of persecution, as well as isolation and invisibility that non-heterosexual people suffer there.

A few years ago, the government in Tehran launched a series of raids known popularly as the “terror raids” where police seek to, with civil cooperation, “clean the streets and cities of evil people and criminals”, homosexuals being amongst them. Something like this happened in Havana a decade ago in the ’90s, when police used to turn up at illegal gay parties.

Currently, Cuba and Iran share the same intolerance towards political opposition and freedom of the media. At this meeting between Hassan Rouhani and Raul and also with Fidel Castro, it’s possible that they will swap their experiences with regard to this intolerance so as to perfect their respective political systems, as well as the most important thing: business.

All of the above is already revolting. Nevertheless, personally, as a gay Cuban, I feel a great malaise in having to share the same ground as the person directly responsible for the persecution, torture and murder of our LGBT people living in his Asian country.

Hassan Rouhani: you are not welcome in Cuba, as I’m pretty well certain you’re not welcome in Iran either.

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  • oaguilar

    “the world’s leading country in homosexual persecution”, is that the main thing you have against Iran? I think being a theocracy would be the origin of all their evil. Also as much as you might hate Castro, there is no comparison with Iran, Cuba even has a moratorium on death penalty.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Maybe oaguilar, the Castro’s lust has been largely sated following the 3,615 executions by firing squad recorded in Cuban archival materials and the additional 1,253 extra judicial killings attributed to their regime?

      • oaguilar

        So, they had a revolution, revolutions, civil wars and wars in general are bloody.

  • Ken Hiebert

    In the face on the ongoing embargo, Cuba has the right to look for diplomatic and economic opportunities where they can.
    For me the question is what are the rights of Cubans to inform themselves and discuss the situation in Iran. During the visit of Rouhani can Cubans stand on the streets with placards denouncing repression in Iran? Do they have access to books that examine what is happening in Iran?
    When I was in Cuban bookstores in May of 2013 the only book I saw on Iran was a translation of a book from Iran. There was a picture of Khomeini on the front cover and the dedication page said, “In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.” (My translation from the Spanish)
    If Cubans cannot inform themselves in their own bookstores and media, they will look elsewhere for information.

  • Eden Wong

    “… but now it’s receiving the Iranian head-of-state who rules the world’s leading country in homosexual persecution…”

    Using that as your lead-in comment in the very first paragraph and making it the main reason why you’re opposed to the visit makes zero rational sense.

  • Christian-Frederick Mattner

    YES to 0 % tolerance on Homosexuality and ending the disgusting practises of sexual abuse of children and animals–YES– and for repeat offenders the death penalty

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      What sort of death are you proposing Dr. Mattner for homosexuals? Maybe bring back the gas chambers?
      Obviously National Socialism is alive and kicking in your breast. After you have got rid of the homosexuals, who is next?

      • Ken Hiebert

        Thank you Carlyle for responding. I was at a loss for words.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          Well Ken, as one with childhood memories of seeing piles of emaciated bodies being bull-dozed into pits by British soldiers at Belsen, of seeing pictures of the table lamps of Ilse Koch made from the tattooed skins of prisoners she selected to be slaughtered then flayed, of later seeing pictures of Auschwitz, having attended school with Jewish boys who had fled from Germany and Austria, one of whom lost 28 relatives in the gas chambers, my tolerance for people like Dr. Christian-Frederick Mattner is zero. They do not deserve to be part of humanity.

      • Informed Consent

        the longed haired hippies and rock-n-roll types! Then of course you have your artists and intellectuals. ….oh wait, the Castro’s already did that!

  • Dan

    What happens to homosexuals in Saudi Arabia ?

  • editorht

    I won’t use the term Nazi, but anybody who equates homosexuality with rape is a candidate for the nut house. Christian, I’ve heard the same argument you make regarding Jews, Blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, etc., etc. Maybe the Nazis made a mistake in running you out, sounds like you would have fit in just fine with them.