State Murder for Sex at 13 in Iran
The Islamic Republic of Iran murdered Makwan Moloudzadeh, a lad of 21, on the cold morning of December 5. Makwan was dragged at dawn from his jail cell in the Kermanshah Central Prison and hanged in secret within the prison, without the required presence of his lawyer and family, for the so-called "crime" of having had anal sexual relations, which the authorities claimed was rape, with boys of his own age eight years ago, when he was 13.
Given witness recantings during his trial, it is impossible to know what, if in fact anything, actually transpired.
Amnesty International released a statement denouncing the execution as a "mockery of justice." The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission's executive director, Paula Ettelbrick, said in a statement, "This is a shameful and outrageous travesty of justice and international human rights law. How many more young Iranians have to die before the international community takes action?"
And the trial of Makwan, held in June, was indeed a farce
"The only witnesses who had given statements to the intelligence police saying they had been raped by Makwan came into court and repudiated those statements, saying that they had been extracted under torture," the only Iranian journalist to have covered Makwan's case extensively, Mitra Khalatbari of the newspaper Etemade Melli, told this reporter by telephone from Tehran.
Khalatbari, who covered the story for months and courageously agreed to speak on the record to Gay City News, added, "Makwan himself told the judge that his admission to the Intelligence Police that he had had anal sex with one boy in 1999 was also obtained by torture, and that he now denied it and proclaimed his innocence."
Prior to his execution, Makwan engaged in a hunger strike of ten days to protest the physical and psychological torture he'd been subjected to while in custody to make him confess.
"There was no other evidence," Khalatbari, speaking through a translator, told Gay City News.
"The judge did not bother to order medical examinations to see if rape had taken place, nor did he bother to order medical examinations to see if torture of the witnesses had taken place," she continued.
"The judge's verdict of guilty, and his sentence of Makwan to death, was based purely on his personal speculation," she added.
As punishment for his hunger strike, Makwan -- after having had his head completely shaved, a grave insult in Iranian culture -- was paraded by police through the streets of his home town of Paveh on the back of a donkey, as police permitted passersby to hurl insults and invective at him and pelt him with stones, eggs, and other objects.
The state murder of young Makwan -- who was only 20 if one uses an American calendar, but 21 if one uses an Iranian calendar -- was triply illegal, in violation of international law and Iranian law.
Two international treaties to which Iran is a signatory -- the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child -- both forbid the imposition of the death penalty bar for crimes committed before the age of 18. As Human Rights Watch pointed out, "These provisions reflect the reality that children are different from adults. They lack the experience, judgment, maturity, and restraint of an adult."
Iran has ratified both those treaties, and has taken no steps to abrogate or nullify them.
And, although the Islamic Republic of Iran is one of only nine countries in which homosexuality is still punishable by death, the Iranian penal code forbids execution for sodomy of anyone who is not at least 15 years old -- and Makwan was just 13 at the time of the alleged crime.
Moreover, journalist Khalatbari told Gay City News, "Iran's chief justice, Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, declared Makwan's death sentence to be against the principles of Islam, citing a religious decree issued by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Ayatollah Shahrudi then ordered the execution halted until there could be a retrial."
"A few days later," according to Khalatbari, "the case was sent to Tehran, and despite the chief justice's opinion, Makwan's death sentence was confirmed and sent back to Kermanshah for immediate implementation," in an obvious attempt to rush through the execution before the retrial Shahrudi had ordered.
Khalatbari told Gay City News that "even in the last hours of Makwan's life, the authorities continued to break the law. The execution order specified that he was to be hanged in the public park in Paveh where the so-called rapes had been committed -- that would probably have happened on a 'public day,' like the coming Friday. Instead, he was hastily executed in secret, on Wednesday, in the Kermanshah Prison. There was no prior notification of the execution to the family or the lawyer, as the law requires, so Makwan's lawyer was not allowed to be present, as the law also requires.
"Thus, Makwan was not allowed to say goodbye to his family, nor were there any plaintiffs present at the place of execution with whom Makwan could plead for his life and ask their forgiveness to escape death."
Khalatbari heard about the execution when she got a phone call from Makwan's lawyer while she was in a bank.
"I was so very upset I left all my documents in the bank -- I didn't realize it until the bank called me to tell me I'd left all my things there," she told this reporter.
Khalatbari immediately returned to her newspaper, Etemade Melli, and wrote a stinging account of the manipulations of the Justice System (Qoveyeqazaiye, which includes all judiciary and prosecutors) and other authorities to bypass the chief judge's "stop and re-try" order and proceed in surreptitious fashion to execute Makwan.
But after reading Khalatbari's article, the editorial board of Etemade Melli refused to publish it.
I asked Khalatbari why.
She replied, "They are constantly afraid that the newspaper will be closed, and they thought I challenged the Justice System too directly."
Etemade Melli is controlled by one of President Mahmood Ahmadinejad's opponents in the last presidential election, the Hojatalislam Mehdi Karobi, a former speaker of the Iranian parliament who placed third in the 2005 contest.
After her article was rejected, Khalatbari said, "I cried all the way from the newspaper's office to home, thinking about how unfairly Makwan was executed. But all this crying didn't calm me down. Indeed, today was one of the worse days of my journalistic career. I've had many bad days, but I have never been so sad.
"I want to apologize to Makwan's father and uncle... maybe we didn't do enough. Maybe. With the execution of Makwan, I feel like I have lost a member of my own family," Khalatbari concluded. .
As many as 78 minor Iranian children are facing execution right now in Iran, as are several dozen more Afghan children arrested in cross-border smuggling operations. In June, Amnesty International issued a report entitled "Iran: Last Executioner of Children."
DOUG IRELAND can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND.
Hossein Alizadeh, communications director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (http://www.iglhrc.org), a gay native Iranian granted asylum here as a refugee from sexual persecution, provided translation services for this article.