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CHICAGO - Chicago will join more than two dozen cities around the world on July 19 in protesting against the executions of gays in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Chicago's protest will take place at 5:30 p.m. at Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street in front of Millenium Park, and is sponsored by the Gay Liberation Network.

On July 19, 2005, the government of Iran executed teenagers Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni in Iran, aged 15 and 16 years old, respectively, at the time of their arrests, apparently for the "crime" of having gay sex. Shortly after their executions, pictures of their hangings drew protests around the world.

"Over 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979," said Britain's long-time gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. "Altogether, an estimated 100,000 Iranians have been put to death over the last 26 years of clerical rule."

Besides Iran, public executions of gay people have regularly taken place in U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia. A leading Iraqi Shi'ite cleric closely allied with the U.S. recently issued a fatwa calling for the killing of all gays.

Gay rights advocates are concerned that their protests not be used as a pretext for war.

"Even as we oppose these executions, it must be clear that we also oppose threatened military attacks on Iran by the United States or a surrogate such as Israel," said Bob Schwartz of the Gay Liberation Network. "Such attacks would only make matters worse for Iranian gays and non-gays alike. Bombing gay and non-gay people in Iran is the antithesis of helping them.

"It would allow the clerical regime to increase repression, shoring up internal political support by highlighting the long-standing U.S. opposition to Iranian sovereignty, epitomized by the U.S.-sponsored 1953 coup d'etat which overthrew Iran's first democratically elected government and put a vicious, decades-long dictatorship in its place. Regime change must come from within -- by and for the Iranian people themselves," Schwartz said.

The Gay Liberation Network, formerly known as the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network, is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered direct action group.

Since its founding in 1998, it has organized most of the Chicago area's pro-LGBT rallies and protests, including the annual Matthew Shepard March for LGBT

Rights. [7/18/06]


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