The Trump administration has kickstarted a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of countries following the reported hanging of a young gay man in Iran, Benjamin Weinthal wrote in The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
The initiative is aimed in part at denouncing the Islamic Republic over its abysmal human rights record.
Iran publicly hanged a 31-year-old man in the southwestern city of Kazeroon on January 10 after finding him guilty of violating the country’s draconian anti-gay laws. A court said he had engaged in “lavat-e be onf,” sexual intercourse between two men, which carries the death penalty.
Gay sex has been illegal in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. According to a 2008 British WikiLeaks dispatch, Iran’s regime executed between 4,000 and 6,000 gays and lesbians since the mullah’s rise to power.
On Tuesday, the U.S. embassy in Berlin hosted LGBT activists from across Europe for a strategy dinner to coordinate a push for decriminalization in places that still outlaw homosexuality, specifically in the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean, NBC News reported.
“It is concerning that, in the 21st century, some 70 countries continue to have laws that criminalize LGBTI status or conduct,” a U.S. official told the network.
The initiative is spearheaded by United States Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-placed openly gay person in the Trump administration. Grenell has long been an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime and a champion of international gay rights.
The ambassador recently described the hanging of the young Iranian man as “a wake-up call for anyone who supports basic human rights,” in an article published in BILD, Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper.
“In Iran, where children as young as nine can be sentenced to death, gay teenagers are publicly hanged in order to terrify and intimidate others from coming out. Iran’s horrific actions are on par with the brutality and savagery regularly demonstrated by ISIS,” Grenell noted.
“This is not the first time the Iranian regime has put a gay man to death with the usual outrageous claims of prostitution, kidnapping, or even pedophilia. And it sadly won’t be the last time,” Grenell asserted. “Barbaric public executions are all too common in a country where consensual homosexual relationships are criminalized and punishable by flogging and death.”
He added that “politicians, the U.N., democratic governments, diplomats and good people everywhere should speak up — and loudly.”
The initiative to decriminalize homosexuality reportedly is a coordinated effort among Western allies, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, European governments, the United Nations, and the U.S. State Department.
The U.S. hopes that by focusing efforts on human rights violations in Iran that they can find common ground with European states that have so far resisted the U.S.-led campaign to isolate Iran following the collapse of the 2015 nuclear accord.
In January, several European countries launched the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a tool that allows them to trade with Iran and protect European companies from the effects of U.S. sanctions.
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