Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hey UK, don't help Iran kill another lesbian!

Image from the movie Cul De Sac

Yep, you read that right, the United Kingdom is on the verge of handing 27 year old actress and lesbian activist Kiana Firouz over to Iran where she will likely face the death sentence.

Before we talk about why the UK is doing this, or why she'll be killed once back in Iran, lets learn about the woman who is Kiana Firouz. Kiana was born in Tehran, Iran in 1983; I haven't been able to find much about her early life, I can't tell you when she first knew she was a lesbian, and I can't offer much insight into her passions or dreams. What I do know is that she tirelessly strives for the equal rights and fair treatment of gays and lesbians at great personal risk. While still in Iran, Kiana was working on a documentary on the condition of gays and lesbians there, some of her materials fell into the hands of Iranian intelligence and agents began to follow her and intimidate her. Kiana left Tehran seeking refuge in the U.K. where she could continue her work and studies. While in the U.K. Kiana joined with the directors Ramin Goudarzi-Nejad and Mahshad Torkan to make the film Cul De Sac, a film based on the life of Kiana Firouz. Kiana initially spoke with Ramin Goudarzi-Nejad after he made "Have I Ever Happened?", a short film about an Iranian poet and lesbian in 2007.

Now, with Cul De Sac screening this month in London, Kiana faces imminent deportation back to Iran. Kiana has applied for asylum from the Home Office and been denied even though the Ministry acknowledged that her sexual orientation was punishable by death in Iran. She has appealed the decision, but her appeal was overturned by the judge and her last chance is to appeal the judges decision. Speaking of her role in the film and her likely deportation Kiana said “It was important for me to take part in the film. As an Iranian lesbian I think the film is the best way to show how difficult life is for lesbians in my country. This film, contains sex scenes that would be sufficient evidence for receiving a death sentence if I were sent back to Iran. Now, my only hope is to mobilize the international LGBT community.” Since this issue was brought to my attention, everything I've read about her struggle and uncertain future has left me simultaneously heartbroken and in deep admiration for her strength and courage, in a recent letter to a supporter Kiana wrote "It does not matter what is going to happen to me. It's all about freedom." and in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty she stated "The situation for homosexuals is not only terrifying and horrible in Iran, but also for those who have escaped to seek asylum in other free countries, mostly signatories of the Geneva Convention, and especially Turkey. It seems to me that fate still does not wish us a peaceful life. We are going to resist and we will take every possible action until the day the whole world hears our voices." I have a hard time imagining myself being so courageous were I staring at the noose.

So here's the deal, for the United Kingdom to deny her asylum is tantamount to carrying out her death sentence themselves, the prime minister himself might as well be tying the noose. So lets take advantage of the power of the internet, share this story with everyone you know, write your own blog about it, and above all sign the petition and write every member of Parliament, and the Home Office, as well as the relevant branches of the U.N. Flood them with paper and email, make sure that they can't go 15 minutes without hearing that the global community views the deportation of Kiana Firouz as both a violation of human rights and basic human decency.


Theresa May - Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality
Phone: 020 7219 5206

Phil Woolas - Minister of State for Borders and Immigration
Phone: 0161 624 4248

David Cameron - Prime Minister
Write: 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA

Friday, October 2, 2009

How did I celebrate my birthday? With blasphemy of course!

This past Wednesday (Sept. 30, 2009) Campus Atheists and Agnostics of IPFW joined groups around the country and globe in a celebration of the freedom of speech.

"But wait, if it's just about free speech then why call it blasphemy day? Why not free speech day?

Recently the world has seen a push to inhibit the freedom of speech in favor of protecting the name of deities and the 'religious sensibilities' of people. Ireland now has a law on the books prohibiting blasphemy and the UN recently passed a non-binding resolution declaring blasphemy a human rights violation.

According to blasphemy is simply
"impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things." You may be wondering how this could apply to you, saying to yourself "but Joel, I have great respect for God! I'd never blaspheme Him!" and while I'm sure you have great respect for your god what most people don't realize is that blasphemy applies to all gods. If you're a Christian your very existence is blasphemy against Allah and Muhammad because you don't think that Muhammad was the last true prophet of god! If you're Buddhist you may think that Jesus was a wise teacher, but you don't consider him God and to state as much is blasphemy against Christianity. Everyone of every religion blasphemes against all the other gods that they don't follow. Us atheists just blaspheme against one more god than you do ;) Therefore, one key thing to remember is that we're not just defending our right to speak freely about our lack of religion, but also the right of religious peoples to speak freely about their personal beliefs. And that boys and girls, is what blasphemy day is all about! Overall I think the day was an amazing success, I showed up early (6:30am... for those of you who don't know me I am NOT a morning person...) to set up the boards and our table. Of course I took the opportunity to set the mood for the day and be the first to write on the board... In hindsight, with as many internet forum references as wound up on there, I wish I'd had the foresight to add "first post in an epic thread"... Oh well, we all have our regrets ;) After a bit Rae (our treasurer pictured below being her characteristically fun self) and Chad (our president) showed up to help finish the set-up and watch the booth. I think the best part of the day was the fact that there was rarely fewer than 8 people milling around the board having impromptu discussions on the issues at hand, reading what had been written, commenting and in general having a great time. I remember at one point, as I was returning from buying 3 more poster-boards (having filled up the first 3) there were over 20 people hanging out in front of the boards and seeing that kind of response made all the work of building the board and keeping the event running all day so incredibly worthwhile... I'll say this, the responses we've gotten from our membership since Chad and I founded this group this semester has been truly heartening... We had some pretty interesting things written on the boards too, Everything from Voltaire quotes to "God rules suck my dick" and "#Admin has marked this thread for trolling#". I'll throw up some of the more interesting pictures I got of the board...

The most interesting part of this one IMHO is that when the gentleman wrote "God rules Suck my dick" both the phrases "fuck god" and "Christianity has too many definitions" were on the board... He apparently took more issue with the definitions of Christianity than the other phrase as that's the one he drew an arrow to...
This gentleman thought that our desire for the freedom to criticize his religion was somehow an attempt to persecute him and deny him his free speech... Seeing as how we gave him a forum to voice his opinion I call Logic Fail... He also tried to draw a connection between us and Christians getting killed for their faith in other countries... Yes, it's true that Christians get killed for their beliefs in certain parts of the world, but so do Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and atheists... again, logic fail...

The board at the end of the day...

Finally Chad and myself striking a goofy pose with the board 'o blasphemy before breaking it down and going home.

As the first big event for a group that started this semester I'd call Blasphemy Day a resounding success that surpassed all my expectations! We met many atheists who hadn't been previously aware of our group and our Facebook page membership has jumped by a dozen members since Wednesday!