Internet Offers Iranian LGBTs A Life (Virtually)

If Iran’s President Ahmedinejad thinks there’s no gay people in Iran, maybe he’s not going online enough: A new report from the British nonprofit Small Media reveals that the country’s LGBT community is using the Web as a lifeline.

Researchers tracked initiatives like Ketabkhaneh88, an online gay book fair launched from abroad by a pair of Iranian gay rights activists and poets who also started a Toronto publishing firm to print Iranian books on the topic.

Their Ketabkhaneh88 website, which launched in 2009, was targeted by the Iranian authorities and shut down the following year. It has since relaunched, according to Small Media.

Small Media operations director Dr. Bronwen Robertson told GlobalVoices today, “Logistically, it’s impossible to do research about LGBT issues on the ground in Iran because it’s such a taboo subject and there are so many risks involved.”

Last month four men were reportedly hanged for being homosexuals.

While the sample group for the report, LGBT Republic of Iran: An Online Reality?” was small—Robertson interviewed several dozen people for cases studies via Facebook—it did bear some interesting fruit:. Like that Iranian gay men are more likely to log on than lesbians. And that even gays refer to themselves derogatorily online as “hamjensbaz,” or homos.

“That is all they hear in the public square,” says Robertson.