Peter Tatchell (Pic: Outrage!)

Nearly 600 people – both straight and gay – took part in a demonstration in London on Friday in solidarity with the Iranian people’s mass protests for democracy and human rights.

The rally was held outside the Iranian Embassy and included a gay contingent comprising members of OutRage!, Iraqi LGBT and gay Muslims.

“Although there were a few awkward looks, we received a mostly warm welcome from the predominantly straight Iranian protesters,” said gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who had encouraged people to attend the event to coincide with the mass protests in Tehran.

“Some thanked us for joining the demonstration; others specifically emphasised their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. It was a very positive move to have a visible gay presence at the rally. I think we generated considerable goodwill from many of those in attendance,” said Tatchell.

At a speech at Columbia University in New York in 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asserted that there are ‘no gays’ in Iran.

Now, facing massive protests in Iran following his disputed re-election, Ahmadinejad has apparently changed his mind on the matter. He recently claimed that homosexuals, along with “thieves and scumbags” have played a part in plotting against him.

“The old tyrant has let the cat of the bag. Gay people exist in Iran and they – and millions of others – voted against him. Hurrah!” said Tatchell.

Gay and lesbian relations are illegal in Iran under Islamic Shari’a law and carry a maximum punishment of death. Since the 1979 revolution, international human rights groups have reported public floggings and executions of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

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