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Where are the gay athletes in Iran?


Ahmadinejad famously claimed before the UN that there were no gays at all in Iran, despite the fact that the most popular Olympic sport there is one involving men in religion-revealing singlets.

At least one Iranian journalist set out to prove him wrong by actually interviewing gay Iranians and publishing their stories on the internet. We may never know if any athletes were among them, and I suspect they were far too deep in the down low to risk even an anonymous view. But the chances they do not exist is, in my opinion, virtually impossible.

Siamak Ghaderi, who worked as a reporter with the state news agency, Irna, challenged Ahmadinejad's comments by conducting a series of interviews with Iranian homosexuals and publishing them online. But this came at a price.

In the aftermath of Iran's disputed presidential election in 2009, Ghaderi could not face the amount of censorship imposed on Iranian media and instead set up his own blog, called "Our Irna", in which he reported on the popular unrest that was unfolding.

His blog was filtered and in August 2010 security officials picked him up from his house and took him to prison. There, he was held in solitary confinement and was refused access to his lawyer or his family for a long time.

In January 2011, a court in Tehran sentenced him to four years in jail, 60 lashes and a fine for his work as a journalist, including interviews with Iran's gay community.

He was convicted of a number of charges, including "insulting the president", "spreading propaganda against the regime", "acting against the national security" – vague accusations used against many political activists and human rights campaigners in Iran in recent years.

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