President Ahmandinejad of Iran is currently in the US for the opening session of the UN and spoke yesterday at Columbia University's 'World Leaders Forum'. In a question and answer session he touched on the subject of homosexuality. Speaking in Farsi he made the claim that:
"In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I do not know who has told you that we have it."
- well, if you'll believe that you'll believe anything! The students in the audience certainly didn't buy his story and responded with a mixture of laughter and boos. See and hear for yourself:
Although it is not entirely clear from the video-recording, it would appear that in an earlier question he had been asked about sexuality and women, but must have responded instead about 'criminals and drug-smugglers' (a common way in Iran for describing people the state doesn't like, such as homosexuals, before hanging them in public) and the moderator had to bring him back to the real question he had been asked, but had obviously tried to obfuscate about.
(thru Joe at Joe.My.God.)
UPDATE: (Tuesday 25SEP07 09.33 BST) I have just located a source for a transcipt of the dialogue with President Ahmandinejad at Columbia University - the link is to a download of a 'Word' document (the source website is here).
2nd UPDATE: (Tuesday 25SEP07 15.54 BST) Here's a video-recording of President Ahmandinejad of Iran being introduced by Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University. It is very rude and very blunt, but absolutely the unvarnished truth and I consider it highly-justified in the circumstances; any illusion that President Ahmandinejad might have had that he could use his appearance at Columbia University as some kind of propaganda coup was effectively shattered by this timely if curmudgeonly introductory speech of 'greeting' to an 'honoured guest':
(thru Andrew Sullivan here)
3rd UPDATE: (Thursday 27SEP07 09.05 BST) It's not a particular surprise to me, but in official transcripts of President Ahmandinejad's appearance at Columbia University on Monday there is no mention of the questions, or his answers, relating to gays. Either whoever runs official propaganda outlets in Iran thinks pretending the 'problem' doesn't exist will make it go away (it won't!), or they know that publishing his blanket denial that gays exist in Iran would be greeted with as much derision there as it was in New York. However, I'm pleased to say that the news is already out in Iran (the internet makes it very difficult for this type of thing to be kept completely quiet) and my little blog has already received a number of hits from Iran in the past few days as a result of web-searches on Google or Yahoo! .