Celebrating bravery against brutality
THAT'S MEN:Real danger which could lead to the gallows, writes PADRAIG O'MORAIN
AMONG THE most disturbing images I have seen was a newspaper photograph of two young men in Iran who were about to be hanged because they were gay. The photograph showed a close-up image of their faces as the nooses were put around their necks.
That they looked distressed goes without saying but what stayed with me was that they looked so ordinary, young and healthy – they should have had their lives before them. That their deaths were seconds away seemed an appalling waste of human life.
I remembered them when I read recently of a clandestine demonstration by young gay people in Iran. The demonstration was unusual not only because of the risk they took but because the concept of a clandestine protest on the internet is a new one, at least to me.
According to a report in The Atlantic, this small group of young people gathered on a hill overlooking Tehran and briefly held up a flag in the rainbow colours adopted by the LGTB (lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual) movement worldwide.
In the photographs which they published on a social media website, they concealed their faces. Most of the group seem to have been men.
One person, who looks like a young woman, is pictured holding up a sheet of paper on the metro with a “No to homophobia” slogan. Her face is partially covered by the sheet of paper. Another photograph shows a bunch of balloons in the rainbow colours floating above a city street.
A recent United Nations report condemned the use of measures ranging from “cruel punishment” to the death penalty against gay people in Iran. Their situation seems to elicit little sympathy from their fellow Iranians.
While some clergymen have taken a more progressive view, the overall atmosphere in which LGTB people live is hostile.
These young people brought to mind the White Rose movement in Germany in the early 1940s. Members of the movement opposed the brutality of the Nazi regime but they had no internet through which to disseminate their views. Instead they printed their leaflets and found clandestine ways of getting them into the hands of other Germans. Eventually they were caught – a few of them had successfully distributed leaflets in a university, discovered some were left over, returned to scatter the last few from a balcony and were seen, arrested and executed.
Today they are remembered with great admiration in Germany.
It would be disproportionate to draw a direct comparison between the Iranian protesters and the White Rose group who probably never had a realistic chance of escaping capture and its consequences.
This group of young Iranian activists will not be remembered with the level of admiration rightly given to the White Rose group. For one thing, they have not suffered martyrdom, though they have certainly risked it.
Nonetheless, their courage shines out and it certainly gets my admiration. And, as I mentioned earlier, they have used the internet to create a new form of clandestine protest, a form that is not without risks, given the very real danger of leaving digital footprints which could lead to the gallows in the end.
The Atlantic report, with photographs of the clandestine protest, is at bit.ly/atlanticiran
Addendum: If you’re a man over 50 and if you reckon you could do with some re-invention, you might like to know about a weekend at Dunderry Park in Co Meath from June 15th-17th.
Author Alan Heeks, currently writing a book for men over 50, promises to help participants to “discover who you are now, who you want to be, clear issues, and form the skills to enjoy this life stage to the full”, according to the Maturing Men website ( maturingmen.net).
He has led many groups on men’s issues, finding your life’s purpose “and knowing where your towel is”. Oh, and he had a second adolescence in his 50s which sounds promising.
More information on the website or from Ger Murphy at email@example.com.
Padraig O’Morain (firstname.lastname@example.org) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His book, Light Mind, mindfulness in daily living, is published by Veritas. His mindfulness newsletter is free by email.