British pop band Pet Shop Boys has dedicated its latest album "Fundamental" to Muhammad Askari (Mahmoud Asgari) and Ayaad Marhuni (Ayaz Marhoni), two Ahwazi Arab teenagers executed after being accused of homosexuality. The album by one the UK's leading pop music acts went straight to number five in the British charts when it was released two weeks ago. It is due to be released in the US on 26 June.
The 17 year olds were executed in July 2005 in Mashhad in northeastern Iran, where their families had been forcibly relocated from Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan) under the Iranian regime's ethnic restructuring programme. The regime had portrayed them as serial child rapists and professional criminals. In one interview with the regime's Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), a pro-government academic claimed that people from their social group (implicitly their race) were prone to rape and robbery with violence.
The executions (pictured right) were carried out during a wave of anti-government protests by Ahwazi Arabs in Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan). Some Ahwazi activists believe that the death sentences, carried out in Mashhad's Justice Square, were staged to portray Arabs in a bad light.
The British gay rights group Outrage! published a lengthy and detailed investigation into the Askari and Marhuni cases and other instances of state violence against gay people, as well as "honour" killings by relatives who fear that their clan and ethnic group will be tarnished by revelations of homosexuality (click here to download the report).
Outrage has also supported Ahwazi rights. Peter Tatchell (pictured at a London demonstration by Ahwazi Arabs in April), one of the group's founding members and a leading activist in the Green Party, has spoken out against what he has called the ethnic cleansing of Ahwazi Arabs.
The Pet Shop Boys' album dedication raises the profile of the suppression of ethnic and sexual minorities in Iran.
The threat of Tehran in Ahwaz - Peter Tatchell, 24 April 2006
Rights Activist Peter Tatchell Joins Ahwazi Protest in London - BAFS, 22 April 2006
Iran's Execution of Gays Part of Ethnic Repression - BAFS, 24 July 2005
Iran continues to execute minors and juvenile offenders - Amnesty International, 22 July 2005