Iranian president sparks outrage with Columbia university speech

Bryan Ochalla | September 26, 2007

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
WASHINGTON, DC — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad�s speech at Columbia University contained controversial statements provoked controversy and outrage, to virtually no one's surprise. In previous outings he has referred to the Holocaust as a myth and also has called for Israel to be wiped from the map.

The U.S. government has labeled Ahmadinejad a state sponsor of terrorism for aiding groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and for contributing arms to Iraqi insurgents.

That still likely left some shaking their heads after the controversial leader, visiting the U.S. to attend the United Nations General Assembly Session, declared in his speech at Columbia University that there are no gay people in his country.

In response to a question from an audience member concerning Iran's documented abuse of gays and women, Ahmadinejad replied, "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country," according to press reports.

During the same speech, Ahmadinejad was confronted with Amnesty International figures suggesting that Iran had executed 200 people this year, including people labeled as homosexuals. Ahmadinejad is reported to have replied, "Don't you have capital punishment in the United States? You do too. In Iran there is capital punishment."

Ahmadinejad�s comments earned a swift reply from gay rights groups like the Human Rights Campaign.

"Today's assertions by President Ahmadinejad that there are no homosexuals in Iran would be simply absurd were it not for the fact that international human rights watchers have long documented some of the most horrific acts of persecution and violence committed against gay people in Iran,� Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a release.

�These acts of terror have included incarcerations, beatings and brutal executions,� he added. �Ahmadinejad's denial that there are gay people in Iran shows the extent to which he devalues the lives of the many citizens his government has and continues to violate." – Issued by Gay Link Content

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