Iran's foreign minister has defended the nation's practice of executing gay people, for which the country is receiving condemnation from U.S. and German officials.
Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Sarif made the remark at a joint press conference Monday with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Tehran, German site DW reports. A journalist from the German newspaper Bild asked, "Why are homosexuals executed in Iran because of their sexual orientation?"
"Our society has moral principles," Sarif replied. "And we live according to these principles. These are moral principles concerning the behavior of people in general. And that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed."
Maas, who was in Tehran for negotiations related to Iran's nuclear treaty with other nations, did not address the matter in the moment, and he was criticized for his silence. The German Foreign Ministry later made a statement, with Michael Roth, minister of state for Europe, telling Bild, "LGBTI rights are human rights. And they have always been. Everywhere. No religious, cultural, or ethnic tradition justifies state persecution, especially the execution of homosexuals. In Iran and seven other countries worldwide, homosexuals face the death penalty. That is inhuman and completely unacceptable."
Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany and the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Trump administration, also issued a denunciation. "The Iranian regime has violated basic principles of the United Nations," he told the German Press Agency Wednesday. "U.N. members should honor [the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights] if they want to be members at all. The criminalization of homosexuality plainly violates this declaration."
Since 1979, Iran has based its government on an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam. Human rights activists say several thousand people have been executed for being gay during this period.