Iran minister causes uproar by shaking hands with female German official

by WorldTribune Staff, October 10, 2016

A handshake between female officials from Iran and Germany caused an uproar in Iranian media and social media because Iranians said the lesbian German official “looks like a man.”

The hand contact occurred on Oct. 6 in Berlin when Iranian Vice President and head of Environmental Protection Organization Masoumeh Ebtekar met with German Minister for the Environment Barbara Hendricks.

Iranian Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar shakes hands with German Minister for the Environment Barbara Hendricks. /Twitter
Iranian Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar shakes hands with German Minister for the Environment Barbara Hendricks. /Twitter

Sharia law in Iran prohibits hand contact between a religious woman and a man who does not know her. Teheran also mandates a public policy of strict separation between men and women.

“This handshake [created an] uproar for [a] few hours in conservative media & social network pages. They thought the #Germanminister is a man. #Iran,” Sadegh Ghorbani, a Teheran- based journalist, wrote on his Twitter feed.

Hendricks, who announced she was a lesbian in 2013, is the first lesbian in German history to serve as a federal minister.

The NGO Stop the Bomb, an organization that seeks to end Iran’s nuclear program and improve human rights in the country, tweeted on Oct. 7: “Disgraceful: Lesbian German minister happily signed deals with regime of Iran that executes homosexuals.”

According to a 2008 British WikiLeaks dispatch, Iran executed 4,000 to 6,000 gays and lesbians between 1979, the founding of the Islamic Republic, and 2008. Iran’s regime prescribes the death penalty for gays as part of its Islamic Sharia law system.

In July of this year Iran hanged Hassan Ashfar, a 19-year-old homosexual.

Stefan Schaden, a LGBT rights activist with the Stop the Bomb campaign, told The Jerusalem Post at the time: “Consensual homosexual conduct remains illegal under Iran’s Sharia law and is punished with public flogging or even execution. While the Islamic State throws gays from rooftops, the Islamic Republic [of Iran] hangs them.”

German member of parliament Thomas Feist, of the Christian Democratic Union party, told Bild that Ebtekar does not stand “for change in Iran,” adding German officials should be more careful about the selection of a dialogue partner.

Ebtekar was the spokesperson for the Iranians who took 52 Americans hostage in 1979 and seized the U.S. Embassy. Earlier this year, she spoke at an al-Quds demonstration which calls each year for the destruction of Israel. She is also said to be an unwavering supporter of Hamas and Hizbullah.

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