Video: Ahmadinejad takes questions

updated 9/26/2007 8:30:35 PM ET 2007-09-27T00:30:35

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comment that there are no gays in Iran was cut out of official Farsi transcripts of his appearance at Columbia University Monday.

Not all media deleted the comments: State-run television left them in a videotaped recording of the speech broadcast Tuesday. The complete transcript was published in the English-language version of the state news agency report and some newspapers ran the comments Wednesday.

But homosexuality, which remains highly sensitive in Iran, is rarely discussed in Farsi-language official media. Gay sex is prohibited, and in some circumstances, people convicted of it can be sentenced to death.

In the question-and-answer portion of Ahmadinejad's appearance, the moderator asked why Iran executes gays.

Ahmadinejad eventually responded: "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country. We don't have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it."

On the Farsi-language versions of the president's official Web site and the country's official news agency, IRNA, these comments are cut out or slightly revised to delete references to homosexuality.

Causing a stir with international groups
On Tuesday, Amnesty International called Ahmadinejad's comments "absurd" and said Iranians have been arrested and harassed for allegedly committing homosexual acts.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission criticized the decision not to include all of Ahmadinejad's comments on the Farsi-language state-run Web sites.

The "whitewashing of his comments from the eyes and ears of most Iranian citizens speaks to something more troubling ... Perhaps he knows he could not credibly get away with such a denial among his own people," said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the New York-based commission.

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