Prominent theatre director condemned for ‘hate speech’ after lashing out at ‘shameful homosexuals’

Ghotbedin Sadeghi

One of Iran’s top academics and theatre-makers has come under fire for comparing LGBT+ people to “thugs” in a rant about an arts complex.

Ghotbedin Sadeghi, a prominent director and playwright, decried the state of the neighbourhood around the City Theater of Tehran, considered by many to be Iran’s leading artistic theatre.

District 11, Sadeghi told Online Art, is “very shameful” and has “turned into a place for thugs, offenders, and homosexuals who do not observe the cultural sanctity of this place”.

“The private area of the City Theater complex must be defined – shameful things are happening around this building,” he continued.

His comments stirred outrage among Iranian LGBT+ advocates, civic activists and artists collectives, according to Iran Wire.

Nearly 700 individuals and groups have signed a petition on Daadkhast, a popular petition website in Iran, accusing Sadeghi of “hate speech”.

“Sadeghi’s stance is a continuation of a policy that criminalises the life of homosexuals,” they wrote, “treats the bisexual society as sick and targets trans people with a call to stigmatise, marginalise and even eliminate this group from society.”

For the petitioners, Sadeghi’s comments were the latest instance of Iran’s conservative culture that links “every issue and problem, from coronavirus to the vaccine and the insecure urban environment” to the LGBT+ community.

They added that “whenever [the government] hits a deadlock”, homophobes will simply take aim at the LGBT+ community.

Women demonstrate against the situation in Iran during the Christopher Street Day (CSD) LGBT+ Pride

(JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

“Shouting and complaining in line with the government’s policies implicates the LGBT+ community as the main cause, or at least one of the causes, of social problems,” they added.

Indeed, one of Iran’s most influential clerics in February implored his followers to steer clear of people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as they have “become homosexuals“.

LGBT+ people face an unrelenting amount of violence and discrimination in Iran, where queer sex is illegal and punishable by death, lashing or imprisonment.

Since Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic republic, called for queer people to be killed in 1979, there has been a spree of executions so significant international intelligence officials have struggled to pin down an exact death toll.

Estimates vary, but some German officials say around “4,000 to 6,000” queer folk have been executed in the decades since Khomeini compared queer people to “gangrene” who will “contaminate” the population.

Such an “anti-human stance” when it comes to LGBT+ rights won’t be forgotten about, the petition stressed.

“It is necessary and important to take such actions and make a collective call and unite against the violation of rights and dehumanization of a group of society,” social analyst Melika Zar, who launched the petition, told Iran Wire.