Iranian lesbian faces death penalty after being arrested for ‘supporting homosexuality’

A picture of Sareh (Zahra) Sediqi Hamedani, a lesbian, who was arrested in Iran for 'supporting homosexuality'

An Iranian lesbian potentially faces the death penalty after she was arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) for “supporting homosexuality”.

Sareh, a 28-year-old woman who lived and worked in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, was arrested by the IRGC on 27 October while she was attempting to flee across the border into Turkey, according to a report by the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6Rang).

The IRGC is a branch of Iran’s armed forces – independent of the country’s regular army – that was set up after the 1979 Iranian revolution to defend the country’s Islamic system, the BBC reported.

According to 6Rang, Sareh was detained for 21 days by the Iraqi Kurdistan police after she gave an interview to BBC Persian about the treatment of people within the LGBT+ community in the region.

After she was released by police, Sareh crossed the border into Iran to escape from Iraqi Kurdistan, with the intent to eventually seek asylum in Turkey. But before she could make it into Turkey, she was arrested by the IRGC in October while she was in the West Azerbaijan province of Iran.

The Tasnim News Agency, which 6Rang says is affiliated with the security forces, reported on 8 November that the IRGC had arrested individuals in West Azerbaijan on charges of “forming a gang for trafficking girls and supporting homosexuality”.

6Rang said that it suspected this may be related to Sareh’s arrest.

According to an IRGC statement, one of the charges against the alleged “smuggling network” was “communicating with and supporting homosexual groups” who “operated under the support of multi-regional intelligence services”.

LGBT+ people in Iran often face violence and discrimination, and sex between people of the same gender is illegal and can be punishable by death or imprisonment. Iran currently criminalises sex between men with the death penalty and sex between women with 100 lashes.

The report by 6Rang said there has been no further information about Sareh since her arrest in October.

Before she was arrested, Sareh sent three short videos to a person that she trusted, and these videos were eventually passed to 6Rang for publication.

In the videos, Sareh tragically shared her fears that she will soon be arrested by the IRGC, saying she has to “get out immediately”. But she said she didn’t know if “I can do it or not” as the security forces “have all the information about me”.

She added that she wanted to send the videos to make others understand how much “suffering” the LGBT+ community is going through in the region.

“And we resist to the end for our feelings,” Sareh said. “Whether with death or freedom, we will remain true to ourselves.”

She continued: “I hope that the day will come when we can all live freely in our own country.

According to 6Rang, the group released the videos in the hopes that the international LGBT+ community and human rights organisations might “put the Islamic Republic of Iran under pressure to release Sareh immediately”.

The Iranian branch of Amnesty International shared on Twitter that it was concerned by the reports from 6Rang that an “Iranian lesbian woman” named Sareh was arrested in the West Azerbaijan province near the border with Turkey.

“The criminalization of LGBTI people perpetuates violence & discrimination against them,” the group wrote.

It added: “We renew our calls on Iran’s authorities to decriminalize same-sex sexual conduct; immediately release all those detained on the basis of their identity or for defending LGBTI rights; and adopt legislation to respect and protect the human rights of LGBTI people.”

IGLA Asia tweeted that it also joined in “the movement calling Iranian authorities” to free Sareh immediately.