LGBTQ+ activists sentenced to death in Iran for ‘promoting homosexuality’

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

Two LGBTQ+ activists have been sentenced to death in Iran for “promoting homosexuality”.

According to the Kurdish human rights organisation Hengaw, Zahra Sediqi Hamedani, also known as “Sareh”, 31, and Elham Chubdar, 24, were both sentenced to death for “corruption on Earth” through the promotion of homosexuality.

Their joint case was decided by the Revolutionary Court in Urmia, Iran, part of a special Islamic court system in the country.

They are currently being held in Urmia Central Prison.

The two women were convicted of “promoting homosexuality”, as well as “promoting Christianity” and “communicating with the media opposing the Islamic Republic”, in January this year.

At the time of Hamedani’s arrest when she attempted to flee the country in October 2021, the Iranian branch of Amnesty International said: “The criminalisation of LGBTI people perpetuates violence and discrimination against them.

“We renew our calls on Iran’s authorities to decriminalise 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.”

Amnesty International later demanded the LGBTQ+ activist’s release in a letter to the chief justice of Iran, but to no avail.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, British LGBTQ+ rights activist Peter Tatchell said: “Zahra Sediqi Hamedani and Elham Chubdar are both accused of being LGBTQ+ activists and have been sentenced to death on the charge of ‘Corruption on Earth’ through the promotion of homosexuality.

“This very grave catch-all charge is often used against critics of the regime and those who express opinions that are not compliant with Islamic orthodoxy. It normally results in execution.”

Tatchell noted that Hamedani “reportedly had no access to a lawyer during her 10 months detention” and described Iran as “notorious for unfair trials”.

He added: “They will probably be hanged using the barbaric long, slow strangulation method; much favoured by the Iranian regime in order to maximise the victim’s suffering.”

Under Iran’s 2013 Islamic penal code, same-sex conduct between both men and women is criminalised, and punishable with flogging or the death penalty.

Even where no sex has taken place, LGBTQ+ people can also be arrested for affectionate behaviour “such as kissing or lustful touching”.