LGBTQ+ activist facing death penalty in Iran walks free after sentence overturned

Elham Choubdar speaking duuring a TikTok video

Elham Choubdar, one of two women sentenced to death on charges of “promoting homosexuality”, has been released from custody in Iran.

The LGBTQ+ activist was released on Monday (13 March) after her bail of one billion rial (approximately £19,500) was paid.

She was arrested in 2021 alongside Sareh Sedighi-Hamadani on charges of “corruption on Earth” for “promoting homosexuality” and “depravity”.

They were also charged with “promoting Christianity” and of “communicating with the media opposing the Islamic Republic”.

It was reported by Amnesty International in January that Iran had overturned the death sentence for both women.

While Choubdar has now been released, Sedighi-Hamadani remains in prison because her bail has not been paid.

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A spokesperson for the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network told PinkNews that the sentence was dropped after “tireless efforts” by the community in campaigning for their release.

The LGBTQ+ activists were sentenced to death following their conviction in September 2022, prompting international outrage.

A group of UN experts urged Iran to “immediately halt” the executions, while in the UK, Labour MP Nadia Whittome called on the Foreign Office to intervene in the case.

“The death sentences for these two women are a horrific violation of human rights that must be condemned in the strongest terms,” she told PinkNews in October. “They are also a reminder that there are still too many places where simply being LGBTQ+ can cost you your life.

“We must stand in solidarity with those fighting for change.”

Amnesty International had already called the allegations “spurious and baseless”. 

Iran is considered to be one of the most dangerous places for LGBTQ+ people in the world. Not only do gay people face the death penalty but public opinion is vehemently negative towards queer people. As part of the World Values Survey, a poll found that more than 90 per cent of people in Iran think homosexuality is wrong.

The equality metric calculator Equadex gave the country an equality score of just 6 out of 100.

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