Iran: Stop the Execution of LGBTQ+ Rights Activists

Two LGBTQ+ rights activists, Zahra (Sareh) Sedighi Hamedani, 31, and Elham Chubdar, 24, were sentenced to death on charges of promoting homosexuality by a court in the northwestern town of Urmia. Soheila Sharifi, 52, is another defendant in the same case and still awaiting a verdict. 

Hamedani and Chubdar were convicted of „spreading corruption on earth“ — a charge which carries the death penalty and is frequently imposed on defendants deemed to have broken the country’s Sharia laws. They were informed of the sentence while in detention in the women’s wing of the Urmia jail. 

In a short statement, the Iranian judiciary confirmed their death sentences but said they were connected to human trafficking and prostitution. 

Homosexuality is criminalized in Iran and punishable by imprisonment, flogging, and death.

Zahra (Sareh) Sedighi-Hamadani, LGBTQ+ Activist

Zahra Sedighi Hamadani, known as Sareh, was arrested on 27 October 2021 by Iran’s security forces while trying to cross the border into Turkey to seek asylum. 

She was targeted for speaking out in support of LGBTQ+ rights on social media and in a BBC documentary aired in May 2021 about the abuses LGBTQ+ people suffer in Iraqi Kurdistan. Sareh was initially arrested by authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan, where she was based, before deciding to flee Turkey.

On 16 January 2022, Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani was brought before the lead investigator of Branch 6 of the Office of the Revolutionary and Public Prosecutor in Urumieh who informed her that she is accused of “spreading corruption on earth” including through “promoting homosexuality”, “communication with antiIslamic Republic media channels” and “promoting Christianity”. The first two accusations stem from her public defence of LGBTI rights, including on her social media platforms and in an appearance in a BBC documentary aired in May 2021 about the abuses that LGBTI people suffer in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. According to information obtained by Amnesty International, the latter accusation is for wearing a cross necklace and attending a house church in Iran several years ago.

After her arrest, Sareh was held in solitary confinement and subjected to intense interrogations. The Revolutionary Guard insulted her identity and appearance, and threatened to execute her and take away her children.

Being Gay In Iran

Homosexuality is banned in Iran, with its penal code explicitly criminalizing same-sex sexual behavior for both men and women. The maximum penalty is the death penalty. 

In February, Mehrdad Karimpour and Farid Mohammadi were hanged in a prison in the northwestern city of Maragheh on charges of sodomy. They were sentenced to death for „forced sexual intercourse between two men“ and spent six years on death row. 

LGBTQ+ people in Iran also face severe discrimination and violence in society. In May 2021, Alireza Fazeli Monfared, a 20-year-old Iranian man, was killed in a so-called „honor killing“ by family members after learning that he was gay.

Being queer in Iran carries harsher punishment than most horrific crimes, such as murder and rape.