A so-called ‘network of homosexuals and Satanists’ has been arrested at a birthday party in the city of Kermanshah in Iran.
According to The Guardian, on Tuesday night the Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps raided a hall that had been rented for the party.
Around 80 people, gay and straight, were attending the event.
At least 17 guests who had tattoos, make-up, or wore rainbow bracelets were arrested and taken away, said the newspaper.
The revolutionary guard claimed that the group had been under surveillance for some time. It is unclear what happened to the arrested people, who are reported to include foreigners, such as Iraqi citizens.
Homosexuality has often been equated with Satanism in Iran, which is one of seven countries with laws allowing for executions for consensual same-sex conduct, either by hanging or stoning.
A 2010 report by Human Rights Watch documented instances in which police and the Basij religious militia allegedly ill-treated and in some cases tortured real or suspected LGBT people, both in public spaces and detention facilities.
Several individuals said that members of the security forces had sexually assaulted or raped them.
Human rights activists have claimed that between 4,000 and 6,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed in Iran since 1979 for crimes related to their sexual preference, although the government claims that they were guilty of rape, murder, or drug trafficking.
In 2007, the then President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told an audience at Columbia University in the US that “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals”.