Sareh was one of two LGBTIQ women sentenced to death in Iran
A court in Iran has sentenced two LGBTIQ activists to death after they were found guilty of “corruption on earth” because of their so-called “promotion” of homosexuality.
The Hengaw Organization for Human Rights (HOHR) reports that Zahra Sediqi Hamedani, also known as Sareh, 31, from Naqadeh, and Elham Chubdar, 24, from Urmia, were condemned to die by the Revolutionary Court of Urmia in a joint case.
In addition to “promoting” homosexuality, the two women were also found guilty of “communicating with the media opposing the Islamic Republic”.
While not much is known about Elham Chubdar, Sareh was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in October 2021 while she was attempting to cross the border to seek asylum in Turkey.
She was initially charged with crossing the border illegally and targeted for participating in an interview with BBC Persian and speaking up on the situation of LGBTIQ people in Erbil, Iraq.
She was transferred to the women’s ward of the central prison after about two months of solitary confinement in the intelligence detention centre of the IRGC in Urmia.
According to HOHR, Sareh was deprived of the right to access a lawyer during her detention, and the security agents threatened her with her execution and deprivation of custody of her two children. She also endured verbal harassment and insults to her identity and appearance.
The organisation noted that Urmia’s Prosecutor’s Office and Revolutionary Court are “among the most notorious courts” regarding political, ideological, and LGBTIQ defendants and “generally do not meet the standards of a fair trial and do not respect the rights of the defendants”.
Amnesty Iran said it was “outraged” by the death sentences. It expressed concern that the women’s convictions and sentences “are based on discriminatory reasons tied to the women’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and for Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani, her peaceful LGBTI rights activism.”
Amnesty called on Iran’s authorities “to immediately quash the convictions and death sentences and release Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani and Elham Choubdar.”
Iran’s legal code is based on strict Islamic law and allows a judge to sentence a person found guilty of homosexuality to death. It is one of six countries – including Brunei, parts of Nigeria, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – in which the death penalty is a legally prescribed punishment for consensual same-sex sexual acts.
In July, Iran’s Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), reported that an individual named Iman Safari-rad was executed on homosexuality charges. In February, it was reported that two men – Mehrdad Karimpou and Farid Mohammadi – were also hanged in the northwestern Iranian city of Maragheh on similar charges.