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Iran: Two women sentenced to death over LGBTQ+ links

Court in the Iranian city of Urmia accused the women of spreading 'corruption on Earth' by promoting homosexuality
Zahra Sediqi Hamedani, one of the women sentenced to death by Iran's Urmia court (Twitter/@IranHrm)
Zahra Sediqi Hamedani, one of the women sentenced to death by a court in Iran (Twitter/@IranHrm)

Iran has sentenced two women to death on charges of links to the online LGBTQ+ community, according to human rights organisation Hengaw.

Activists Zahra Sediqi Hamedani, 31, and Elham Chubdar, 24, are both accused of “corruption on Earth” for “promoting homosexuality”, "promoting Christianity", "communicating with the media opposing the Islamic Republic" and sex trafficking in a joint case by a court in the western Iranian city of Urmia.

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The two women were sentenced on 1 September, but the details have only been revealed this week in a statement released by Hengaw on 4 September.

Hamedani appeared in a BBC Persian service documentary in May 2021, speaking about the abuse LGBTQ+ people faced in Iraq’s semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, where she had been based.

She was detained for 21 days by Kurdistan’s regional government’s intelligence and security agency, where she was tortured and placed in solitary confinement, according to an Amnesty International report.

Amnesty said that she was being detained “due to her real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity as well as her social media posts and statements in defence of LGBTI rights”.

'We will remain true to ourselves'

Hamedani has been held in Iranian custody after she was arrested at Iran’s border on 27 October last year, while trying to escape and claim asylum in neighbouring Turkey.

Before she attempted to cross into Turkey, Hamedani recorded a video she sent to 6Rang, a Germany-based Iranian lesbian network. In the video, she warned that she “may be arrested at any moment” and that she was recording the message to make people understand how much the LGBTQ+ community is suffering.

'We resist to the end of our feelings, whether with death or freedom'

- Zahra Sediqi Hamedani

“We resist to the end of our feelings, whether with death or freedom, we will remain true to ourselves,” she said.

After she was detained at the border, she was transferred to the women’s ward of Urmia’s central prison after being held in solitary confinement by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Urmia branch, according to Hengaw.

The rights group says Hamedani was deprived of her right to access legal counsel while detained. The group has given no additional details about Chubdar's case.

Hengaw said that Urmia’s Prosecutor’s Office and Revolutionary Court are “the most notorious courts regarding political, ideological, and LGBT defendants, which generally do not meet the standards of a fair trial and do not respect the rights of the defendants”.

Under Iran’s sharia penal code, same-sex relations are illegal and punishable by death.

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