‘Spurious and Baseless’: Iran Sentences LGBT Activists to Death
Two Iranian LGBT activists were sentenced to death by an Iranian court on Monday, prompting an international outcry and condemnations from human rights organizations.
Two Iranian LGBT activists, Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani and Elham Chobdar, were sentenced to death by an Iranian court on Monday, prompting an international outcry and condemnations from human rights organizations.
Sedighi-Hamadani and Chobdar had earlier been convicted of “spreading corruption on Earth,” according to Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency. The two were officially convicted of “trafficking young women” in Iran’s northwestern West Azerbaijan province. According to Mizan, the Iranian judiciary’s news outlet, they were separately informed of the verdict while imprisoned in Iran’s Urmia Central Prison.
Sedighi-Hamadani had been detained by Iranian authorities earlier in the year “due to her real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as her social media posts and statements in defense of LGBTI rights,” according to Amnesty. The organization noted that the two activists’ sentences were being appealed in Iran’s Supreme Court and called on that body to “quash the convictions and death sentences.”
Amnesty claimed that Sedighi-Hamadani was initially detained in Erbil, Iraq, in October 2021 after participating in a BBC documentary highlighting discrimination against the Middle East’s LGBT community. After she was released from her detention in Iraq, she attempted to cross the border into Turkey via Iran but was arrested by Iranian authorities. At roughly the same time, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) issued a statement claiming that its intelligence branch had apprehended the “leader” of a trafficking ring “involved in smuggling Iranian girls and women” out of Iran to homosexual groups under the “protection of [foreign] intelligence agencies.”
Although the IRGC’s statement did not name Sedighi-Hamadani, Amnesty speculated that it referred to her due to the timing of her arrest. The organization described the allegations against her as “spurious and baseless” and announced that it was “outraged” by the imposition of the death sentence.
The two activists’ cases were tried separately, and many of the proceedings have been kept secret. It is known, however, that Sedighi-Hamadani was charged with, and ultimately convicted of, “promoting homosexuality,” “promoting Christianity,” and “communication with anti-Islamic Republic media channels.” However, Mizan’s report emphasized that the cases against them were “related to the trafficking of women and young girls,” claiming that several girls who had allegedly been trafficked had been abused and had committed suicide.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.