Iranian Court Sentences Two LGBTQ Activists to Death, Rights Group Says

By Kayhan Life Staff

An Iranian revolutionary court in Urmia (also spelled Orumiyeh), in the northwestern province of West Azerbaijan, has handed death sentences to two LGBTQ activists: 31-year-old Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani (known as Sareh), and 24-year-old Elham Choobdar, on charges of “corruption on earth by promoting homosexuality,” Hengaw Human Rights Organization said on Sept. 4.

Ms. Sedighi-Hamadani and Ms. Choobdar were tried as part of the same court case. Authorities at the women’s ward in Urmia’s central prison, where the two are held, have informed them of the court’s ruling.



Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani. KL./

The report added that the third defendant in the same case, 53-year-old Soheila Ashrafi, who is in the same prison, awaits her sentence.

Other sources have reported that on Jan. 16, the Urmia public prosecutor’s office charged Sedighi-Hamadani and Choobdar with “spreading corruption on earth through homosexuality and Christianity and by working with media hostile to the Islamic Republic.”

Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) reportedly arrested Sedighi-Hamadani on Oct. 23, 2021, near the Turkish border as she was trying to leave Iran.

After her arrest, she reportedly “forcibly disappeared” for 53 days. It later emerged that the IRGC held her in solitary confinement in a detention center in Urmia.

According to Sedighi-Hamadani, she was subjected to intense interrogations by the IRGC, including verbal abuse and insults directed at her gender identity and appearance. She was reportedly threatened with execution and losing custody of her two young children.

On Jan. 25, Amnesty International’s “urgent action” urged people worldwide to write to the head of Iran’s Judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohsen Ejei, using a template posted on the organization’s website or using words of their own choosing, calling on Iran to “immediately and unconditionally release Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani.”

“She is detained solely based on discriminatory reasons related to her real or perceived sexual orientation or [gender] identity and for the peaceful exercise of her human rights, including rights to privacy and freedom of expression and association,” the letter said.

Iranian authorities and state media have accused Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani of being involved in “human trafficking.”

A report on July 19 by the Tehran-based Tasnim news agency – which has close links to the IRGC — said that the Imam Mahdi Unknown Soldier Unit of the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization had arrested “the head of the largest human trafficking ring that was smuggling girls and women to Erbil, [in Kurdistan region] of Iraq.”

Tasnim’s report identified the person as “Zahra Mansouri-Hamadani.”

“The name of this person is Zahra Mansouri-Hamadani, known as Sareh, whose arrest has been described by Farsi-language media outside Iran as concerning a member of the sexual minority being victimized by the Islamic Republic,” the report added. “Her activities included promoting homosexuality, gambling, swindling, and immoral sexual relationships and publishing them on social media.”

“The IRGC followed her for months until they uncovered the largest gang of traffickers of girls and women in Erbil, Iraq,” Tasnim said. “Two people, Alireza Farjadi-Kia and Kathy, were the gang leaders. They smuggled hundreds of Iranian girls and women to Erbil with the help of Zahra Mansouri-Hamadani.”

“Thousands of girls and women were being sold in Erbil,” the report added.

Link to the Farsi page

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