For the initial time, two females known to have been lesbian have been sentenced to loss of life in Iran. It marks a new stage in the Islamic republic’s persecution of LGBT people today.
“My biggest hope in lifetime is to raise the rainbow flag in Iran and shout this simple fact that we exist.”
So mentioned Zahra Sadiqi Hamedani, also regarded as Sareh, speaking to BBC Persian in Might 2021.
5 months later she was arrested by Iran’s revolutionary guard. Now she has been experimented with and sentenced to death, at the age of 31, together with a further lady, Elham Choubdar, 24.
The two females were being friends and had a business enterprise connection, as the two sold magnificence products and solutions.
Initially from the little metropolis of Naqadeh, in north-western Iran, Sareh married youthful and experienced two youngsters, a boy and a female, prior to divorcing her husband and leaving Iran to live in Iraqi Kurdistan.
In accordance to some studies, Elham Choubdar travelled regularly amongst the two nations.
Sareh was not a perfectly-known LGBT activist but experienced an Instagram account that was well-liked between Iran’s Azeri and Kurdish minorities. She also talked once in a while to foreign Tv crews about the circumstance of LGBT communities in both Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan.
“Why am I chatting in community? Since I really don’t want other LGBT good friends to go by means of what I went by. I you should not want other women of all ages like me to go by way of forced relationship,” she explained to the BBC.
“We are not corrupt we are like you, like anybody else. I am hoping to raise consciousness, so many others, like my kids, know what freedom implies. I want to empower some others to have the option [to come out].”
In accordance to the Iranian authorities, Sareh was arrested close to the border of Iran and Turkey, in which she was scheduling on in search of asylum.
It is certainly achievable that Sareh was organizing on moving to Turkey, which has a significant community of Iranian LGBT exiles. But if so, she could have travelled immediately from Iraqi Kurdistan – there was no need to have to enter Iran – so it is unclear whether or not she went there voluntarily.
A friend of Sareh’s in the city of Urmia, also in north-western Iran, indicates that she could have gone to Iran to see her young children.
“She stored chatting about her youngsters. She skipped her spouse and children, specially her brother. Possibly she required to meet them and then choose the kids?” she explained to the BBC, admitting that this was a guess.
Sareh informed the BBC in 2021 that her youngsters were being her “biggest problem”.
“I have long gone as a result of quite a few terrible, torturous encounters in my daily life. I you should not want them to occur to my son or daughter. I would do whichever it requires to shield my young children, even if I had to sacrifice my everyday living.”
The demo from the two females is claimed to have begun before this calendar year. News of their conviction and sentencing initial appeared on Sunday, and was confirmed on Monday.
The Mizan News agency, connected to Iran’s judiciary, explained they experienced been discovered responsible of human trafficking and “corruption on Earth” – a sharia-law time period that refers to anti-Islamic conduct.
The trafficking accusation was first created on Iranian state tv in November. A news report claimed that Sareh experienced been selling supplying younger Iranian girls greater education, careers and better lives in Iraqi Kurdistan, but had instead marketed them into slavery. It also stated that she had been selling unlawful gambling and throwing LGBT parties.
No proof was supplied for these accusations, nevertheless, and the human rights team Amnesty Worldwide has rejected them.
Amnesty described Sareh as a “gender-non-conforming human rights defender” who had been detained “entirely in relationship with her real or perceived s*xual orientation and gender id as well as her social media posts and statements in defence of [LGBT] legal rights”.
While the Mizan news company denied that Sareh and Elham Choubdar were being prosecuted because of their activism, Iranian human legal rights teams have mentioned they had been accused of “spreading homos*xuality”, “advertising Christianity”, and speaking with media hostile to the Islamic Republic.
The allegation about advertising of Christianity is mentioned to have been built partly since Sareh has worn a necklace with a cross.
It’s rather regular for the Iranian authorities to prosecute gay gentlemen less than bogus costs. Beneath Iranian law, intercourse in between two adult males is punishable by demise, but the authorities normally demand individuals instead with offences these as rape, incest, or dr*g-trafficking.
According to Iranian activists, at minimum 4 other men and women have been executed for being homos*xual in the very last 12 months, two of them as just lately as June.
The use of the exact same tactic with two LGBT women marks a new departure. Intercourse between gals is not punishable with the demise sentence, but with up to 100 flogs.
“Iran was not generally like this. We know prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution, many global LGBT figures, like Andy Warhol, travelled to Iran. There ended up rumours that the Shah’s favourite primary minister was a gay guy,” says a lesbian from the capital, Tehran.
“But my technology has experienced a ton less than the rule of the Islamic Republic. Given that the information about Sareh came out, I deactivated all my social media accounts. I will not want to get arrested and executed.”
Other people who stayed on-line have been putting up a photo of Sareh and making an attempt to get a hashtag versus the demise sentence to trend.
Around the previous few a long time, a vibrant underground LGBT motion has taken shape inside Iran, but this appears to have improved the authority’s hostility. Rainbow flags have been established on fire together with the US and Israeli flags, and there have been reviews of men and women staying arrested for working with LGBT dating apps.
Only a number of days ago, the country’s hardline president Ebrahim Raissi referred to homos*xuals employing the highly offensive phrase and explained homos*xuality as “filthy behaviour” and “fashionable barbarism”.
In March, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei described homos*xuality as element of the “moral depravity” common in Western civilisation.
In accordance to Iranian law, equally Zahra Sadiqi Hamedani and Elham Choubdar have the ideal to appeal to the Supreme Court but prospective customers of overturning the sentence are trim. The court has a popularity for approving the harshest sentences when it will come to charges which are deemed as anti-Sharia regulation.
Sareh instructed the BBC she experienced faith that she would see the working day when the rainbow flag was no extended burned in Iran. But this, like her hope to maintain the flag aloft and shout about the existence of LGBT people today, now looks destined to go unfulfilled.