An Iranian court has sentenced two women activists who brought to light the harassment faced by LGBTQ+ people. The rights activists, Zahra Sediqi Hamedani, 31, and Elham Chubdar, 24, were accused of "promoting homosexuality", and "promoting Christianity".
They were also accused of communicating with the media opposing the Islamic Republic and sex trafficking. Hengaw, a human rights organization, disclosed the details of the case after the court sentenced the two activists on September 1.
Highlighted LGBTQ+ Abuse
Hamedani had featured on BBC Persian service documentary, in May 2021, and highlighted the abuse LGBTQ+ people faced in Iraq's semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. As such, the Kurdistan's regional government's intelligence and security agency detained her for 21 days. She was tortured and placed in solitary confinement for almost two months.
Activist Made Video Before Arrest
In October 2021, Hamedani was held in Iranian custody after she was arrested at Iran's border while trying to escape and claim asylum in Turkey. She had recorded a video which she sent to a German-based Iranian lesbian network 6Rang. The activist 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. Hamedani said the community resists to the end of their feelings, whether with death or freedom, they will remain true to themselves.
She was arrested and transferred to the women's ward at Urmia's central prison after being held in solitary confinement by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Urmia branch. Hengaw claims Hamedani was deprived of her right to access legal counsel. The rights group said Urmia's Prosecutor's Office and Revolutionary Court are the most notorious courts regarding political, ideological, and LGBTQ defendants.
In November, the IRGC said a leader of a human trafficking network involved in smuggling Iranian girls and women to neighboring countries and directing them to homosexual groups under protection of foreign intelligence agencies had been caught. Amnesty International believes the IRGC may be referring to Hamedani and called it out as "spurious and baseless".
Amnesty International Outraged
Amnesty International expressed outrage by the sentences. The international human rights organization called on Iran's authorities to immediately quash the convictions and death sentences. It urged for the release of Sedighi-Hamedani and Chubdar.
Over recent months, Iran has received backlash for major crackdowns that is affecting all areas of society and a surge in arrests of foreign nationals.