TW: Discrimination against minorities.
A court in Urmia found two LGBTQ activists, Zahra Seddiqi Hamedani and Elham Choubdar, guilty of “corruption on Earth.” Iran is not a tolerant country toward minorities. In particular, according to the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights report, the two activists were accused of promoting homosexuality, promoting Christianity, and communicating with the media as opposed to the Islamic Republic.
They were informed of the sentence behind the bars of the women’s wing of the Urmia jail. The conviction was also confirmed by the Germany-based Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6-Rang), which called on the foreign government’s help to release them. However, Iran holds that the two were connected to human trafficking, not activism. “Contrary to the news published in cyberspace and the rumors that have been spread, these two individuals have been accused of deceiving women and young girls and trafficking them to one of the region’s countries,” says a report from Iran’s government.
We do not know much about Elham Choubdar, except that she is 24 and from Urmia. In contrast, thanks to Hengaw, we learn more about Seddiqi Hamedani, aged 31, coming from the predominantly Kurdish town of Naqadeh. She is described as a “gender non-conforming human rights defender.” Moreover, her detention seems “solely in connection with her real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity as well as her social media posts and statements in defense of [LGBT] rights.”
The Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) arrested Seddiqi Hamedani in October 2021 while she was trying to cross into Turkey to seek asylum. After that, she disappeared for 53 days. During that time, reports say an IRGC agent subjected her to “intense interrogations accompanied by verbal abuse” and “threatened to execute or otherwise harm her and take away the custody of her two young children.”
This January, she was fetched before a prosecutor in Urmia, where she was informed of the charges against her. Some of the accusations were related to her public defense of LGBT rights on social media and her appearance in a BBC documentary about abuses suffered by LGBT people in the region where she was living. Amnesty reports that in 2021 “Women, LGBTI people and ethnic and religious minorities faced entrenched discrimination and violence.” Iranian law punishes same-sex sexual relationships with sentences from flogging to the death penalty.
Furthermore, the accusation of promoting Christianity was after wearing a cross necklace and attending a house church several years ago. “Legislative developments further undermined sexual and reproductive rights, the right to freedom of religion and belief, and access to the internet,” Amnesty reports on this point. Before she attempted to leave Iran, Seddiqi Hamedani took a video in which she said: “I want you to know how much pressure we LGBT people endure. We risk our lives for our emotions. I hope the day will come when we can all live in freedom in our country.”
As proven so far, Iran is not a free country. Amnesty confirms that by showing how the Iranian government does not respect human rights. Prisoners, religious and ethnic minorities, LGBTI people, and even women face discrimination in law and practice. Torture, the death penalty, and unfair trials are used widely. Still, the authorities continue suppressing the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.
Edited by: Ayona Mitra
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