The Iranian authorities have condemned two LGBTQ activists to death for “promoting homosexuality,” a human rights group claimed on Sunday.
According to the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, the Revolutionary Court in the city of Urmia in northwestern Iran imposed the death penalty on Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani, 31, and Elham Choubdar, 24, after finding them guilty of “spreading corruption on earth.”
More specifically, the defendants were accused of “promoting homosexuality” and “communicating with the media opposing the Islamic Republic.” According to Amnesty International, Hamadani appeared in a BBC documentary in 2021 and talked about the abuses the LGBTQ community faces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. She also published a number of posts on social media in defense of LGBTQ people.
Human rights activists also say she is accused of “promoting Christianity.” According to Amnesty, “the latter accusation is for wearing a cross necklace and attending a house church in Iran several years ago.”
The two are said to have been informed of the decision while in detention in the women’s wing of the Urmia jail. Another woman, Soheila Ashrafi, 52, is also reportedly imprisoned on the same charges, but the sentence for her is still unclear.
Although the Iranian authorities confirmed the sentencing, they insisted that the two were engaged in human trafficking, not activism. The judiciary’s news outlet, Mizan, reported that contrary to rumors, “these two individuals have been accused of deceiving women and young girls and trafficking them to one of the countries of the region.”
The Hengaw Organization for Human Rights said Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani was detained by operatives from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an influential branch of Iran’s armed forces, in late October 2021 while crossing the Turkish border. Afterwards, she was kept for two months in solitary confinement before being moved to the women’s wing.
At the time, Amnesty International decried Hamadani’s arrest, and asked the nation’s Chief Justice “to immediately and unconditionally release” the activist, as she had been detained solely due to “her real or perceived sexual orientation.”
Homosexuality has been a crime in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with punishments ranging from flogging to the death penalty.