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Iran Regime Sentences Two Gay Rights Activists to Death

Iranian LGBTQ rights activist Zahra (Sareh) Hamadani. iranwire.com
Iranian LGBTQ rights activist Zahra (Sareh) Hamadani. iranwire.com

The Islamic Republic of Iran has announced the death penalty against two LGBTQ activists for allegedly promoting homosexuality in the country, according to a report from the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights. This latest development comes as the Islamic regime has come under scrutiny for its lack of regard for human rights and political freedom in the country.

According to the Sunday Report, the ruling against the two female activists came from the Islamic Revolutionary Court of the city of Urmia in the West Azerbaijan province against 31-year-old Zahra Sedighi-Hamedani and 24-year-old Elham Choubdar. The court, however, did not issue a verdict against another activist, 52-year-old Soheila Ashrafi.

In July, the Islamic Republic of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) stated that Hamadani faced recent charges of "trafficking Iranian women" to Erbil, in the Kurdistan province in Iraq, referring to her as Zahra Mansouri Hamedani. The IRGC first arrested Hamadani for being linked to an appearance on a BBC documentary on gay rights in Iraqi Kurdistan, highlighting the condition many faces in the region. In October 2021, the Islamic government arrested Hamadani while trying to cross the border and seek asylum in Turkey, holding her in solitary confinement for over a month.

During her imprisonment, the IRGC subjected her to intense interrogations, insults, and threats of execution. In early January, the Islamic Revolutionary Court accused Hamadani of "spreading corruption on earth" through the "promotion of homosexuality, "communication with anti-Islamic Republic media channels," and "promoting Christianity."

The Hengaw Human Rights Organization noted that the Iranian government announced the sentence to both prisoners in the past few days in the women's ward of Urmia Central Prison. Officials for the Human Rights group noted that Hamdani did not have the right to access a lawyer during her detention and that security agents threatened to deprive her of custody of her two children. For many experts familiar with the Islamic Republic's use of the death penalty, the case scenario is that both women will be hanged for all to see.

On social media, numerous human rights activists and groups raised outrage against the Islamic Republic's sentence against the two activists. On Twitter, the National Union for Democracy for Iran posted a photo of Zahra Hamadani, calling on LGBTQ+ organizations and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) to do something to save their lives. On Instagram, Princess Noor Pahlavi, daughter of Iranian Prince Reza Pahlavi, raised awareness of Hamdani and Choubdar's sentence, citing NUFDI's original post.

Many activists also blasted the Biden administration and State Department's lack of attention on the subject, calling on the President and his team to walk away from negotiations with Iran regime officials and focus on punishing the regime for their actions. Since 1979, the Islamic Republic has arrested, tortured, and publicly executed between 4,000 and 6,000 gays, facing little punishment from the international community. Thanks to Iranian protesters and activists on the ground, footage of these executions has been shown on social media and national news outlets, including hangings and other brutal deaths in prisons.

With the President and his team attempting to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, many human rights activists and Iranian experts argue that the regime will continue to engage in human rights abuses and support its brutal security apparatus because of the economic sanctions relief. Members of Congress have called on the administration to cease its negotiations with Tehran, arguing that the regime continues to violate human rights laws and crackdown against officials of the Islamic Republic, using the former Trump administration's maximum pressure strategy. As the 2022 midterms are coming up in November, the President hopes to obtain a revived nuclear agreement with Iran as a political win for his presidency.

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