The Daily Telegraph
Two female gay rights campaigners sentenced to death in Iran
‘They can be saved by a strong reaction from the international community and civil society’
IRAN has sentenced two female gay rights activists to death for “spreading corruption on Earth”, raising fears of a crackdown on non-conforming women in the repressive Islamic Republic.
Zahra Sedighi Hamedani, 31, and Elham Chubdar, 24, were convicted at a court in Urmia of promoting homosexuality and Christianity and communicating with media outlets opposed to the republic. “Spreading corruption on Earth” is a vague criminal charge that is often used against opponents of Sharia law.
The verdicts were highly unusual as this is the first time that a woman has been sentenced to death in Iran for her sexual orientation, according to the German-based Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6-Rang).
Homosexuality is banned in Iran with its penal code explicitly criminalising same-sex sexual behaviour for both men and women.
The case has been internationally condemned.
“France deplores the death sentences issued by Iran for Mrs Elham Chubdar and Mrs Zahra Sedighi Hamedani,” the French foreign ministry said, emphasising its universal opposition to the death penalty and support of gay rights.
Amnesty International said it was “outraged” by the verdicts and expressed concern that the women’s convictions and sentences were discriminatory in nature.
The Norway-based Iran Human Rights NGO said in a statement that “their lives can be saved by immediate and strong reactions by the international community and civil society”.
Activists accuse Iran of being in the throes of a major crackdown that is affecting all areas of society, including a new push against the Baha’i religious minority, a surge in executions and arrests of foreign nationals.
For months, there has been concern about the fate of Ms Hamedani, also known as Sareh, a prominent Iranian LGBTQ activist.
She was arrested in October 2021 by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps while attempting to cross into Turkey to seek asylum.
Before leaving Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, where she had been living, Ms Hamedani had sent 6Rang videos to be made public in case she failed to make it to safety.
“We, the LGBTI community, are suffering. Whether through death or freedom, we will remain true to ourselves. I hope to achieve freedom,” she said in one clip.
In another she claimed that she had been electrocuted while being tortured when in Iraqi Kurdish custody.