Photo: © Cecilie Johnsen
JOINT STATEMENT - THE OBSERVATORY / LDDHI
Paris-Geneva, September 22, 2022 – An Iranian court sentenced to death two women defending LGBTQI+ rights on charges of promoting homosexuality. The Observatory (FIDH-OMCT) and the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) strongly condemn these death sentences and urge the Iranian authorities to overturn them.
On August 10, 2022, the Islamic Revolution Court of Urmia, West Azerbaijan Province, tried LGBTQI+ rights defender Ms. Zahra (aka Sareh) Sedighi Hamedani and Ms. Elham Chubdar, another woman active on LGBTQI+ matters online and associated with Ms. Sedighi Hamedani. The two were found guilty of "spreading corruption on earth" (Article 286 of the Islamic Penal Code) through "being members of gangs smuggling young women and girls, promoting homosexuality, proselytising Christianity, and contacts with opposition media". They were sentenced to death, following a grossly unfair trial. While the date of their conviction is unknown, the two women learned of their sentences on September 1, 2022, in the women’s wing of Urmia jail, where they have been arbitrarily detained since late 2021. Their sentences have been appealed to the Supreme Court, which will examine their cases in the coming months.
Zahra Sedighi Hamedani is an Iranian LGBTQI+ activist. She operated a Telegram channel for LBGTQI+ people, was active on Instagram, and gave interviews on abuses against sexual minorities.
Ms. Sedighi Hamedani was arrested by the Iranian security forces on October 27, 2021, while she attempted to cross the Iran-Turkey border to seek asylum in Turkey. The charges against her stemmed from her public defence of the human rights of the LGBTQI+ community on social media and an appearance in a BBC documentary aired in May 2021 about the abuses that members of this community suffer in the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq (KRG), where she had lived for some time. Ms. Sedighi Hamedani returned to Iran after she was arbitrarily detained in solitary confinement for 21 days and tortured by Iraqi Kurdistan's security and intelligence agents in October 2021, because of her appearance in the above-mentioned BBC documentary. Following her arrest, Ms. Sedighi Hamedani was held in solitary confinement for 53 days, during which she was subjected to abusive interrogations, homophobic insults, threats of losing custody of her children and death threats made by the Revolution Guards. Ms. Elham Chubdar was arrested about a month after Ms. Sedighi Hamedani.
Homosexuality is still illegal under domestic law in Iran. The Islamic Penal Code explicitly criminalises same-sex relationships for both men and women, which leads to the persecution of members of the LGBTQI+ community and those defending their rights. The vague accusation of “spreading corruption on earth” is frequently used in Iran to prosecute people accused of a broad range of offences.
The Observatory and the LDDHI are appalled by this decision and urge the Iranian authorities to quash these convictions and death sentences and to immediately and unconditionally release Zahra Sedighi Hamedani and Elham Chubdar. The Observatory and the LDDHI express their utmost concern over the above-mentioned allegations of ill-treatment against Ms. Sedighi Hamedani and urge the Iranian authorities to carry out an immediate, thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into these acts, in order to hold those responsible accountable.
The Observatory and the LDDHI further call on the Iranian authorities to guarantee that all human rights defenders in the country, including LGBTQI+ rights defenders, can express themselves freely and carry out their legitimate activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
The League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) was founded in Paris in March 1983, following the forced closure of the “Iranian Association for the Defence of Human Rights and Liberties” (established in 1977) in 1981, and the departure of its leaders into exile. Since its establishment, LDDHI has consistently reported and campaigned against human rights violations in Iran, concentrating on the abolition of the death penalty in Iran, women’s rights, freedom of political prisoners, rights of religious and ethnic minorities, freedoms of expression, assembly and association among others. LDDHI has been a member of FIDH since 1986.