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Jerusalem Pride organizers receive death threats

Israeli police on Wednesday arrested 21-year-old man

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The 2021 Jerusalem Pride parade. A man has been arrested in connection with death threats made against organizers of this year's parade. (Photo courtesy of Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance)

Israeli police on Wednesday arrested a man in connection with death threats made against organizers of Jerusalem’s Pride parade.

The Times of Israel reported the 21-year-old man allegedly sent a message to Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance Community Director Emuna Klein Barnoy and two Israeli lawmakers in which he described Jerusalem as “the Holy City” and said “we will not allow the Pride parade to take place in Jerusalem.”

The threat also referenced Shira Banki, the 16-year-old teenager who was stabbed to death during a Jerusalem Pride march in 2015.

An ultra-Orthodox man who stabbed Banki and five others during the march had just been released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence in connection with the stabbing of three people during a Jerusalem Pride march in 2005. The man is currently serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison.

Israeli media reports note the threat that Barnoy and the two lawmakers received on Wednesday came from an Instagram account that included the name of the man who killed Banki.

The Jerusalem Pride parade will take place on Thursday with more than 2,400 police officers deployed along the route. The Times of Israel reported the man who allegedly threatened organizers was expected to have appeared in a Jerusalem court on the same day.

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Middle East

Iran court sentences two activists to death for ‘promoting homosexuality’

Zahra (Sareh) Sedighi arrested at Turkish border last October

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Zahra (Sareh) Sedighi. (Photo courtesy of the Mizan News Agency via Iran Human Rights)

A court in Iran has sentenced two LGBTQ and intersex activists to death after their arrest for “promoting homosexuality.”

Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based NGO that champions human rights in Iran, on Tuesday noted the Urmia Revolutionary Court in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province sentenced Zahra (Sareh) Sedighi, 31, and Elham Coobdar, 24, to death after it convicted them of “corruption on earth” charges.

Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on Oct. 27, 2021, arrested Sedighi while she was trying to enter Turkey. 

Police in Iraqi Kurdistan reportedly detained Sedighi for three weeks after she spoke with BBC Persian about the treatment of LGBTQ and intersex people in the region. Sedighi had reportedly entered Iran in order to cross the country’s border with Turkey and ask for asylum.

Iran Human Rights cited Iranian media reports that said Sedighi and Coobdar faced charges of “deceiving and smuggling women and young girls to a regional country.”

“This is while human rights sources and LGBTQI+ activists stress that Zahra and Elham were arrested and convicted for their activism,” said Iran Human Rights. “This claim was confirmed in reports aired on IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) and other official media that cited ‘promoting homosexuality’ as one of the reasons for the two activists’ arrests.”

Iran Human Rights said Sedighi and Coobdar learned the court sentenced them to death on Sept. 1.

“Zahra Sadighi and Elham Choobdar were sentenced to death without due process and in unfair legal proceedings based on forced confessions,” said Iran Human Rights Director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam. “Their convictions have no legal validity. Islamic Republic authorities have also cited promoting homosexuality as one of the reasons for their arrests. Their lives can be saved by immediate and strong reactions by the international community and civil society.”

ILGA Asia on Tuesday described the death sentences as “concerning.”

Iran is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.

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Iraqi lawmakers plan to introduce bill to ban homosexuality

Violence against LGBTQ, intersex people commonplace in country

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Baghdad, Iraq (Public domain photo)

An Iraqi lawmaker has said parliamentarians plan to introduce a bill that would ban homosexuality in the country.

Middle East Eye, a website that covers the Middle East and North Africa, reported MP Aref al-Hamami on July 8 told an official Iraqi news agency that members of his Parliamentary Legal Committee have agreed “to collect signatures after returning to session to legislate a law prohibiting homosexuality in Iraq.”

“[The] legislation of such a law will be reinforced by legal provisions that prevent homosexuality and the perversions associated with it,” said al-Hamami.

Homosexuality has been legal in Iraq since 2003, but violence against LGBTQ and intersex Iraqis remains commonplace.

“Despite repeated threats and violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals, specifically gay men, the government failed to identify, arrest, or prosecute attackers or to protect targeted individuals,” notes the State Department in its 2021 human rights report. “Some political parties sought to justify these attacks, and investigators often refused to employ proper investigation procedures. LGBTQI+ individuals also faced intimidation, threats, violence and discrimination, and LGBTQI+ individuals reported they could not live openly without fear of violence at the hands of family members, acquaintances, or strangers.”

The U.S. earlier this year condemned the so-called honor killing of Doski Azad, a transgender woman in Iraqi Kurdistan.

A source in the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq has previously told the Washington Blade that militant groups regularly target gay men in the country. The Islamic State publicly executed men accused of engaging in sodomy in the parts of Iraq it once controlled.

“With an unstable economy and crimes taking place every day without any accountability or follow-up, the Iraqi Parliament’s Legal Committee has considered that putting an end to the LGBTQ community is a priority that must be achieved as soon as possible,” tweeted an activist in Iraq who calls themselves Anas Gilgamesh.

Amir Ashour, executive director of IraQueer, an organization that advocates on behalf of LGBTQ and intersex Iraqis, on Tuesday told the Blade that it won’t be “that long” until lawmakers approve the bill because “they claim to have what they need to pass it.” Ashour added his organization is “working behind the scenes to try and stop the law from passing.”

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Turkish police violently break up university Pride march

Amnesty International condemned ‘disturbing’ Ankara crackdown

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Middle East Technical University LGBTQ+ Pride March (Screenshot/Twitter video)

Turkish police officers carrying clear-plastic riot shields, wielding batons and deploying pepper powder balls as well as tear gas violently broke up a Pride parade organized by Middle East Technical University students in Ankara on Friday.

The annual LGBTQ Pride event, marking its 10th year, was condemned by the university’s officials who had sent an email to all students earlier in the week, declaring the campus-based Pride march on June 10 “categorically banned,” and threatened participants with police intervention.

The email also noted that university has a “peaceful, productive and creative academic environment, and that its reputation is being threatened by their students demonstrating in a nonviolent manner during Pride Month.”

Amnesty International said in a press release that; “On May 10, 2019, the last time METU’s students and academic staff attempted to hold a peaceful Pride March in the campus, they were met with excessive police force, forbidden from marching and charged with ‘participating in an unlawful assembly’ and ‘refusing to disperse despite being warned.’ At least 21 students and staff were detained and 19 among them were prosecuted in a trial that ended with their acquittal in October 2021.”

In Friday’s march, multiple videos emerged on Twitter that showed Turkish police officers attacking the participants and detaining dozens as they broke up the event.

Amnesty International’s Nils Muižnieks, the organization’s director of its Regional Office for Europe issued a statement condemning the actions of the police.

“The footage showing the police responding to students participating in the peaceful Pride Parade on the METU campus with pepper powder balls and excessive use of force is quite disturbing; especially considering that this is a repetition of the violence we witnessed here three years ago.”

Today is a dark day when the university administration has called the police to disperse students who are marching only for their rights to dignity and equality. Anyone detained by the police must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

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