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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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Middle East

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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Middle East

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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Middle East

Upwards of 170,000 people attend Tel Aviv Pride

The event took place without incident

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(i24News screenshot)

It is often referred to as the LGBTQ capital of the Middle East for its sizable population of people who identify as a part of the LGBTQ community, and it has a reputation for hosting the arguably largest annual Pride celebration and festivities.

This year was no exception as Israeli officials estimate a crowd of nearly 170,000 was in attendance.

According to i24NEWS, an Israeli-based international 24-hour news and current affairs television channel located in Tel Aviv, the seaside city has a population of nearly 100,000 who identify themselves as LGBTQ and the city has hosted Pride for 23 years.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Israeli Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen kicked off the festivities.

“We have a majority here in Israel that supports this community,” said Huldai. “Tel Aviv has always been home for every transgender person, and every lesbian and gay person, and the home of anyone who wants to be who they are.”

The Associated Press reported some 250,000 people attended the Tel Aviv Pride parade in 2019, before it was called off the following year because of the pandemic. In 2021, an estimated 100,000 people attended.

Pride parades all over Israel are held under heavy police presence, particularly since 2015 when an ultra-Orthodox extremist stabbed to death 16-year-old Shira Banki during the Pride parade in Jerusalem.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides attended the march with a delegation from the U.S. embassy. “This is about tolerance and decency and respect, and being here with all the folks from the embassy is unbelievably meaningful to me,” he told The Associated Press.

Tel Aviv Celebrates Pride With Thousands In Attendance:

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