The blogger Zahra Sedighi-Hamedani has been sentenced to death in Iran for “promoting homosexuality” alongside a fellow LGBT+ rights activist, Ilham Chobdar.
Sedighi-Hamedani, 31, was arrested by the IRGC on the Turkish border last year. She was on her way to seek asylum in the country after being persecuted in Iraqi Kurdistan for publishing videos on life as a gender non-conforming person in the region.
On July 20 this year, the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency shared a propaganda film accusing her and other activists of running a “prostitution ring” in Erbil.
Sareh and Chobdar, 24, were accused of “corruption on earth”, an opaque charge carrying the death penalty in Iran, through “promoting homosexuality” and “promoting Christianity” as well as “communicating with media outside the Islamic Republic”.
According to the Kurdish human rights organization Hengaw, the death sentence was handed down by Urmia Revolutionary Court and communicated to the pair at Urmia Central Prison over the weekend.
A third woman accused in the same case, Soheila Ashrafi, 52, from Urmia, is also in custody and awaiting a verdict.
Sareh was deprived of the right to a lawyer during her detention, and interrogators threatened to take her two children away from her if she did not agree to a forced confession. Amnesty International has raised the alarm over her case, stating that under international law she is being held arbitrarily.
Executions and the issuances of new death sentences surged in the first calendar year after ex-Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi became president of Iran.
A disproportionate number of executions took place in Iran’s border areas. Ethnic minority groups such as Kurds and ethnic Arabs accounted for more than 20 percent of those hanged, even though they represent barely six percent of the population of Iran.