close button
Switch to Iranwire Light?
It looks like you’re having trouble loading the content on this page. Switch to Iranwire Light instead.
Society & Culture

LGBT Rights Must be Protected in Iran

June 13, 2016
Elham Malekpoor
4 min read
LGBT Rights Must be Protected in Iran
LGBT Rights Must be Protected in Iran

LGBT Rights Must be Protected in Iran


In his mandate as the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed has published several reports assessing the human rights situation in the country, most recently in March 2014. Shaheed’s reports highlight the fact that, together with religious and ethnic minorities, members of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) communities face persecution, prejudice and violence.

IranWire spoke to Shaheed about LGBT rights and “legalized discrimination” in Iran.


When did you first become aware of the situation for sexual minorities in Iran?

I was made aware of the situation almost as soon as I began my mandate. LGBT advocacy groups, along with other human rights groups that deal with the issue, have consistently been helpful in providing credible and relevant information. In turn, I dedicated a section of my second report to the UN Human Rights Council — in March 2013 — to the situation of LGBT individuals in the country. I based that section on testimony taken from two dozen members of the LGBT community who had recently fled Iran, either in part or wholly due to abuses they reportedly suffered because of their sexual orientation.


What is your view of the right to sexual freedom? Do you believe it’s an essential right for every human being in the same way that freedom of religion is?

I believe that LGBT people are entitled to the same rights as all other persons, including and especially those rights which are enumerated in the ICCPR: the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to be free from discrimination, and the right to be protected against unreasonable interference with privacy. In this sense, I align myself fully with the position of Madam Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She wrote: “The case for extending the same rights to LGBT persons as those enjoyed by everyone else is neither radical nor complicated. It rests on two fundamental principles that underpin international human rights law: equality and non-discrimination. The opening words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are unequivocal: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’.”


In your opinion, why is the Iranian government so hostile to LGBT, sexual orientation and gender issues?

While I obviously cannot speak for Iranian officials, it is my experience that in many countries—and by no means just in Iran—discrimination against LGBT persons is an unfortunate social and cultural phenomenon. Like most forms of discrimination, its origin is fear, lack of understanding, and the impulse to persecute perceived deviation from a “norm”. In Iran, some officials have attempted to connect the issue to religion. However, I see it as a much simpler issue: LGBT individuals, like all individuals, posses basic human rights, including the right to life, liberty, non-discrimination, and reasonable privacy. It is possible for people to maintain specific personal religious views and practices without violating the rights of others. In that sense, the provision of basic rights to LGBT individuals is not incompatible with any religion.


You published your report on Iran on March 11, 2014. It was quite a different report from the one you published in October 2013. In that report, you outlined not only the fact that the rights of LGBT people are regularly violated in Iran, but also that the issue is largely ignored by Iranian political and human rights activists. What happened between the two reports? Has anything changed? What has your communication with the Rouhani administration told you about the government’s views on LGBT people and their rights?

The UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council require strict word limits for all of my reports. As a result, I am often unable to cover all issues of importance in every report. The fact that only certain sections made it to the final version of my most recent report in no way implies that other issues are not equally important or that they have been solved or adequately addressed. Indeed, there has been no positive change of note for the LGBT community in Iran since I began my mandate. There have been recent statements by Iranian officials that I am concerned may have been intended to incite people to violence against sexual minorities. A system of legalized discrimination remains in place, and the New Islamic Penal Code does not alleviate any major concerns, as I noted in my 2013 report to the Human Rights Council. While I did not devote an entire section to the issue in my most recent report, you can find some LGBT-focused cases in the annex to the report.

Read IranWire’s March 2014 interview with Ahmed Shaheed

This article was originally published in June 2014


Read Ahmed Shaheed’s March report and list of powerful case studies

visit the accountability section

In this section of Iran Wire, you can contact the officials and launch your campaign for various problems

accountability page



A Mafia Hitjob on the President's Cronies

June 13, 2016
Reza HaghighatNejad
6 min read
A Mafia Hitjob on the President's Cronies