The Islamic Revolutionary Court in Orumiyeh, West Azerbaijan province, has sentenced an activist of the LGBTI and queer rights named Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani (Sareh) and another civilian named Elham Choubdar to the death penalty.

The court charged them with “spreading corruption on earth” (fasad fil-arz) by allegedly “promoting homosexuality” and “forming corruption and prostitution gangs”.

The two prisoners were informed of the sentence in the women’s ward of Orumiyeh Central Prison on 1 September.

As yet unconfirmed reports received by the Kurdistan Network for Human Rights (KHRN), two civilians, Soheyla Ashrafi and Alireza Farjadikia, currently held in Orumiyeh Central Prison, have also been sentenced to death on the same charges in the same case for “human smuggling” and “promoting homosexuality”.

The Intelligence Organisation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) arrested these individuals in October 2021.

After undergoing about two months of interrogation in the detention centre of this security organisation in Orumiyeh, they were accused of “spreading corruption on earth” through the promotion of homosexuality, “human smuggling”, “promotion of Christianity” and “Communication with the media opposing the Islamic Republic [of Iran]”.

6Rang (The Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network) previously reported that Sareh had been arrested on 27 October 2021 while crossing the border of Iran and going to Turkey.

On 6 November 2021, the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported that the Intelligence Organisation of the IRGC had arrested some individuals in West Azerbaijan province on the accusation of “forming a group for smuggling girls and supporting homosexuality”.

In July of this year, the agency published a report and a video of the arrest of Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani, Alireza Farjadikia, etc., claiming that they were arrested for their activities related to “promoting homosexuality, gambling, fraud, and destigmatising illicit sexual relations and publishing them online”.

While rejecting these accusations, human rights and queer rights organisations consider Sareh’s arrest to be related to her activities in defence of the rights of the LGBTI+ community and have issued statements and launched campaigns in the past few months, demanding her release.

In February, Amnesty International published a statement expressing concern over Sareh’s detention and demanded her immediate release.

The statement said: “Gender nonconforming human rights defender Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani, known as Sareh, is arbitrarily detained in the central prison in Urumieh solely in connection with her real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity as well as her social media posts and statements in defence of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.”

Sareh, 29, comes from Naqadeh in West Azerbaijan province and was carrying out her activities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for the past few years.