GENEVA, Sept 10 — The United Nations voiced alarm Friday at the death sentences issued by Iran against two female gay rights activists on charges of promoting homosexuality, in unusual verdicts that have alarmed campaigners.
The two women, Zahra Sedighi Hamedani, 31, and Elham Chubdar, 24, were sentenced to death by the Islamic Revolution Court in the northwestern town of Urmia, the UN said.
“We are deeply concerned at the death sentences issued against two LGBT activists in Iran,” Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the UN rights office, told AFP in an email.
She lamented that the two had been sentenced “on the vague and broadly formulated charge of ‘corruption on earth’, following a trial which reportedly lacked due process and fair trial guarantees.”
The charge of spreading corruption on earth is frequently imposed on defendants deemed to have broken the country’s sharia laws, according to the Hengaw Kurdish rights organisation.
Homosexuality is banned in Iran with its penal code explicitly criminalising same-sex sexual behaviour for both men and women.
But the sentences against Sedighi Hamedani and Chubdar are seen as highly unusual, with activists saying they cannot recall a previous case of execution being ordered for a woman over their sexuality in Iran.
Amnesty International and a number of other rights groups have already come out strongly against the sentences, as has France.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) on Thursday slammed the rulings and demanded that Iran drop all charges and release the two.
“We are outraged at Iran’s inhumane decision to sentence two LGBTI human rights defenders to death,” ILGA World co-chiefs Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown said in a statement.
“We urge the international community to condemn the brutality of this punishment in the most unambiguous terms,” they said, also calling on the UN “to do everything in their power... to prevent this atrocity”.
The Norway-based Iran Human Rights NGO also said in a statement that both activists’ “lives can be saved by immediate and strong reactions by the international community and civil society”.
There has for months been concern about the fate of Sedighi Hamedani, also known as Sareh, a prominent Iranian LGBTQ activist.
She was arrested in October by Iranian security forces while trying to flee into neighbouring Turkey after returning to Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan, where she had been based.
She was subsequently held in solitary confinement for almost two months.
Before leaving Iraqi Kurdistan, Sedighi Hamedani had sent gay rights group 6Rang videos to be made public in case she failed to make it to safety.
“We, the LGBTI community, are suffering. Whether through death or freedom, we will remain true to ourselves,” she said in one of the videos. — AFP