A court in Urmia, Iran has sentenced two LGBT activists, Zahra Seddiqi Hamedani, 31, and Elham Choubdar, to death finding them 24, guilty of “corruption on Earth”.
The Hengaw Organization for Human Rights reported that they were accused of promoting homosexuality, promoting Christianity and communicating with media as opposed to the Islamic Republic.
Iran’s judiciary later confirmed the sentences but said they were connected to human trafficking and not activism.
“Contrary to the news published in cyberspace and the rumours that have been spread, these two individuals have been accused of deceiving women and young girls and trafficking them to one of the countries of the region,” the judiciary’s news outlet Mizan reported.
Norway-registered Hengaw said Seddiqi Hamedani, also known as Sareh, was from the predominantly Kurdish town of Naqadeh in West Azerbaijan province, which borders both Turkey and Iraq.
This January, Seddiqi Hamedani was brought before a prosecutor in Urmia, the largest city in West Azerbaijan, and told that she was accused of “spreading corruption on Earth”, including through promoting homosexuality, communicating with hostile media and promoting Christianity, according to Amnesty.
The group said the first two accusations stemmed from her public defence of LGBT rights on social media and her appearance in a May 2021 BBC documentary about abuses that LGBT people were suffering in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, where she had been living.
Under Iranian law, same-sex sexual conduct is a criminal offence, with punishments ranging from flogging to the death penalty.
The accusation of promoting Christianity was for wearing a cross necklace and attending a house church in Iran several years ago, Amnesty added.
Citizens who are not recognised as Christians, Zoroastrians, or Jews may not engage in public religious expression in Iran.
The Germany-based Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6-Rang) also confirmed the death sentences for the two activists and called on foreign government to put pressure on Iran to release them.
“This is the first time that a woman has been sentenced to death in Iran for her sexual orientation,” spokeswoman Shadi Amin told AFP news agency.