LGBTQ+ Rights Defenders Sentenced to Death in Iran

LGBTQ+ Rights Defenders Sentenced to Death in Iran
Photo by Trey Musk via Pixabay


Dicle Demir

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence


On September 1st, 2022 the Revolution Court of Urumieh, Iran made a judgment sentencing two LGBTQ+ rights defenders, Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani and Elham Choubdar to death penalty. On September 28, a number of UN Experts published a press release condemning the judgement and calling on authorities to stay the executions and annul the sentences. [1] The experts highlighted that the actions of the two public figures consisted merely of human rights activism in Iran and other countries in the region. 

Sedighi-Hamadani was arrested by Iranian forces in October 2021, while attempting to leave Iran and enter Türkiye in an attempt to apply for international protection and was subjected to enforced disappearance and ill-treatment under custody. [2] Sedighi had recorded a video message in case her attempt to leave Iran failed where she addressed the LGBTQ+ community living under similar oppression and discrimination: “I want you to know how much pressure we LGBT people endure. We risk our lives for our emotions, but we will find our true selves…I hope the day will come when we can all live in freedom in our country…” [3]

The crime of “corruption on earth” in Iran, which Sedighi and Choubdar are charged with, fails to meet the legality and foreseeability criteria under universal due process standards and is misused by authorities to punish peaceful activism. The acts that may invoke the application of the crime of “corruption on earth” is not defined clearly in the Iranian Penal Code Article 286 and is interpreted loosely by the judges. [4] Iranian Human Rights, a leading NGO in Iran, highlighted the importance of the equivocality and support of the international community of the human rights defenders for pressing the authorities to halt the execution and annul the order. [5] The activists’ lawyers have appealed the judgments but are not optimistic about the stance that will be taken by the court of appeal unless there is enough pressure on the authorities from the international community. [6]


Sources and further reading

[1] UN Independent Experts, ‘Iran: UN experts demand stay of execution for two women, including LGBT activist’ (UN, 28 September 2022) <> accessed 29 September 2022.

[2] Amnesty International, ‘Iran: Iranian LGBTI defender sentenced to death: Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani & Elham Choubdar’ (Amnesty International, 15 September 2022) <> accessed 29 September 2022.

[3] 6RangIran, ‘Death row LGBT rights activist sends last message before arrest’ <> accessed 29 September 2022.

[4] Iranian Penal Code, <>  accessed 29 September 2022.

[5] Iran Human Rights, ‘Iran Human Rights Calls for Revocation of Death Sentences Against LGBTQI+ Activists Zahra Sedighi and Elham Choobdar’ (Iran Human Rights, 6 September 2022) <> accessed 29 September 2022.

[6] ibid.