A 28-year-old lesbian is being held by Iranian authorities on charges of “supporting homosexuality” and human trafficking, and she fears her life is in danger.
The woman, identified only as Sareh, was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps October 27, according to the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6RANG). She had been living in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region and was attempting to enter Turkey to seek asylum, but she had to cross through Iran, which has draconian anti-LGBTQ+ laws. She had previously been detained for three weeks by police in Kurdistan after giving an interview to the BBC about the oppression of LGBTQ+ people there.
6RANG has now put out a series of video clips recorded by Sareh shortly before she left Kurdistan and shortly after she entered Iran. She said she expected to be arrested in Iran and that if she did not arrive in Turkey, “it is clear what happened to me.”
She said the 21 days she was jailed in Kurdistan felt like 21 years, and that she received electric shocks during the time she was held. She was arrested there for being a lesbian and on a variety of bogus charges that could result in a long prison term if she is convicted. Once she was released on bail, she decided to leave the country.
The Tasnim News Agency, which is affiliated with Iranian security forces, announced November 8 that the IRGC had arrested several people in Iran’s West Azerbaijan Province on charges of “forming a gang for trafficking girls and supporting homosexuality.” This “may be related to Sareh’s arrest,” 6RANG reports, noting that the IRGC and other law enforcement authorities in Iran have “a record of detaining activists on fabricated charges.”
Sareh had sent the videos to a trusted person, who shared them with 6RANG so it could make the public aware of Sareh’s situation and put pressure on Iran to release her. Same-sex sexual activity is outlawed in Iran; for women, it is punishable with lashing, for men with the death penalty. Despite the lighter penalty for women, Sareh fears for her life, she said in the video.
Amnesty International’s Iranian branch has tweeted about her detention.