Beginning in 2004, the 17th of May has been recognized as “The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia”. This day was created on the anniversary of removing homosexuality from the list of mental disorders by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the aim is to raise awareness on human rights violations committed against the LGBTQ+ community around the globe. However, Iranian legislation, continues to penalize same-sex consensual relations, by floggings, imprisonment, or the death penalty. As a result, transgender persons are subjected to daily discrimination and rights violations, i.e., pressure to undergo sex reassignment surgery only being able to change their official identity and documents after doing so. This report by Human Rights Activists in Iran’s News Agency (HRANA), gives a brief overview of the LGBTQ+ rights in Iran, highlights cases of LGBTQ+ rights violations that have taken place between 17 May 2020 to 17 May 2021 in Iran, and lastly it highlights a list of serious human rights violators who have violated the rights of LGBTQ+ community in Iran.
It should be noted that unfortunately due to cultural sensitivity and legislative discrimination around LGBTQ+ cases in Iran, many of the violations in this regard are not reported all and the actual cases may be a lot more than the reported cases.
Instances of reported Structural and Social Violence Against LGBTQ+: cases from 17 may 2020 to 17 may 2021
Iran does not recognize homosexuality, and Iranian penal code makes sexual acts between two same sex individuals punishable by law, in cases even punishable by death penalty. Under this penal code kissing between two men or two women is punishable by 60 lashes, and if two men are find naked together ( if not blood related) can be punished by 99 lashes, dissemination of materials regarding LGBTQ+ literature are considered “immoral” and “corrupt” and can receive the highest form of punishment. Iran is one of the few countries in the world who allows execution for same sex conduct. Transgender identity is only recognized through state supported sex reassignment surgery. In cases homosexual individuals are pressured to go through sex reassignment surgery to be able to avoid legal and social pressure.
In May 2020, HRANA published a report on human rights violations against transgender prisoners who are held in a separate ward in Evin prison. This ward, ward 240 hall 1, is comprised of a common hall on the ground floor of the building called “Amoozeshgah”. There have been reports of physical and verbal violence against prisoners in this ward based solely on their gender identity.
Mohsen Lorestani, an Iranian pop singer, was arrested at his mother’s home on March 3rd, 2019, and was later prosecuted by the state’s attorney. His second court session was held in branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, led by Judge Moghise. Mr. Lorestani was charged with “Corruption on earth”, his lawyer explained that this charge was based on the creation and administration of an Instagram group for transgender persons.
According to his Lawyer, Mr. Hosseini, the main accused persons in the case are military personnel, hence, his client’s charges suggest the possibility of transgender “Parastoo (Swallow)” being involved. “Parastoo” meaning Swallow Bird is a term used to refer to individuals who work with security and intelligence organs to trap their targets through romantic and sexual affiliation. This lawyer referred to the claim of “infiltration of security personnel including the highest-level political figures” by the military. Mr. Hosseini said that considering the high degree of control of the activities of the accused military persons by the security departments of military organs, the security aspect of the case is of particular importance, and it’s unreasonable to relate Mr. Lorestani with such a network. Mr. Lorestany was temporary released on 11 May 2020, on a 3 billion Toman Bail.
In June 2020, HRANA reported the summons and interrogation of several LGBTQ+ community members by the security organs after showing up on a highly visited Instagram. Several homosexual and transgender persons have faced persecution from the government because of their public presence in cyberspace where they talked about their sexual identity or orientation.
Based on HRANA’s sources, two individuals (identities protected by HRANA) in the northwestern provinces of Iran, were summoned and threatened by security organs after showing up on Instagram. “Maryam”, a transgender woman living in Iran, has spoken to HRANA about being summoned by the Morality Police of her city and being pressured to spy on her transgender friends and acquaintances to reveal information about their gatherings.
Although the National Statistics Center has never measured or published statistics on the unemployment of the transgender community, unemployment and job loss is a common concern among the transgender community living in Iran. Some transgender persons lose job opportunities because of their sexual identity and or refusal to undergo the suggested sex reassignment surgery. Several transgender persons try to hide their sexual identity from employers and colleagues even after sex reassignment surgery for job security.
In February 2020, HRANA reported on a transgender Iranian citizen deprived of employment due to the common Iranian perception that considers transgender persons “sick”. An example of such action involves a woman living in Tehran, “Delbar Ameri-Far”, who was prevented from continuing her work and renewing her license as an expert with the Iran Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). Ameri-Far was told that she could try again to get her license if she could provide sufficient documentation on her “continued treatment”. The letter from the Iranian FDA stated, “Your license renewal request will only be processed upon provision of medical documents certifying ongoing treatment and proof of your full health.”
The Iranian Public Conscription Organizations’ ongoing classification of transgender status as a disorder is while in 2019, the WHO, in their latest guidelines (ICD-11) classified transgender status under sexual health. Identifying as transgender is irrelevant to one’s mental health and according to many transgender rights activists, classifying it as a disorder leads to, among much more, social stigmatization.
Alireza Fazeli-Monfared young Homosexual person from Ahvaz was murdered on 4 May 2021 by a few men that is said to have been related to him. According to reports published on social media and LGBTQ+ rights activists his Murder has been related to expressing his sexual identity.
On 14 May 2021, Amnesty International on their social media channels, mentioned that despite ten days passing from the murder, those involved in the murder of the young 20 year were not arrested, and demanded that Iran look at his case with equal justice; they asked Iran to respect the human dignity of all sexual and gender Minorities in Iran.
According to the Iranian Penal code, same-sex consensual sexual relations are considered illegal, and if proved, are punishable by lashing, imprisonment, or the death penalty. Moreover, while not all transgender persons opt for sex reassignment surgery, under the current legislation their sexual identity is only recognized and validated after the surgery, i.e., changing names on official documentation. While there is still a gap in legislation on this topic, in 2013 a chapter of the Family Protection Act was dedicated to the transition process of transgender persons. Roohollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader at the time, authorized “sex change” surgery in a Fatwa in 1982.
While there is no international human rights mechanism that specifically addresses discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ+ community, discrimination based on sexual orientation is violation of Iran’s international human rights obligations, namely the ICCPR and ICESCR. Article 26 of the ICCPR states that the law must guarantee non-discrimination for persons “on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status .”
Additionally, the ICESCR at article 2(2) requires the state must guarantee that all individuals enjoy the rights in the ICESCR “without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”.
Individuals and institutions profiled in Spreading Justice complicit in violating the rights of the LGBTQ+ community
Affiliation: State prisons and security and corrective measures organization
As the Executive Deputy of Evin Prison, Javad Momeni has been directly involved in gross violations of and persecution of LGBTQ+ in this prison. According to published reports, he personally harassed and insulted transgender prisoners in Ward 240, known as the Transgender Ward, which holds transgender prisoners. According to an eyewitness, “the prison guards were constantly insulting us. They said you are a disgrace or corrupt. In addition, they put a lot of psychological pressure on us. “For example, one day a prison guard showed me a piece of paper to harass me and claimed that I was going to be executed.”
Affiliation: Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
The Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence service has been suppressing, detaining, harassing, and violating the rights of LGBTQ+ community and their rights activists, and Hussein Tayeb, as the organization’s commander, is responsible for these actions.
For example, in October 2013, IRGC intelligence agents raided a birthday party in Kermanshah and arrested several dozen people on charges of what was called “homosexuality.” According to a report published by HRANA, the news organ of the Iranian Association of Human Rights Activists, “the host of the party and the owner of the birthday party, nicknamed” Shervin “, was detained and tortured the most. They threw a rope into his cell and scared him. After his release, he was under pressure for a long time and was summoned until he finally committed suicide and ended his life. “Another person was under pressure for years to spy and was repeatedly contacted by IRGC intelligence.”
Affiliation: Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran
as one of teh most nuterious judges who has been within the judiciaary of iran for more than 40 years in various roles, Ebrahim Raisi has played role in the violation of the rights of LGBTQ+ community.
Affiliation: Deputy Chief of FATA Police
Hossein Amiri was appointed as the Deputy Chief of FATA Police on June 26, 2019, by the Commander in Chief of the Police Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since then, he, along with FATA Police Chief Vahid Majid, has been responsible for all human rights violations commited by this organ, including the restrition of expresison of sexual identity and LGBTQ+ litretature.
Affiliation: Iranian Cyber Police with the abbreviated name of FATA Police
Vahid Majid as the Commander in Chief of the Iranian Cyber Police, or FATA Police, is responsible for restricting the freedom of expression in cyberspace, including the restrition of expresison of sexual identity and LGBTQ+ litretature.
Affiliation: Supreme Court of the Islamic Republic
As the judge of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, Moghiseh is responsible for widespread rights violations related to sexual minorities.
In November 2019, Mohammad Moghiseh sentenced Rezvaneh Mohammadi, an LGBTQ+ rights activist to five years in prison for allegedly “normalizing homosexual relations” along with the charges of “Assembly and collusion against the national security with the intention of overthrowing the regime” through “collecting information and pictures regarding the mass graves of the executed prisoners of 1988”, and “decriminalizing homosexuality”, “normalization of illegal activities of sodomy”, “removing disgrace from homosexuals”, “making homosexual activity acceptable”, “trying to make the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran answer for violating the right of homosexual people and lack of recognition of homosexuality”
Affiliation: Islamic Consultative Assembly
Mousa Ghazanfar-Abadi, as the then head of the Tehran Revolutionary Courts, is responsible for violating the rights of LGBTQ+ people and prosecuting their rights activists.
In this regard, Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran in November 2009 sentenced Rezvaneh Mohammadi, a LGBT rights activist, to 5 years in prison for charges of “gathering and colluding with the intention of acting against the security of the country with the aim of overthrowing the regime”, “through collecting of information and pictures of mass graves of those executed in mass executions of 1988”, “decriminalization of homosexuality”, “normalization of illegitimate sodomy”, “decriminalization of homosexual acts”, “acceptance of homosexuality”, “efforts to hold the authorities of the Islamic Republic accountable for human rights violations and non-recognition Homosexuality”
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
As commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), Jafari has been directly involved in widespread human rights violations by the Revolutionary Guards, including violations of the rights of sexual and religious minorities, torture of opponents of the Islamic Republic, violations of women’s rights, violations of the right to life, and the severe suppression of social freedoms in Iran.
In October 2013 IRGC-IO’s agents attacked a birthday party in Kermanshah and arrested a few dozen people for “homosexuality”. According to HRANA, “the host of the birthday party, nicknamed as Shervin, was held in prison and tortured more than the others. Agents put hang rope in his cell and threatened him. After release he was under a lot of pressure and was summoned until he committed suicide.
The Halalzadeha Popular Movement is responsible for discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ+ community – including forming gatherings against sexual minorities. in one of the gatherings of this group they march over the rainbow flag and pass over it by their motorcycles to show their hatred.
Ferghe News actively publishes discriminatory articles targeting LGBTQ+ individuals.
For further inquiries please contact Skylar Thompson, Senior Advocacy Coordinator Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) at [email protected]