An Iranian LGBTQ+ activist has reportedly been freed after initially being sentenced to death for “promoting homosexuality.”
In 2021, Elham Choubdar and Zahra Sediqi Hamedani (who goes by Sareh) were accused by the Urmia Public Prosecutor’s Office in January of “Corruption on Earth” through “promoting homosexuality,” “promoting Christianity,” and “communicating with the media opposing the Islamic Republic.”
They were sentenced to death in 2022, which led to an international campaign by activists to save their lives.
In January, Amnesty International reported that both women’s death sentences had been overturned, and on Monday, Choubdar was released after her one billion rials (about $23,000) bail was paid, according to Pink News.
Sareh, however, remains imprisoned because her bail has not been paid. She was arrested in October 2021 by intelligence forces from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp while attempting to flee to Turkey. “I am journeying toward freedom now,” she said in a video recorded before she tried to leave Iran. “If I don’t make it, I will have given my life for this cause.”
Hamdani was held in solitary confinement for two months at the intelligence detention center of the IRGC in Urmia before being transferred to the women’s ward of the Urmia Central Prison.
Iran has some of the strictest anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world. LGBTQ+ people have no protections and can be punished with the death penalty for being who they are. According to the World Values Survey, 90% of Iranians do not believe homosexuality is justifiable.
The nation is currently in the midst of a revolution in which the fight for LGBTQ+ and other minorities’ rights has been brought to the forefront.