An Iranian lesbian activist, known only as Sareh, has been arrested and detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard while she attempted to cross the border into Turkey on 27th October to seek asylum. The 28 year old had previously been held for 21 days following an interview she gave to BBC Persian about the LGBT community in Iran.
According to the Tasnim News Agency, which is affiliated to Iran’s security forces, the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had made multiple arrests on suspicion of “communicating with and supporting homosexual groups [and] forming a gang for trafficking girls and supporting homosexuality”.
Since her arrest at the border, nothing at all has been heard from Sareh, prompting serious concern for her wellbeing.
Penalties for homosexuality in Iran are severe, ranging from 100 lashes to the death penalty, and are often rigorously enforced by the IRGC to uphold the “purity” of Iran’s political system. The IRGC was founded following the country’s revolution in 1979 when the Shah was overthrown and the Islamic Republic was established.
Amnesty Iran is aware of the situation, posting on Twitter, “We are concerned by reports from @6rangiran [6 Rang is Iran’s lesbian and transgender network] that an Iranian lesbian woman, Sareh, was arrested by the Revolutionary Guards on 27 Oct in West Azerbaijan province near the border w/Turkey. The criminalization of LGBTI people perpetuates violence & discrimination against them.”
In a second tweet, the human rights organisation added, “We renew our calls on Iran’s authorities to decriminalize same-sex sexual conduct; immediately release all those detained on the basis of their identity or for defending LGBTQI rights; and adopt legislation to respect and protect the human rights of LGBTQI people.”
Following her release on bail from her initial 21-day incarceration, Sareh suspected that she might be arrested again and made a series of videos which she sent to 6 Rang and which have subsequently been published on Twitter and YouTube. You can watch one of them here but, be warned, it’s not easy viewing.
The hashtag #FreeSareh is currently trending on Twitter. OutNewsGlobal’s news desk will update this story as soon as more information is known.