LGBTQ+ Activists Sentenced to Death in Iran

Picture source: CJimB – Flickr
Picture source: CJimB – Flickr

Iran is one of thirteen countries where being homosexual is punishable by death.[1] Since 1979, over 4,000 people have been sentenced to death for having same sex relationships. [2] There has been international outcry over this cruel practice for decades. [3]  However, Iran continues to exploit the death penalty and has executed at least 251 people between January 1 and June 30, 2022. [4] At least eighty-six of these executions were due to non-violent drug offenses. [5] Previously, the United Nations has expressed their concern about the number of executions occurring and called upon Iran to abolish their death penalty. [6]

Recently, Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani and Elham Chobdar, who are known female activists for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community, were sentenced to death for “spreading corruption on earth” which, among many things, involves being homosexual. [7] Contrarily, Iranian officials claim that Sedighi-Hamadani and Chobdar are responsible for human trafficking and deny the relation between the charges and their LGBTQ+ activism. [8] In 2021, Sedighi-Hamadani attempted to flee Iran to seek asylum in Turkey and recorded a video stating, “I am journeying toward freedom now… If I don’t make it, I will have given my life for this cause.”[9] She was arrested as a result of her attempt to flee Iran in October of 2021 and has been detained ever since. [10]

Many international human rights organizations have called upon the European Union and United Nations seeking immediate intervention to prevent Iran from continuing its arbitrary use of the death penalty. [11] In September of 2022, United Nations experts released a statement to “condemn the sentencing of Ms. Sedighi-Hamadani and Ms. Choubdar to death and call on authorities to stay their executions and annul their sentences as soon as possible.” [12] Additionally, they advocated for Iran to revoke the death penalty altogether, or at least reserve the death penalty for only the most serious crimes. [13] The President of Iran, Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, has been clear about his disregard for the UN and stated that, “the United Nations must not be the organisation for influence of major world powers.” [14]

It is clear that more drastic measures must be taken to ensure the safety and livelihood of members of the LGBTQ+ community in Iran. Recently, the United States sanctioned Iran for their continued violence against unarmed protestors and preventing internet access.[15] The protests followed the death of Mahsa Amini who died in custody of Iran’s morality police after being detained for wearing her hijab too loose. [16] Iran will likely continue to face sanctions if they do not stop murdering unarmed protesters and utilizing the death penalty for members of the LGBTQ+ community. It is vital that members of the international community join together and implement immediate solutions to prevent death and protect the people of Iran.


[1] Hristina Byrnes, 13 countries where being gay is legally punishable by death, USA Today (June 19, 2019),

[2] Avani Uppalapati, International Regualtion of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Sexual Anatomy, 18 Geo. J. Gender & L. 635, 679 (2017).

[3] Iran: Discrimination and Violence Against Sexual Minorities, Hum. Rts. Watch (Dec. 15, 2010, 4:45 AM),

[4] Iran: Horrific wave of executions must be stopped, Amnesty Int’l (July 27, 2022),

[5] Id.

[6] Press Release, Secretary General, Secretary-General, Concerned at Worrying Trend of Executions in Iran, Reaffirms United Nations Opposition to Death Penalty, U.N. Press Release SG/SM/17247-HR/5273 (Oct. 19, 2015).

[7] Two Iranians sentenced to death, including LGBTQ activist, CNN (Sep. 6, 2022, 10:53 PM),

[8] Id.

[9] David Gritten, Iran sentences two LGBT activists to death, BBC News (Sept. 6, 2022),

[10] Id.

[11] Amnesty Int’l, supra note 4.

[12] Iran: UN experts demand stay of execution for two women LGBT rights activists, UN News (Sept. 28, 2022),

[13] Id.

[14] Our dear people truly disappointed the enemies/ UN mustn’t be organisation for influence of major powers, Official website of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Sept. 24, 2022, 7:41 AM),

[15] Chelsea Cox, U.S. issues fresh sanctions against Iranian officials for ‘brutal’ crackdown on peaceful protestors following Mahsa Amini’s death continue, CNBC (Oct. 26, 2022, 10:31AM),

[16] Id.