The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have arrested lesbian activist Sareh in the West Azerbaijan Province of Iran.
Warning: This story has details of a lesbian activist’s arrest and might be distressing to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.
Twenty-eight-year-old Sareh, was detained for 21 days by the Iraqi Kurdistan police after her interview with BBC Persian about the situation of the LGBTQI community in Iraqi Kurdistan.
After release, she made an attempt to cross the Iranian border to seek asylum in Turkey. According to the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network 6Rang, Sareh was arrested on October 27, 2021 while attempting to cross the borders to Turkey.
According to the same report, IRGC also charged those people for “forming a gang for trafficking girls and supporting homosexuality”. 6Rang said that Sareh might have been arrested among those people. They haven’t heard from Sarah after the arrest.
#FreeSareh Trends On Social Media
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 LGBTI rights; and adopt legislation to respect and protect the human rights of LGBTI people. pic.twitter.com/otkxsBIhe8
— Amnesty Iran (@AmnestyIran) December 9, 2021
IRGC is a branch of Iran’s armed forces that was set up after the 1979 Iranian revolution to defend the country’s Islamic Republic political system, according to the report by BBC. Iran criminalises sex between men with the death penalty and sex between women with a hundred lashes.
Sareh Made Videos Of Prior To Arrest
On the 8th of November, the IRGC made an statement that they had arrested individuals in West Azerbaijan on charges of "forming a gang for trafficking girls and supporting homosexuality", which might be related to Sareh's arrest. 2/3 pic.twitter.com/59YbrNbvlC
— 6Rang (@6rangiran) December 9, 2021
Hours before leaving for Turkey, Sarah made three short videos and sent them to a trusted person. according to 6Rang. Sareh’s intention was to make her voice heard by the media and human rights organisations in case she got arrested.
“I arrived in Iran yesterday. They found out today that I am here,” she said in the video clip in Arabic. “I may be arrested any moment. They have all the information about me. They are after me. I have to get out immediately.”
“I reached the border somehow. I filmed the route,” she said in the same clip. “I wanted to send you this clip to make you understand how much we are suffering, as part of the LGBTQI community. We will resist till the end. We will remain true to ourselves. I hope a day comes when we can all live freely in our country,” she said.
“I was kept in solitary confinement because I am homosexual. I was electrocuted. Those 21 days felt like 21 years,” she said, about ways in which IRGC tormented her.
If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.
For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14
For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.