Stories about the derogatory treatment of the Lgbt Community in Iran have dominated global headlines over the past several months. Recent reports indicate that the LGBT community in the Persian nation have been subject to gruesome, targeted attacks. Many of these incidents are rooted in Iranian religious and cultural values. In many ways, these recent attacks are emblematic of a larger trend in the country. The government cracks down on groups and individuals that it views as immoral or dissonant to its values and authority. The international community must step in and demand that the Iranian regime respect fundamental human rights.
Earlier this month, Javaid Rehman, the Special Rapporteur about human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, released a report outlining a range of concerning human rights violations currently taking place. Rehman presented the report during the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. It details numerous discriminatory and violent practices currently being implemented against the LGBT community, women, dissidents, and other vulnerable groups. In the report, Rehman discusses how Iran’s government has deployed electric torture methods against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children. The Iranian government has also administered hormones and strong psychoactive medications to LGBT children as part of rehabilitative therapies designed to address homosexuality as an illness that needs to be cured.
Homosexuality is illegal in Iran, and under Sharia law, it is also considered a sin. The stigma around being part of the LGBT community is visible at the highest levels of government. Several senior Iranian officials have referred to members of the LGBT community as “subhuman” and “diseased.” Indeed, the crackdown on the LGBT community has spread to social media. Last May, a former aide to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani faced public pressure to delete a social media post depicting families of various sexual identities. The aide was accused of promoting homosexuality, which can result in ten years of imprisonment.
The recent treatment of the LGBT community in Iran reflects how vulnerable groups are treated both nationally and internationally. Over the past decades, Iran has accrued a notorious reputation for arresting, torturing, kidnapping, hanging, and killing dissidents. In December of last year, the Iranian regime accrued global condemnation for luring Iranian dissident Ruhollah Zam to Iran and executing him. Zam fled Iran and obtained refugee status in France, where he ran a popular news platform on Telegram called Amadnews. Over the years, Zam encouraged individuals in Iran to protest the regime and often shared damning allegations against the administration and the Ayatollahs.
Hadi Rostami, a prisoner serving time at Urmia Central Prison, is another example of the regime’s wrath. Rostami was flogged 60 times for “disrupting prison order.” According to recent reporting, the detainee was subject to 60 lashes after trying to commit suicide twice in the past several months by swallowing glass splinters. Rostami’s story is not unique. Across the country, thousands of people are subject to physical and emotional torture, violence, and unreasonable prison sentences and punishments.
The state of fundamental rights in Iran has declined significantly over the past decade, and the regime is identifying vulnerable groups to target every day. Those who do not support the government or do not fall in line with government-established categorizations of “moral” individuals are increasingly facing persecution, discrimination, and violence. The international community must step up and pressure the Iranian government to respect its people’s fundamental rights. This is an area where the United States can especially play a role.
On February 1, a group of 38 Iran-based activists and dissidents wrote an open letter to the newly elected U.S. President, Joe Biden, urging him to support their calls for secular democracy and respect for human rights in Iran. Thus far, the Biden administration has not recognized or responded to the letter. The administration’s silence could be because it has prioritized bringing Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. But these issues go hand in hand. The United States must do more to advocate for better and safer conditions in Iran, because the Ayatollahs won’t. It should not allow its national security agenda to overtake the country’s commitment to promoting democracy and human rights around the world.
From the LGBT community to dissidents, Iran is not a safe country for people who challenge the government and fall out of line. The international community must speak up and challenge the Iranian government over its treatment of its own people. If they do not, the state of human rights will continue to decline in the country, and countless more innocent people will die.
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