New survey offers rare insight into LGBTQ+ life in Iran

Graham Robson September 20, 2020

Iran International TV has reported on the findings of a survey carried out by 6Rang Organisation, which found that 62% of LGBTQ+ Iranians living in Iran have been assaulted by their family and 42% of LGBTQ+ Iranians have been sexually assaulted in public.

The research found that 68% said that they never or rarely seek help from the judicial system due to the risk of facing violence from authorities and other members of the community.

Additionally, 19% had reported that they had been victims of police violence themselves for disclosing their sexuality or reporting a homophobic hate crime.

The report also found that 29 people have reported being arrested by the police because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and after their arrest more than 28% of them experienced physical and verbal violence, and 13% of them experienced sexual violence.

Of the 230 individuals surveyed, 90% live in Iran and almost half were between the ages of 18-25, with the second most prominent group being 25-35-year olds making up almost 30%.

In Iran, sexual activity between members of the same sex can be punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment and execution.

Some human rights activists in Iran claim that between 4,000 and 6,000 gay men and lesbian women have been executed in Iran for crimes related to their sexual orientation since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

According to human rights organisation Amnesty International, at least five people convicted of ‘homosexual tendencies’, three men and two women, were executed in January 1990, as a result of the government’s policy of calling for the execution of those who ‘practice homosexuality’.

In June 2019, in a press conference held in Tehran between Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Heiko Maas, German Minister of Foreign Affairs, openly gay German journalist Paul Ronzheimer of the tabloid Bild asked Zarif ‘Why are homosexuals executed in Iran because of their sexual orientation?’.  

Zarif defended the execution of gay people on ‘moral principles’ by responding that his ‘society has principles, and that we  live according to these principles. These are moral principles concerning the behaviour of people in general, and that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed.’

Despite repressive anti-LGBTQ+ laws, gender reassignment surgery remains legal in Iran. However, the path to getting legal approval to transition is fraught with humiliating procedures, including virginity tests, court trials, extensive questioning and mandatory counselling.

Earlier this year Sudan lifted the death penalty and flogging for gay sex, and was one of six countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia, that imposed the death penalty for gay sex, according to the LGBTQ+ rights group ILGA.

Aram Bolandpaz, LGBTQ+ activist and journalist at Iran International TV, said: “Generally, police in Iran attack anyone whose behaviour, mannerisms, interests, appearance, or expression is slightly different to the majority.

“LGBTQ+ people naturally fall under the group which comes with different social expressions whether it is the way they dress, talk, walk, or even look. To be more precise, police like to pick on people who are softer; police like to bully men who are not as tough; they somehow find comfort by tormenting those people who do not fit the perfect picture of a powerful man or a needy woman.

“Everyday LGBTQ+ Iranians live in daily fear of punishment simply for being who they are. In Iran, I was not given a choice about my own identity. Instead I felt the need to conform to a lifestyle which I did not feel connected to.” 

To see the full results of the survey, CLICK HERE