Heiko Maas (l) and Mohammad Javad Zarif (r)

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

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

Additionally, 19% reported that they were 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. After their arrest, more than 28% experienced physical and verbal violence, and 13% 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 lesbians 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 due to 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 people’s behaviour in general, and that means that the law is respected and obeyed.”

Despite repressive anti-LGBT laws, gender reassignment surgery remains legal in Iran. However, 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 LGBT+ rights group ILGA.

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

“LGBTQIA 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.”

She added: “Everyday LGBTQIA 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 to which I did not feel connected.”