Iran protests: LGBTQ neighborhood rises up

"Are you a degenerate," requested the safety officer interrogating a younger bisexual female arrested all through the latest anti-government protests in Iran.

The interrogator had searched the woman's telephone and come throughout her intimate conversations with her girlfriend.

Warning: This article carries language that some readers may additionally discover offensive.

"What the hell are these chats? Are you a degenerate?" repeated the interrogator, his voice laced with disgust and the use of an offensive and derogatory Persian phrase which describes any structure of same-sex attraction.

Now out of jail on bail, the woman, who is in her 20s, tells the BBC that she dodged the query by means of describing the dialog as "jokes that are frequent between girls".

She says that the officer seemed to be centered on urgent fees associated to the protests and consequently did now not pursue the allegations of homosexuality.

Iranian law, which is based totally on Sharia, considers same-sex family members as crimes that raise a most penalty of death.

"But he saved pounding me with that question: 'Are you a degenerate?' He additionally noted my girlfriend's identify right here and there, asking questions about her sexuality," she says.

She had deliberate to make a rainbow-coloured LGBTQ Pride flag and take it to protests. "But I bought arrested and a lot has took place since," she says.

Pointing to the defiant spirit of the youthful generations in Iran, she says that it got here as no shock that the LGBTQ community was once "more seen in the course of the latest protests", particularly on the grounds that the motion "has roots in the combat for human rights".

In her opinion, this shows "unparalleled courage" of the youthful generations and the gulf between them and the pinnacle echelons of the Islamic Republic, many of whom are now in their 80s.

"This era does now not bend earlier than barbaric legal guidelines and norms. It is bent on constantly closing genuine to itself. It stands tall and needs recognition."

The protests swept throughout the united states of america following the demise in custody in September of Mahsa Amini, a younger ethnic Kurdish girl who used to be detained by means of morality police for allegedly carrying her hijab "improperly".

A absolutely easy information to the protests

The Islamic Republic has spoke back with lethal force.

According to the Human Rights Activists' News Agency (HRANA), safety forces have killed at least 530 protesters - together with seventy one teens - in view that the protests began. Four guys have been carried out on protest-related fees following trials that the UN says have been unfair and primarily based on pressured confessions. Dozens of others who have been convicted are at chance of execution.

'Queer, Life, Freedom'

During the protest movement, younger LGBTQ humans have defied the regime's bans on public suggests of affection and same-sex intimacy by means of getting rid of their hijab and kissing every different in public.

Others have taken to streets with placards in the colorings of the Pride and trans flags, analyzing "Woman, Life, Freedom" - the de facto slogan of the protest motion - as nicely as "Queer, Life, Freedom".

Queer is an offensive phrase to some, however for others it is the desired time period to describe their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Photos have proven activists spray-painting pro-LGBTQ slogans on partitions at universities and in parks, including: "Queer, Trans, Freedom", "The LGBTQ neighborhood rises", and "This is the voice of the LGBTQ community: liberation or putting the night time on fire".

Others have exceeded out flyers to humans on the streets that are hand-painted in the colorings of the Pride flag and read: "The Iranian LGBTQ household stands by means of you."

Many Iranians on social media have warmly welcomed the expanded visibility of the LGBTQ community. Yet the cross has brought about a backlash from others.

In addition to the outright homophobic reactions, an ancient query has resurfaced: "Is it the 'right time' to communicate of LGBTQ rights in Iran?"

Similar questions have reverberated thru Iran's cutting-edge records each time marginalised agencies have demanded rights.

"Is this the proper time for that?" was once used via many political events to gag feminists when hundreds protested in opposition to the introduction of the obligatory hijab guidelines following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

'We are countless'

Afsaneh Rigot, a researcher in technology, regulation and human rights at Harvard University, says: "Seen globally, queer human beings in Iran face some of the cruelest penalties for their existence."

"They are additionally criminalised in more than one ways, now not solely underneath oppressive legal guidelines normally criminalising freedom of expression on and offline, however additionally legal guidelines at once criminalising their identities," she adds.

These encompass carrying garments viewed woman if a character is assigned male at birth.

Other same-sex acts that are criminalised consist of same-sex "kissing or touching as a end result of lust" and are punishable via flogging. These penalties additionally follow to adolescents beneath the age of 18.

A trans non-binary activist in Iran in their early 20s, who say they are defying strain from the "guardians of cis-heteronormativity", describe the accelerated visibility of the LGBTQ neighborhood as the "rainbow wave".

They additionally notice that in response, pinnacle officers of the Islamic Republic are intensifying their homophobic rhetoric.

In a speech in Tehran on the anniversary of the revolution on eleven February, President Ebrahim Raisi accused the West of "exploiting women" below the pretext of human rights.

He said these nations have been in no region to "set norms for the world, considering the fact that they are pushing humanity toward the brink of extinction by using merchandising immoral behaviour like homosexuality".

Despite all the headwinds, Iran's LGBTQ neighborhood is decided to no longer be pushed returned into the closet again.

Recently, dozens helped a homosexual splendor blogger make a video collage in which every of them repeated a single sentence: "We are countless."

The BBC has withheld the identities of some of the humans quoted in this article for their personal safety. 

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