Iran’s revolutionary guards announced the arrest of “a network of homosexuals and satanists” in the western city of Kermanshah, close to the country’s border with Iraq, according to The Guardian.
The arrests took place on Tuesday in a ceremony hall, where 80 people were said to be celebrating a birthday. 17 people reportedly had their cellphones confiscated before being blindfolded and taken into custody at an undisclosed location.
A number of foreign nationals, including Iraqis, were among those detained, the report said, adding that eight of 17 were married to each other.
In Iran, anyone suspected or confirmed of being gay, or being associated with homosexuality in any way, can be punished.
For gay men charged with sodomy, the one playing the “passive role” (aka bottom) is put to death and the person playing the “active role” (aka top) is flogged 100 times.
For lesbian women, the punishment is 100 lashes for all individuals involved, but it can lead to the death penalty if the act is repeated more than three times.
The arrests have prompted more alarm over the treatment of LGBT people in the Islamic republic. Authorities there have previously likened homosexuals to satanists in an effort to further smear them in the eyes of the country’s religious conservatives.
In September 2007, Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously denied homosexuals existed in the Islamic republic, telling an audience in New York: “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals.”
In more recent years, the government has maintained a policy of ignoring LGBT people, but revolutionary guards and the informal religious militia, who are independent of the government but close to the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have actively tracked down LGBT people and punished them.
It is not yet clear where the 17 individuals arrested Tuesday are currently being held or what they will be charged with.
Photo credit: The Guardian.