On November 6th, Tasnim News Agency (TNA), an Iranian news outlet, reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Gaurds Corps (IRGC) conducted arrests related to human trafficking and homosexuals.
IranWire reported that the news published by TNA on their Arabic website regarding the IRGC's arrest was related to the prior arrest of an LGBTQ+ supporter. According to TNA, the IRGC conducted investigations and arrests against individuals suspected of "forming a female trafficking gang and supporting homosexuals." The operation involved multi-layered coordination with "foreign intelligence services by anonymous agents of Imam-e Zaman in West Azerbaijan."
The TNA article also mentioned the IRGC arresting the "head of a women and girls' network, trafficking Iranian girls."
Before Sareh's current arrest, she was detained by the Iraqi Kurdistan police for 21 days after her interview with BBC Persian about the current plight of the LGBTQ communities in Iran's Kurdistan region. The 28-year old used to live and work in Kurdistan.
After being released, Sareh decided to cross the border to Turkey and seek asylum. Sareh arranged to record a video in case she didn't make it. Crossing the Iraqi-Turkish border is very risky, adding that Sareh is traveling as a lesbian.
Iran's Sharia Law inflicts extreme punishment for homosexuality. Last year, the Islamic republic publicly hung a 31-year old gay man after being charged with violating Iran's anti-gay laws.
Sareh recorded three videos "with great clarity and courage," 6Rang reported. The videos were given to people Sareh trusted and were later sent to 6Rang for publication to "make the public aware of Sareh's situation."
Sareh recounted what happened during her initial arrest in one of the videos. "I was detained in Iraq for 21 days because of my interview with the BBC. I was tortured and put in solitary confinement," Sara said. She added that the video would serve as a contingency plan if she couldn't make it to Turkey. "If I reach the other side, it'll be ok. If not, it'll be obvious what has happened," she said in the video.
She also explained that the IRGC and other security organizations in Iran have all her information and warned that she may be "arrested at any moment."
A British human rights and LGBTQ+ advocate, Peter Tatchell, said Sareh's arrest indicates that the Islamic republic still actively persecuted members of their LGBTQ+ community. He dismissed the IRGC's claim that they target human trafficking networks, calling it nonsense propaganda and conspiracy theories.
Jessica Emami, a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, said Iran is "spreading false rumors in the media."
She added "I implore human rights organizations to reach out to regime authorities to demand Sareh's immediate release."
Correction, Dec. 18th: We incorrectly summarized the events preceding Sareh’s her capture by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). She was detained by the Iraqi Kurdistan police for 21 days, not by the IRGC.