Ex-Iran official sent to prison for sharing picture of gay couples

The UN informational photograph depicted a handful of families, including two LGBTQ+ families.

Shahindokht Molaverdi, Iranian official charged with sharing photograph of homosexual couple (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Shahindokht Molaverdi, Iranian official charged with sharing photograph of homosexual couple
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Islamic Republic of Iran on Saturday imposed a two-year prison term and fine on Shahindokht Molaverdi, a former vice president for women's affairs, because she allegedly undermined national security and posted a UN poster of same-sex couples on her Telegram account.
Under the Iranian regime’s Sharia law system, the death penalty is applied to Iranian gays and lesbians.
In July, according to the US government news outlet Radio Farda, the Rah-e Dana website wrote that Molaverdi was charged with "propaganda against the regime," "encouraging corruption and prostitution" and "providing classified information and documents to disrupt national security."
She told the Iranian regime-controlled Iranian Students News Agency on Saturday that she "received the sentence this morning, but it's a preliminary verdict," adding that "there is a 20-day window for reconsideration and I will certainly appeal."
Peter Tatchell, the LGBTQ+ and human rights campaigner, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday that "it is totally absurd that sharing a happy families UN poster on social media is construed by Tehran as undermining national security and promoting prostitution. This is nonsense. Making it a crime to oppose the persecution of LGBT+ people is symptomatic of the extreme homophobia of the Iranian regime."
He said that "the sentence of two years jail for a social media post suggests that the ayatollahs feel very threatened by LGBT+ families. It is a sign of their insecurity and vulnerability."
In May, Molaverdi shared a UN poster to celebrate the International Day of Families which depicted familial units, including two same-sex couples with children.
She removed the controversial post later and issued an apology for "carelessly republishing a post.”
The UN poster caption read: "The structure of family has changed in the past few decades but the United Nations still considers it as the main division of society," saying that given the coronavirus pandemic this year, it is important to underline social policies to support vulnerable families at times of crisis.
It is unclear if Molaverdi was aware that she posted a pro-LGBTQ poster. She served the Islamic regime as vice president of women's and family affairs from 2013-2017, when the death penalty had been applied to men for violating the country’s anti-gay laws. A 2008 British WikiLeaks cable said Iran’s clerical regime has executed 4,000-6,000 gays and lesbians since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.
Molaverdi faced criticism in a film about the IT specialist Nizar Zakka, who was kidnapped by Iran’s regime and tortured. She had invited him to a conference in Iran. The news website IranWire tweeted in August 2020 that “The moment Nizar Zakka calls Shahindokht Molaverdi, then vice-president for women’s affairs, who betrayed his trust and left him to be brutally tortured and sentenced to prison in #Iran for 10 years.”
IranWire wrote, “When Nizar attended the fateful conference in autumn 2015, he did so on the invitation of Shahindokht Molaverdi: then vice-president for women’s affairs. We made several attempts to call Mrs. Molaverdi for comment throughout the filming of this documentary."