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Alireza Fazeli Monfared

Amnesty International has marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersex-phobia, and Transphobia by renewing its calls on Iran to repeal laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations.

The London-based human rights watchdog said in an analysis published on May 17 that the recent "horrifying" killing of a 20-year-old gay man in Iran "has shed new light on how the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct and gender nonconformity perpetuates systemic violence and discrimination" against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBT).

The killing also "highlights the urgent need for the Iranian authorities to enact and implement laws to protect the human rights" of LGBT people from discrimination, harassment, assaults, and other abuses from state and nonstate actors. it said.

Alireza Fazeli Monfared was reportedly killed on May 4 by his half-brother and cousins who dumped his body under a tree near Ahvaz the capital of the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

Authorities said that Fazeli Monfared's throat was slit and announced an investigation, but no suspect has been arrested so far.

Amnesty International urged the authorities to "promptly conduct an independent, impartial and effective criminal investigation into the murder" and "bring those responsible to account in fair trials and without recourse to the death penalty."

"Investigations must examine whether the crime was motivated by hostility and prejudice on the grounds of his gender identity and sexual orientation."

Amnesty quoted individuals who had known Fazeli Monfared as saying he had faced "years of homophobic and transphobic harassment and death threats by several male relatives."

The sources said he had never reported such incidents to the police "out of a fear of facing violence and prosecution at the hands of the authorities."

Iranian laws criminalize consensual same-sex relations, including through the application of the death penalty, and flogging, and ban clothing, hairstyles, and other forms of gender expression that do not conform to strict gender "norms" enforced by the establishment, according to Amnesty International.

"These laws foster a permissive climate for homophobic and transphobic hate crimes and legitimize violent, including deadly, attacks against people on the grounds of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity," Diana Eltahawy, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at the group, said in a statement.

"The Iranian authorities' brazen disregard for the lives and safety of LGBT people and the prevailing climate of impunity for such crimes raise the alarm that his murder could go unpunished."

Journalists work at RFE/RL's bureau in Moscow. The EU said the "foreign agent" and other laws "have the clear intention to hamper RFE/RL's operations in Russia as part of a wider trend to stifle independent media and critical voices in the country."

The European Union has called on Russia to repeal its controversial "foreign agent" law, which has been used to target a growing number of Russian-language media outlets, including Radio FreeEurope/Radio Liberty.

The call, made on May 17 by a spokesman for EU foreign-affairs chief Josep Borrell, comes as Russian authorities both expand their targets of the 9-year-old law, as well their enforcement of it.

Last week, court bailiffs moved to begin seizing property from RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, requesting a list of equipment that potentially could be seized. Bailiffs also obtained a court order freezing the Moscow bank accounts used by RFE/RL.

Days earlier, Russia's media regulator said it was adding VTimes, an online news site founded by ex-staffers of the newspaper Vedomosti, to its "foreign agent" list. The regulator had added another online news site, Meduza, previously.

"The EU has consistently urged the Russian authorities to repeal this stifling legislation and to respect their international obligations on freedom of association, assembly and expression," said Peter Stano, the spokesman for EU foreign-affairs chief Josep Borrell.

Russia's so-called "foreign agent" legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly.

It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as "foreign agents," and to submit to audits.

Later modifications of the law targeted foreign-funded media, including RFE/RL's Russian Service, six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services, and Current Time.

The law, which has been further expanded to include individual reporters, is one of several Kremlin-backed measures aimed at restricting foreign-funded activities in Russia.

A parallel measure known as the "undesirable organizations" law has forced the shutdown of a number of nongovernmental civil society groups in Russia, mainly from Europe and the United States.

"Such actions have the clear intention to hamper RFE/RL's operations in Russia as part of a wider trend to stifle independent media and critical voices in the country," Stano said.

Separately, the new York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Russia to unfreeze the bank accounts used by RFE/RL and cease labeling outlets as "foreign agents."

Russian authorities "should cease fining and harassing news outlets for alleged violations of its foreign agents law -- an unjust piece of legislation that should be repealed," said Gulnoza Said, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said in a statement.

"Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty should be able to access its resources freely, and websites such as VTimes should not be forced to jump through hoops and risk large fines due to their ownership structures."

To date, Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor has presented RFE/RL with 520 violations of its labeling restrictions, which are expected to result -- once all are adjudicated by Russian courts -- in fines of $2.4 million.

All of the appeals of these fines filed so far by RFE/RL have been summarily rejected in Russian courts.

In addition, appeals by three RFE/RL freelancers designated in December 2020 as individual media "foreign agents" have been rejected by courts in northwestern Russia, forcing them to begin filing detailed financial declarations with the authorities and to identify themselves in all electronic communications as a "foreign agent."

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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