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Former Rouhani Aide Comes Under Fire For "Promoting Homosexuality"

Shahindokht Molaverdi, a top adviser to Iran’s president on human rights, gives an interview to The Associated Press at her office in Tehran, September 8, 2018.

Iranian hardliners have launched a campaign against President Hassan Rouhani's former aide in women's and family affairs for "promoting homosexuality" by posting the U.N. "International Day of Families" poster on social media.

On May 15 Ms. Shahindokht Molaverdi, an academic and a defender of women's rights within the boundaries of Islam, reposted the U.N. poster that depicts various forms of families including homosexual families on her Telegram account. She removed the controversial post later and issued an apology for "carelessly republishing a post".

The caption to the poster said: "The structure of family has changed in the past few decades but the United Nations still considers it as the main division of society" and said given the coronavirus pandemic this year, it is important to underline social policies to support vulnerable families at times of crisis.

Reposting this U.N. poster on the occasion of the International Day of Families has angered Iranian hardliners.

Hardliners quickly flagged the Telegram post in social media and alleged that Ms. Molaverdi's post was meant to promote homosexuality and recognition of homosexual families.

In a tweet on May 16, Alireza Zakani, a conservative former lawmaker from Tehran who has been elected from the holy city of Qom to the incoming parliament, highlighted Ms. Molaverdi's Telegram post and demanded that President Hassan Rouhani condemn "this collapse of morality or lack of a minimum understanding of the notion of the family".

Some hardliners have staged a sit-in in front of the Justice Department of Tehran demanding punishment of Ms. Molaverdi.

Mashreq News, a hardliner news website, pointed out that according to the Islamic Penal Code any action that contributes to the spread of homosexuality is considered the same as encouragement to prostitution and is punishable by up to ten years in prison. Homosexuality itself is punishable by death in the Islamic Republic.

In April 2018 Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif denied that homosexuals are discriminated against and claimed: "We do not punish or criminalize anybody for their activity at home. What is important is what they do in the street, what they do in public, and we have a different set of norms than Western societies when it comes to sexual preferences”.

Ms. Molaverdi who served as vice president in women's and family affairs from 2013-2017 resigned from her post as President Hassan Rouhani's special assistant for citizenship rights in 2018.

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    Maryam Sinaiee

    Maryam Sinaiee is a British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National, who contributes to Radio Farda.