The Internet ‘Protection Bill’ will hurt all Iranians, but the queer community will have the most to lose.

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04/12/2022

International human rights organizations and the United Nations are saying a lot about the repressive “Regulatory System for Cyberspace Services Bill”—widely referred to as the “Protection Bill”—currently under review by the Iranian parliament. However, not much light has been shed on one of the most marginalized groups that will suffer the most: Iran’s LGBTQI community. Deprived of public spaces by the state and rampant queerphobia in society, Iran’s LGBTQI persons have found solace in fragile pockets of expression online. For as long as the Internet has existed in the country, state surveillance has been intensifying and crackdowns have been reoccurring on dissenting voices. Queer expression and identities are targeted as “immoral” or “obscene” criminal acts within Iran’s Islamic Penal Code and, in some cases, are punishable by the death penalty. Despite this, the queer community has been using social media, dating apps—like Grindr, Hornet, Bumble, and Tinder—along with messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram in creative ways to forge a semblance of community online. The Internet has provided the Iranian LGBTQI community with a safer space to seek human connections vital for support and survival. The community has also utilized social media to educate itself and wider society about queer issues. Most importantly, online spaces have become vital for processing and healing trauma rooted in misogyny and queerphobia.

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