An Iranian cleric said that taking the coronavirus vaccine will turn vaccinated individuals into homosexuals in an online rant Monday.
Ayatollah Abbas Tabrizian told his more than 200,000 followers on the social media app Telegram that those who take the coronavirus vaccine "become homosexuals."
"Don’t go near those who have had the COVID vaccine," Tabrizian said. "They have become homosexuals."
Tabrizian’s statements come as Iran deals with rising coronavirus cases, in addition to increased crackdowns on domestic dissent. In the past week, two of Iran’s most prominent soccer players died from COVID-19. The regime has reported some 1.4 million cases and 60,000 virus-related deaths in total.
The cleric’s remarks also reflect a longer trend of homophobia from the Iranian regime. Homosexual activity is illegal in Iran and can be punished with charges up to and including execution. Tehran executed between 4,000 and 6,000 homosexual Iranians since 1979, according to a 2008 British WikiLeaks cable. A 2019 State Department report also highlighted how Iranian security forces systematically harassed, arrested, and detained citizens suspected of homosexual behavior.