News / Middle East

Iranian Homosexuals Speak Out About Persecution

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says they do not exist.  And in Iran, merely trying to be themselves is a crime that brings shame on their families.  But now, Iranian homosexuals are starting to speak out about what it means to be gay and about the lengths to which they have gone to escape persecution. 

The  day begins as normal for Arash and Nima. But for them, just walking out the door is a reminder they are no longer at home in Iran.

"“The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered people) are a part of vulnerable class of the Iranian society," Arash explained.

Arash left Iran for Turkey nine months ago.  He now works as a filmmaker and shot a video to help document his new life.

Iran’s conservative Islamic laws leave little room for homosexuality.  United Nations experts and rights groups have criticized the Iranian government for criminalizing all homosexual acts, making certain acts punishable by death. Iran has also come under fire for subjecting those suspected of homosexuality to arbitrary arrest and torture.

The issue is one that Iranians are slowly being forced to confront - often through film. Such films, though, are not being made in Iran.

And at least at the highest levels, denial is the rule - as evidenced by comments Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made to students at New York’s Columbia University in 2007:

“In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon, I don't know who has told you that we have it," Ahmadinejad declared.

Farid, another Iranian exile living in Turkey, said on YouTube the feeling of oppression permeates Iran's everyday life.

“When you walk down the street, you feel you are being assaulted from all sides," he said. "We [gay people] are being looked at like a third gender."

One place gay Iranians have found refuge is the United States, where despite controversy, some states and even Washington D.C., have been extending more rights to homosexuals, including the right to get married.

Mali Kisagari was born in Iran in 1958… and in 2004 she married her partner, Elizabeth Kristen, in California.

“In the U.S., people’s rights are respected," she noted. "When I entered the U.S., I found this is a place I can be myself.”

Such attitudes are a long way from being accepted in Iran. Still, from the Iranian diaspora, singers like Shohreh are pushing back - as in her music video.

“The reason why I used the homosexual flag in my video was to support these people,” she explained. “Families should know that their children should not be blamed for being homosexual.  They have been homosexual since childhood."

For now, couples like Arash and Nima can only wonder what it would be like to live as themselves in their home country.

“I want to bring their face in front of [documentary] movie camera, so that the heterosexual class understands the gays better; so that a day may come that the two classes of people may coexist,” Arash said.

To many gay Iranians, that day still seems a long way off.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: echo from: China
June 01, 2012 3:37 AM
Life is tough,you should be more tough.

by: JustMe from: Noneya
May 31, 2012 10:44 PM
“In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon, I don't know who has told you that we have it," Ahmadinejad declared.

Ummm....Anon - you may want to read that quote again. That's exactly what he said! If there is some miscommunication, then by all means, please clarify what he meant. Is he saying Iran does have gays, but Iranian gays are better than other gays? Are they different in some way? Per his own quote, it still seems to me that he's saying Iran does not have gays...

by: mm
May 31, 2012 10:01 PM
Romans 1 vs 27 ain't no homos gonna make it to heaven.

by: Anonymous
May 31, 2012 5:11 PM
Ahmadinejad did not say we don't have gays, he said we don't have gays like in the gays your country.

by: JustMe from: Noneya
May 31, 2012 10:15 AM
lol "We do not have gays in Iran"...errrr, maybe because you exterminate them like roaches and the survivors run for their lives to other countries! Clearly this guy needs to do his homework before he runs his flapjacks! This world sure would be a better place if we could all just live and let live (provided no one is being harmed, of course). God is the judge and jury over all of us. In the meanwhile, just do as God says - Love thy neighbor!!!!!
Thank God I'm American!

by: AMERICAN from: TEXAS
May 31, 2012 10:06 AM
AT LEAST IRAN IS DOING SOMETHING RIGHT.

by: Jeremy Smith from: Spain
May 31, 2012 9:53 AM
Unfortunately, Iran, like all countries dominated by religion, has very little humanity. If only people could shake off the oppression of a religion which dictates what you must think. God exists I believe, but He doesn't need human intermediaries to twist his words. Listen with your hearts instead and hear God speak directly to you.

by: Mario F. Stevenson from: Phoenix, AZ, USA
May 31, 2012 9:16 AM
The content of this article reflects exactly why the world is selective when it comes to information. This is sexual-biased activism stemming from the United States nonsense of creating a whole new gender-biased laws or influence used to motivate or oppress another gender group. An example is the U.S. VAWA; though it's unconstitutional, a whole new segment of laws were created to support a gender-bias even though the Civil Rights laws already do for what it does. This gender-biased activism takes a new approach to become sexual-biased activism charging the world to accept and make extra space in government exploitation for a sexual-biased non-government government exploitation.tra space in government exploitation for a sexual-biased non-government government exploitation.

by: michael from: usa
May 31, 2012 9:13 AM
many who have endured the wrath of the accuser will hold the sword of justice with michael that day and strike satan dead.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More