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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
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.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

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