A History of Violence Against Queer Iranian
Ayatollah Khomeini once declared: Iranian homosexuals are “parasites and corrupters of the earth.” Accordingly, in Iran, simply on the basis of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, one may fear the threat of verbal and physical abuse, sexual assault, persecution, punishment, imprisonment, and often execution – a process not only initiated and perpetuated by the authorities, but one that has the support of every individual in the hierarchy of society – from families to individuals and institutions. It is in this context that the sex reassignment procedure may have a superficial attraction.
Arrest is followed by detention, detention by physical and/or sexual assault, and in many instances torture. The judicial validity of coerced testimony illustrates Iran’s non-compliance with international standards related to due process. Prosecuted sexual minorities may be condemned to lashings, imprisonment, and even execution; a cultural logic dictated by the cleric, politician, the family member or the friend. This is why Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, two Iranian youths, “deserved to be executed or tortured, and possibly both.” Executed in a public square, aged 16 and 18 respectively, it was only their sexual identity that deprived them of all societal protections and human rights. Falling in the category ‘the corrupters of the earth,’ their homosexuality inevitably made them enemies of the Iranian state.
However, and in spite of the mounting evidence of brutality, homophobia and discrimination against Iranian queers, governments that host LGBT asylum seekers do not always fully consider the degree of the risk that they face. It is important to bring this general state of prosecution to policy in respect of refugees and how governments treat LGBT refugee claimants from Iran. Unfortunately, often, asylum seekers face various obstacles, such as being unable to produce documentary evidence, during the proceedings, and, at times, they are deported back to Iran where they face prosecution and violence. In one such case, the UK government decided that Medhi Kazemi, 19, had to be deported back to Iran. Mr. Kazemi was in England in 2005 when his boyfriend was arrested for sodomy and subsequently hanged, naming Mr. Kazemi as his boyfriend during the trial’s procedurals. Subsequently, Mr. Kazemi applied for asylum, fearing that he would be arrested upon return to Iran; his application was refused.
As demonstrated, every aspect of the asylum request of Iranian queers may be marked by difficulty and misunderstanding if authorities are not aware of the pervasive persecution in Iran. In order for asylum cases to be properly understood, each aspect of the applicant’s life must be considered, evaluated and examined, evaluated and made visible to every entity in the society – from family, to media, to the state. And on the way to this humane milestone, it is of utmost importance that LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, who seek a safe haven from the intense discrimination in Iran, be given the very basic human right to live in peace, secure from harm and hate in countries that host their flight from danger, death and invisibility.
Table of Contents
STORIES – Overview: The Invisible Iranian Queer in Law, Media, Society
Iranian Queers and the Law
Summary Justice: The Penal Code against Homosexual Acts in Iran
Torture: The Invisible Penal Code against the Homosexual Acts in Iran
State Ideology and Law: A Discriminating Hand with Many Heads
Iranian Queers and the Society
Enforcement of Law: The Guerrilla War against Gays and Lesbians
Society and Family: Home is where the Heart of the Prejudice is
Family and Patriarchy: All against the Lesbians
Society and Education: Misunderstanding of Bisexuality
Society & Institutions: Unsafe handling by Medical Practitioners and Social Actors – Sex Reassignment Procedures
The Public Image of Iranian Queers and the Media
The State Media: No Queers, Not Even on the Television
Publishing: A History of Censorship
The Internet: The Soft War against Iranian Queers
Iranian Transgender Individuals: A Special Case among Special Cases
Summary: A History of Violence against Iranian Queers
The Refugee Experience
The Initial Challenge of Exile: Finding Shelter Outside Iran
The Refugee Process – Determination of Refugee Status
The State of Transition
The Wait Ahead
The Resettlement Process
Connecting with a Country of Refuge – Finding a Durable Solution
The Host Country
Challenges – Culture, Language, Isolation, Employment, Education, Etc.
Finding a Community and Local Integration
Conclusion: What is the promise of refuge, and is it upheld?
We would like to sincerely thank our researchers and reporters especially those who donated their time to review and finalize the report.
We would like to thank Iranian queers who agreed to participate in this research and share their experiences.
We would like to extend our gratitude to current and former IRQR’s Board of Directors for their unwavering support.