A poignant plea for help from a gay Iranian refugee in Malaysia is shedding light on the desperation and fear experienced by homosexuals in Iran and those who have fled their home country to seek refugee status in other countries.
The letter, penned by a young gay man calling himself Sepehr, contains a heartbreaking tale of life as a homosexual in Iran and the suffering caused by the necessity of fleeing to another land to escape persecution and possible death.
The cry for help from another gay Iranian refugee echoes the plight of other gays lesbians who remain trapped in Iran under threat of death because of their sexual orientation-as well as the fear and desperation faced by Iranian refugees attempting to escape from the country’s harsh anti-gay regime.
Just this week, Mehdi, a 19-year-old gay Iranian who fled from the United Kingdom last year to prevent deportation back to Iran went on a hunger strike in protest of the decision by a Netherlands court to return him to the UK.
If he is forced back to the United Kingdom, he will likely be sent back to Iran immediately and he fears he will end up with a death sentence if that occurs.
Mehdi lived in England for two years while studying on a student visa. While in the UK, he learned his former boyfriend had been executed as a suspected homosexual and is believed to have revealed his relationship with Mehdi under torture before being killed.
In another related story, members of the Union of Students in Ireland called on the Iranian government this week to halt the planned executions of two men suspected of being homosexuals. The two young men, identified as Tayyeb Karimi and Yazdan (surname unknown), have been condemned under Article 110 of Iran’s Penal Code stating that men who have gay sex “will be executed.”
Last September, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech at New York’s Columbia University that “In our country we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. This does not exist in our country.”
In 2005, Iran faced public outcry after the public hanging execution of two gay teenagers. According to the Times, the two teen boys were held in prison for 14 months prior to being killed and were tortured and beaten repeatedly.
Below is the text of the letter published this week from a gay Iranian who fled his country for fear of being tortured or executed.
The man, going only by the alias of Sepehr, ended up in Malaysia where he applied for asylum and registered with the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The letter was sent to the Iranian Queer Organization in Toronto, which published it on Thursday.
My name is Sepehr [alias used]. I was born and raised in Iran, a country that kills people for falling in love. My government kills homosexuals by asserting we are an enemy of God. My president denied us, even our existence as human beings, when he claimed there are no homosexuals in Iran during his speech at Columbia University.
If he can say there are no homosexuals in Iran, it is because we cannot show ourselves. We stay hidden because if we are visible they will lash us; they will hang us; they will kill us.
They tell us that we are fighting with God by falling in love with the same sex. I want to understand that if this is the case, then why has God created us like this? I have had great difficulty in Iran and have never felt attracted to the opposite sex and my whole life I have been confronting insecurity about this.
I have always felt like an outsider and friends and acquaintances have often discussed my difference but I could never change how I feel. When I began high school, the abuse started. This left emotional scars.
Then I met someone from school who changed my life. The feeling that existed between us finally gave new meaning to my life. But this came at the cost of handcuffs and the hard punches of the Basiji.
My period of dejection began from there. I understood that my feelings are sinful. I was afraid of everyone and everything. I tried to straighten my life. I went to University and learned English and this kept my thoughts occupied for a while, in a new place and with new people who didn’t know me.
I eventually went to see a doctor and realised that this is my nature and not a virus of some sort. But still I was looking for answers to so many questions. I read books to understand how I should relate to myself and my feelings.
It was at this point that I realized that I have a right to a life of my own. I met a friend and together we tried to put the past behind us. In a new town and with a new life, I finally entered into a few good years.
But the effects of my sexual identity had me trapped again and this good period of my life came to an end. Again sadness; again loneliness. Am I sick? Do I have a disease? My family abandoned me, and just because I love people of the same sex as me.
I left Iran by bus to Pakistan because I was being threatened. If arrested, I risked being killed in a public execution with no trial.
From Pakistan I went to Zimbabwe and finally ended up in Malaysia in May 2007 where I applied for asylum and registered with the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Almost a year later, I have completed my second interview and am now awaiting the results of this process.
For about eight months I have been suffering here in Malaysia. In order to get money to eat, I went to the hospital to sell one of my kidneys but they told me that it is illegal to sell body parts in Malaysia. However, I have few options as I am not allowed to work, so acquiring those basic needs for survival are therefore difficult.
I am staying in a small town 45 kilometres from the capital city with no money to eat, and living accommodations that leave me vulnerable to millions of insects that suck my blood every night. I do not know what to do. I don’t even have money to buy soap to wash my clothes.
I sit here now in this dying body to write this letter to you. I am praying. I am crying. I am begging my God to help me. I am planning to commit suicide but if I do that I will lose so much, over 10 years of study, hard work and self-reflection to figure out who I am.
I had plans. I wanted to write books. I wanted to share my experiences. I wanted to help gay men to better understand who they are.
I wanted to speak with people to help them to understand that I deserve to live too. But this is my life now and as I am writing this letter my life is over. But what I can’t understand is what I have done so wrong that I deserve to have my body burnt by cigarettes. I can’t understand what I did wrong that I must be beaten with a gun. But this is life.
I cannot make my plans with an empty stomach. I cannot continue this life. I need your help now. Please help to show me a more just life. I am still young. I want to be alive but I don’t know how. Please contact me and show me the way.
Help me now, tomorrow is too late. I beg you.
I am tired.
Ann Turner – 2007 Gay Wired; All Rights Reserved