(Iran) - A Gay couple from Iran talked with Arsham Parsi from Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO). Kamran, a 24 years old and Kaveh, a 25 years old have been together for 3 years. They fled Iran and are currently in Turkey, awaiting their asylum case to be proceeded by the UNHCR. In the interview, the two young men describe the daily social persecution Gay people are suffering in Iran, but also the hardships the refugees must face when fleeing their country without means for existence.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Kamran, I am 24 years old. Kaveh, my partner, is 25 years old and we have been together about 3 years.
What is the problem of an
The first is that we cannot discuss any of our problems.
We have a problem with the government due to our sexual orientation; the
Islamic government does not accept us and we are condemned to hanging and
stoning. In comparison the rest of the problems are minor.
How do you describe life as
a homosexual in Iran?
Very easy; one cannot work, cannot have fun, and cannot
go out. You cannot go out with your partner because everybody will look at
you as if you are abnormal. The way we are looked at is a source of
torment for us. Even though physically we are not any different from them
they discriminate against us. This makes our lives extremely difficult. I
don’t think there is any problem greater than being labeled abnormal in
society when you are certain nothing is wrong with you. If someone abuses
you, you cannot issue a complaint to any organization or report to the
police, because you'll create more problems for yourself.
What are the family
problems faced by homosexuals?
: Familial reaction is just like that of society. No matter how close the
family, it is not possible to be accepted. Homosexuality is an
unrecognized issue for people in Iran, families included. They will always
look at us as different because we are not like our cousins or uncles. We
are not like our friends and acquaintances and so we cannot take part in
their social gatherings. Why? Because we are homosexuals. That is the only
reason. It does not matter how hard we try to resemble others in society.
They [parents] will always sense we are different, because we are their
Dose your family know that
you are homosexual?
Yes, my family has known for long time.
My family cannot understand. Their age and health
situation does not put them at a place where they'll be able to
understand, so I don’t see the reason to tell them. Moreover, if I tell
them they'll think this is a childish game and will not take me seriously.
Once, because of problems that arose, they tried to come between me and
Kamran’s relationship. I told them he and I would like to live together
and remain close friends. They think we are very good friends. But they
don’t believe we are gay. The thought would probably not even occur to
What do you think their
reaction will be if you told them?
My family will believe it, but I am certain my parent would definitely
have heart attacks. I will have problems with my brother. And I will
definitely be kicked out of the house.
Why do you think parent
can’t accept their child’s homosexuality? What is to be done in order for
them to reach acceptance? What, in your opinion, is the core problem here?
I really think the main problem is the social
environment of the country. I know even in
Europe, with all the
freedom surrounding homosexuality, this is not very common and some
families still have difficulties accepting it. For example, in England
which has been known as one of the most liberal countries for homosexuals,
people differentiate the lifestyle of homosexuals with heterosexuals and
do not see it as a normal relationship. In Iran, we have more problems
because we have a religious government and we have very limited relations
with other countries. If legal obstacles were to be taken away, it would
be possible to change people's minds about homosexuality. It will be
possible to discuss it, tell people that homosexuality exists whether you
like it or not and it isn't like an illness that can be eradicated by
taking medication, it isn't like mental depression to have recovery time.
You can’t tell a little girl not to be a girl, or to a boy not to move
like a boy. You can’t tell a heterosexual man to not be heterosexual. So
you can’t tell a homosexual man “don’t be gay. Go and fall in love with a
girl and marry her”. Our families are traditional, and they want their
children to be exactly what they are. They care more about their neighbors
and friends gossiping than about their children. I, a gay man, matter less
to my family than a neighbour or the local street-vendor. They are willing
for me to suffer and become what they consider a normal human being so
that strangers will say: “Oh, they have such a good son”.
Kaveh: And other problem that people have in
Iran is that they do not
have any knowledge about homosexuality. There are gay people that do not
know they are gay and get married. Then after a while they are not happy
in their life and realize that they are gay, or in some cases they get
divorced but still fear their homosexuality. In an Iranian family a
mentally challenged child is given full attention, sometimes even more
than to their siblings. They accept this as something God has willed, and
they will not let any body harm the child. But they will not look at
homosexuality as God's will. They think it is because we never had a girl
friend or because we are perverts. They don’t see homosexuality as a
natural social reality, but as something acquired and chosen. We have not
chosen to be homosexual. We were born homosexuals. What better answer can
Another difficult thing is that people do not know
anything about our emotional life. They think homosexuality it is only
about sex. "Homosexuality means sex" - this is what most of the people in
Iran think and say.
Unfortunately, some uneducated people say I want to "do" a gay. They think
gay means prostitute.
I think people mostly get these stereotypical
assumptions about gay people is from gay web sites. If I search the word
"gay" or “homosexual” on the internet it will give me these websites of
naked men and women or their private parts, so people will assume gay
For example, we proudly
print a section of an article from your publication that is informative
for families to read and give it to our family, ask them “please read this
and see what it says about this issue” because in Iran we don’t have a
source of information. Everything else is internet porn sites. The image
people have of homosexuals is an evakhahar [a flamboyantly feminine
homosexual man] in Daneshjou Park who waits to be picked up in cars and
has sex all the time.
If you believe homosexuality is a disease, look how many
accomplished people we have.
Many of our doctors,
engineers, artist, and chemist are homosexual. If that is an obscene
sickness, why are these people so sophisticated, educated and
accomplished? There is a number of successful executives I know who are
gay. Why are these people successful? Are they homosexual and sick? Of
course nothing is wrong with them; they just have a different sexual
orientation. Homosexuals were born homosexual. Some people think
socialization can be part of it, but I do not think so.
This raised two questions
for me. Why do you think people call homosexual "evakhahar "? What
does evakhahar mean? In addition, Kamran pointed to famous and
successful people like singers and actors in cinema, figures most people
are constantly exposed to and in a sense interact with daily. So how can
they find homosexuality so unacceptable?
I think their culture and way of thinking makes it
impossible for them to accept it. At the most they'll say that famous gay
person is still different from you. But he isn't. He has the same sexual
urges as me.
On your other point, we
call homosexual men "gay". Gay means a man who acts like a man, dresses
like a man, and wants to be with a man. In this culture they think gay is
a man who likes to put on makeup, act like a woman, and dress up like a
woman. They call those men "evakhahar". Most of the time these people are
not even gay. They just like to dress up and put makeup on, but they want
to be with the opposite sex.
I really think evakhahar is a name that people
use depending on the situation. I've been told that I am evakhahar.
It depends on the situation. Evakhahars are people who don't fit
into social categorization. For example, if I live in Zaferanieh (wealthy
area in north
Tehran) and have crazy hair and wax my eyebrows and have earrings
everybody will say “wow that is fashion” .They'll think it is so cool. Now
think if I live in Khorasan Square (religious and working neighbourhood in
downtown Tehran) and I come out of my house dressed in such a way
people will call me evakhahar because I will not fit in with the
norm around me. This so called evakhahar doesn’t fit in any
category. This gay individual doesn’t have a computer/internet because he
cannot afford it and does not have a friend to talk to about his sexual
orientation. He is trying to find a gay community and make some friends,
maybe find someone more than a friend. He will be put under so much
pressure by the society around him, he will be called an evakhahar
and a woman so many times, he starts believing he is a woman and this may
even lead to him getting a sex-change operation as a way to relieve the
pressure. He May even be a manager of some corporation or have employees
working under him, but he may have to put some makeup on when he goes out
with his friends at night as a way to connect with people like himself. So
he starts acting like a woman, putting on an act, moving his hands a
certain way in the hopes of finding friends like himself and satisfying
his sexual needs. In
Iran there is no place for
this community, so when people see him they think there is an evakhahar
here to have sex. Of course there is good and bad everywhere, in any
culture. Just as we have destitute women, we have destitute men. Just as
we have prostitution in the heterosexual community, we have prostitution
in the homosexual community.
You mean that if someone
dressed like a typical resident of downtown Tehran comes up north people
will think he is a bum or a hobo, even though in his own neighbourhood his
appearance is completely reasonable and acceptable.
Many people believe
homosexuality is now a fashion trend, it is cool, and being gay or having
gay friends illustrates class, sophisticated, open-mindedness. What do you
think about this?
Yes, homosexual is commodified as something high-class.
But there are people who don’t have bread to eat at night and are gay.
Homosexuality has nothing to do with economic status, but some people see
it as the current stylish trend.
So it is possible for a man
from northern Tehran
who wears earrings, rings, sports crazy hair and an over-the-top style to
be heterosexual but presents himself as a gay man in order to make a
Yes, we know many people they are not gay, but tell everybody that they
are. In Tehran gays are divided into two groups: south side gays and north
side gays. Or shall I say upper-class gays and working-class gays. Working
class gays are financially struggling because there are no jobs for them.
If they do get employed somewhere, soon many problems arise for them in
the workplace. So in general they do not have any real income. Parents
will not give them pocket money. They don’t have the means to go to school
and pay for books or tuition. For financial reasons they are denied higher
education. They get teased in their neighbourhood and it is very hard for
them to find friends. Most young people these days care very much about
the clothes and brand names and so on, so that also works against them.
The difficulties these gays face are much more intense and horrible than
their rich counterparts. Rich gays are not problem-free either. Their
parents usually give them a car, a home and money and say “just go and get
lost from our sight”. Most of these people live in uptown in fancy houses,
work in their own businesses, and continue getting pocket-money from their
parents. Working-class gays often have liaisons with upper-class gays.
They are exploited by the upper-class as fresh faces. After a while these
relationships inevitably expire. This is a type of entertainment for
There is a severe class distinction in
and these two classes are in constant relationship with one another. They
are forced to be in relationship.
Many people believe the number of
homosexuals has increased. Families admit that there were homosexuals
around years ago, even individuals they knew personally, but these days
there are more and more of them since it is now a fashionable thing to be.
Why do you think people think like this?
well this is obvious. Five years ago we did not have
systems of communication that could bring us together. There is a computer
or satellite dish in every home now. Ten years ago, we didn’t have any a
wide-spread vehicle by which to raise awareness. Many gay people who
haven’t recognized this feeling inside of them watch a program on the
television, satellite and this makes them become a bit more aware of
themselves and come to know their identities. In my opinion, with the
opening of debate and cultural developments and communicational
developments, more homosexuals are coming out of the closet. Homosexuals
are not like ants, they are not going to grow and spread. They have always
existed, but now are more visible to the main-stream society.
Do you believe media has
helped people become familiar with homosexuality helping people to get
more information about homosexuality, even though Kaveh complained of the
excessive availability of pornography on the internet?
Yes, modes of communicating information are varied and this variety itself
is a way for people to become more familiar by getting varied exposure to
it. For example, one can gain knowledge by reading academic and
philosophical texts and familiarizing himself in that way and finally come
to accept it. Watching porn may shatter someone’s preconceived ideas about
the ugliness of such a relationship. Every medium has its own particular
Going back to the
increasing visibility of homosexuals: yes, there is not doubt about that.
They see each other, recognize each other, go out and people see more of
them and think their numbers have increased.
But the other point that
strikes me is that many homosexuals like to announce their sexual
orientation to others and behave openly. Everywhere they announce they are
gay. They argue with heterosexuals and are even interested in having
sexual relations with heterosexuals. Two gay men, after initially meeting,
start behaving as if they have known each other for such a long time, they
are kind and generous. They are famous for these qualities and others can
Straight people who walk into this situation and see
these two gay men acting to friendly and intimately, become interested. It
is interesting for them that these men go to parties together and live
differently from others in society. They enjoy their company, hang out
with them, have fun. Eventually they think “what if we’re also gay”? Some
of them get involved with gay men and abuse the situation, then tire of it
and leave. This kind of nosiness and curiosity by the heterosexual
community makes it look like homosexuality is contagious and gives people
more of a reason to believe it is a growing phenomenon.
What is relationship between gays and lesbians like?
Kaveh: It is
very limited. In
Tehran our only mode of communication and access was the
internet. I tried many times to chat with lesbians.I would tell them that
I’d like to get to know you ,but they were suspicious . They wanted me to
either talk through the microphone or turn on a webcam, because most
people want to chat with lesbians are straight men who want sex. Lesbians
had many problems. In many gay chat rooms, there were many straight people
who pretended to be gay to abuse lesbians. Because of this lesbians didn’t
respond to many people’s messages.
I only knew a few lesbians who had limited
relationships. They wouldn’t reveal themselves unless they really knew the
person. I knew them few people through old mutual friends. But in general
they conducted relationships very cautiously and with much restriction.
We would very much like to find a lesbian couple and be
friends with them, so everybody could see gays do not hate women. Gays
like to be with girls, go out, hold their hands and be friends. They have
nothing against women. They just choose not to share the same bed. If we
had some lesbian friends, we could deceive our parents. We could call them
our girlfriends and we’d talk to them on the phone and our parents who
have no reason to be suspicious of us. We would not have to come out of
the closet to them due to societal pressures. Because they will not accept
that we don’t have relationships with any girls.
Why do you think gays and
lesbians are so disconnected from each other, and what obstacles must be
taken away for these two groups to come together?
I think it is because we do not know each other. If I tell some stupid
gays who ask lesbians how they have sex that it is none of your business
these problems will become less and less. Lesbians get upset hearing such
questions, because they do not like to describe their sex life constantly
to others. In addition, if a girl does not have a boyfriend in Iranian
society, she could be a lesbian. If a girl does not date, parent will say
we have a very good girl. It is different for boys. If a man takes care of
himself and perhaps waxes his eyebrows and wears flashy clothes he’ll be
criticized for it.
I think lesbians are more
stupid. Nobody will see you if you don’t come out. Lesbians like to remain
in hiding. Gays talk about it but lesbians don’t at all. So many people
do not take their lesbian relationships seriously. In porn films they show
a lesbian couple together who then turn around and have sex with a man.
This is the image people have of lesbians. In my opinion, a coming
together of the two communities and creating stronger connections amongst
us will eradicate many of these problems. The gay community is much
stronger than the lesbian community. Lesbians need to come out and get to
work and be together, just like gays.
You ran away from Iran and
are now in Turkey. Can you tell me what your situation is now?
We don’t have the stability
we had in Iran. In terms of food and health we are in poor condition.
Ever since we came here we
got a skin condition. Our skin constantly itches. I don’t know if its bugs
or fleas or what. But it itches so much we have wounds and sores all over
our skin. We can’t sleep at night because of the itching and the pain.
is like pimples which have
over taken our whole bodies. We went to doctor, but the medication is too
expensive for us to afford buying it for the both of us. It is about 40
lirs (Turkish currency). We had to get one prescription and share the
medication between us, which is obviously not going to work properly and
the medication will run out before the prescribed treatment period. This
is our health condition and this is our dirty living conditions.
It is very hard for single
people to rent a home, so we had to stay in other people’s homes. We had a
pretty desperate situation; we had to ask everybody for help. In terms of
food, we usually eat once a day and try to sleep the rest of the day so we
will not think about food and hunger.
Currently, where are you in
your immigration process?
we are still waiting. We
went to the UN, they told us to come back in seven months, then we are
going to interview you and ask you what happened to you. We do not feel
well. I do not think I can make it. We will get all kind of horrible
diseases or we might die.
When we told them about our
situation, they told us we did not send you invitation card, being
refugees is hard. What ever we had has finished. If you (IRQO) were not
helping us, I don’t know what we would do. Until we go to the UN in seven
months, we’ll have a very uncertain situation. We just have to be patient
and wait. We have met people who have committed suicide due to the
difficulties and pressure of this kind of life, or they have been waiting
here for a few years and are still waiting, or those who have been
deported back. We have lost the little hope we had but have no other
option but to wait.
What kind of future do you
think awaits you?
I don’t know, but I’d like
to benefit from the same legal rights anyone else in Iran has. This is not
such a big deal, but in
is very big thing to ask for.
We do not ask for much in life. I want to have a 40 meter apartment in
Iran where I can live with my partner, the person I love. Get up in the
morning and go to work, work, and feel at peace when I return home. That’s
it. Just a quiet life with my boyfriend. I’d like to reach this dream and
not be hanged or stoned for loving someone.
Translated by Solmaz, Edited by Ava
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