In December 2008, Ali, who is 30, escaped from Iran to Turkey. He was caught when he was having sex with a man by his father, who was a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. As a result, he lost his job, and he and his family were threatened with death. He was arrested several times in Iran, the last time was in the summer of 2007 while he was on vacation in the north of Iran, and the Islamic Guard detained him simply because he was wearing a T-shirt and jeans and had spiky hair. He doesn’t feel safe even in Turkey because the father of the man he had sex with is in the Revolutionary Guard and has the ability to find him there and have him killed so he can cover up the scandal of his queer son. In an interview with us, he said: "I didn’t do anything. I’m just a gay man who was born in a country in which my existence was forbidden, just for being gay, just for having a special feeling which is not that of a majority of society. I love guys. It is my right to be free, but I have to live in exile for it. I need help.”
On May 10, 2007, eighty-seven queer men were arrested and beaten by the police at a birthday party in Esfahan. Around 10 p.m., the police force first entered the second floor of the home where the family members were gathered and arrested some of them and a child. The family members were released the day after. The police then went to the third floor where the party guests were gathered, turned off the lights, shot ‘fake gunshots,’ forced everyone to lie on the ground, began beating them and walked over them. Then the police dragged either head-bags or their blouses over the guests’ heads, forced them to go to the street and pushed them with a baton into a military car. While the car had a normal capacity of 15-20 people, the police stuffed all 87 men into one vehicle. The people who were witnessing the event on the street reported that the clothes of the arrested men were torn and their faces were bleeding. One of the guests jumped out of the third floor window and needed operation on his two broken legs as a result. Based on information received, they were transferred to the Esfahan Dastgerd jail and were exposed to severe pressure and torture. Of the 87 men arrested, 60 were released unconditionally in the weeks following their arrest while 27 were later released on bail. They are not believed to have had access to lawyers or their families. Farhad, the 19-year-old man for whom the birthday party was held, was condemned to pay 150,000,000 Tomans (about 170,000 USD) as bail. A judge reportedly said that those detained following the private party will be charged with consumption of alcohol and “homosexual conduct” (hamjensgarai) even though there was no evidence to prove that these men were gay or were engaging in same-sex relations. It is important to note that when storming the house, the police forces were equipped with cameras and were accompanied by four clergymen, making them effectively ready to satisfy the legal requirement of four “righteous men” to prove the act of sodomy. No evidence could be collected, however, to prove the crime of “lavat” because at the time of the invasion, no one was engaging in any sexual conduct. The situation could have been different, though. This incident is just one of the many examples that show the extent to which the walls of homes are transparent and the halls of justice are opaque in Iran. It also shows the extent to which respect for privacy and personal dignity is fragile in Iran. (http://www.irqo.net/IRQO/English/news.htm)
IRQR acquired information about the above-mentioned incident through its queer members in Iran. After some of our members contacted us by phone to report the situation, they were contacted by intelligence agents (Setad-e Khabari-e Ettelaat) and were brought into their office. They were accused of working for foreign organizations and asked to explain why there was once an Italian man at one of their parties. When they denied the accusation, they were told that the intelligence agency has information about all of them and were presented with albums that contained the pictures and contact information of all their gay friends. They were asked to pay significant amounts of money in order to be released. Following their release, several of the arrested men left the country for security reasons. These incidents illustrate the extent to which members of the queer community, their telephone conversations and their relationships are monitored and controlled.
In April 2007, two gay men, 26-year-old Farsad and 24-year-old Farnam, received 80 lashes for giving a small party in their house, and were told that they would receive further lashes later for having an “improper” relationship. Farsad and Farnam moved together into an apartment in the winter of 2007 to start their life as a couple. They invited a small group of their friends to celebrate their union. Just fifteen minutes after the party began; the police broke into their house and arrested everyone. The arrestees were beaten brutally and were then transported to a police detention center. They spent the entire New Year holidays in a prison cell. “We were beaten to the point that my spine hurt permanently; I still feel the pain caused by the fists pounding my face,” Farsad says. They were accused of advocating decadence, homosexuality and prostitution. Because they were arrested together, the authorities insisted on more details about their relationship. During the police interrogation, they were asked, "Did you have sexual intercourse with each other?” They did not admit to this, and eventually they were sentenced for having an improper relationship, for which they received a sentence of 80 lashes. All other guests were released conditionally and they were ordered to remain in the city and not contact each other. Two weeks before the execution of their sentence, the party attendees were arrested again and were sentenced to 60 lashes each, all received the same day. Farsad and Farnam were told that the 80 lashes were just for holding the party, and that their sentence for the improper relationship would be executed later. (http://www.irqo.net/IRQO/English/news.htm)
At the age of 21, Farsad set up a weblog in order to meet people like himself. The police found his address through his IP information and arrested him. He spent three weeks in solitary confinement and he was accused of obscenity, advocating decadent values and homosexuality. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison. After completing his sentence, he suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress with symptoms so debilitating that forced him to get hospitalized. Then his diary was found by his stepfather, who demanded Farsad denounce his homosexuality. When Farsad resisted, his step-father took him to Qom (a holy city in Iran and a centre for ayatollahs) to be seen by the grand ayatollahs. He spent several nights in custody, and was humiliated by the security forces there. They threatened him with stoning unless he denounced his homosexuality. Traumatized by the threats, he was taken to see a grand ayatollah. Before him, he signed his confession and forgiveness plea. He was then returned to Tehran, where he received 95 lashes before being released. Almost as an afterthought, he was questioned by the supreme leader’s office in the university where he was studying and was expelled from school as well. (http://www.irqo.net/IRQO/English/news.htm)
A documentary called “Out in Iran” was broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Canada in February 2007. The documentary, which was filmed in Iran, provides the world’s first look at life inside Iran’s persecuted gay community. The director meets an astonishing group of courageous people with heartbreaking stories. One of these people is Hooman, a gay man who has been the victim of abuse, torture, rape and unlawful arrests. The Basiji forces have attacked him several times and have abused him physically and sexually. He has been warned not to inform the authorities, for this would only cause him to receive more severe punishments.
Before the release of the documentary “Out in Iran”, one of the young gay men interviewed in the documentary, named Mani, was forced to escape from the country. Mani’s employer at the pharmaceutical firm where he worked at found out that he was gay and that he had participated in the documentary and reported him to the police. The police recognized that Mani was the person who had recently done interviews with the BBC and CBC and raided his home to arrest him. Mani, however, was not home then. Recognizing the dangerous nature of the situation, Mani took refuge at a friend’s house temporarily and planned to leave the country immediately. His father ordered his bank account to be frozen in an attempt to prevent him from fleeing the country. Mani finally left Iran with our help. (http://www.irqo.net/IRQO/English/news.htm)
Since the documentary “Out in Iran” was broadcast in February 2007, we have received reports from Iran about the abuse and torture of at least one of the young gay men whose face was shown in the documentary. The young man, named Farzan, has been identified by the Basiji forces and has been repeatedly beaten and bullied by them. He has been threatened with more severe punishments if he decides to report his case. His family members have also become aware of his sexual orientation and have since put him under extraordinary pressure and restrictions. These incidents show the great political and social forces that are at work to keep Iranian queer people an invisible and oppressed population.
Hossein, 22, escaped from Iran to Canada in September 2006, where he has been languishing while awaiting official refugee status and the granting of asylum by Canadian government. He is a musician who used to perform at various celebrations, including weddings and parties. These gatherings were often raided, but usually the host would pay the authorities a bribe, and that would end the matter. He had his first relationship at age 12 with the son of a neighbor. It lasted two years. In September 2006, he was playing along with other musicians at a private gay party in a home. The party was raided, and the police attacked us viciously. One person was beaten so badly that Hossein later learned that he had died from it. He was beaten for ten minutes and lost consciousness for about 10 hours. He was later arrested while he was in hospital. Eventually his mother and a friend of him came to the hospital. The latter dressed in the uniform of a sergeant in the disciplinary forces and pretending to relieve the soldier who was guarding his room. He put on a hospital worker’s uniform and was able to escape. After he was smuggled into Canada, his family’s home was raided, and his mother and father arrested for three days on charges of helping him escape for being gay. His father was detained and tortured for a year and later died.
In November 2005, an 18-year-old boy from Agah Bisheh, a village in the province of Rasht, was set on fire by his father. Outraged and saddened with the news of his son’s homosexuality, the father first poured gasoline on his son and then on himself in order to save his family’s “honour.” While the 18-year-old boy died from severe burns, the father survived with burns on his hands and face. This is just one more example to show how, in Iran, the state, society and family are often united in creating an atmosphere of uncertainty, fear and danger for Iranian queers.
In March 2005, a gay man, named Sam, was arrested after he had been lured though online chat rooms to meet a man who had turned out to be a police agent. He was taken to a Basiji Base, and was severely beaten and tortured there. After several hours of physical and mental torture, he was asked to write an undertaking not to ever enter a chat room again lest he would be entitled to the most severe punishments. He was threatened with execution. While being beaten and whipped, he was forced into signing a form and putting his fingerprint on it. He was repeatedly insulted with foul words. After two nights, he was taken to a deserted area and was left alone there. He was saved by a van driver who took him to the city. Being fearful for his life and unable to tell his family members and friends about the incident, he left Iran for Pakistan immediately and applied for refugee status. (http://www.irqo.net/IRQO/English/news.htm)
In June 2004, undercover police agents in Shiraz arranged meetings with men through Internet chat rooms and then arrested them. Amir was again arrested and held in detention for a week. During this period, he was repeatedly tortured. The judicial authorities in Shiraz sentenced him to 175 lashes, 100 of which were administered immediately. Following his arrest, security officials subjected Amir to regular surveillance and periodic arrests. From July 2005 until he fled the country later in the year, police threatened Amir with imminent execution.(http://www.globalgayz.com/iran-news05.html#article12; http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/11/21/iran12072.htm; www.globalgayz.com/iran-news05.html#article13)
In September 2003, police arrested a group of men at a private gathering in one of their homes in Shiraz and held them in detention for several days. According to Amir, one of the men arrested, police tortured them to obtain confessions. The judiciary charged five of the defendants with “participation in a corrupt gathering” and fined them. (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/11/21/iran12072.htm)