Iranian transgendered people are not immune from torture and persecution even when they change their sexuality. Like their gay and lesbian friends, they are always in danger of getting beaten and arrested by Basiji forces. Basiji forces are not required to show their identification, and cannot be held accountable for their actions against transgenders. Transgendered people are also the targets of special police forces. Even when special police forces do not have specific orders to arrest transgendered people, they can easily fabricate a reason and form a criminal file on them.
Once the Basiji create a criminal file for a person, they can take him/her to Mafased, the organization responsible for dealing with moral “corruption,” which could imprison him/her for days and subject him/her to physical and psychological torture. Then, they can prolong his/her arrest and torture by sending him/her to court. At this point, it is the judge who arbitrarily decides whether to set the person free or not. The court process is by itself a horrifying and tormenting process as one needs to bear the judges’ and officers’ sexist, brutal and demoralizing words and acts.
Sayeh is one of the many Iranian transgendered people who have experienced the government’s arrests and torture. He was arrested three times by Basiji forces and experienced humiliation and abuse at their hands. Basiji forces pushed him into a black car, bombarded him with demoralizing and dehumanizing words and took him to a detention centre. At the detention centre, he was repeatedly humiliated and mocked by the detainees and guards. After two days of psychological torture, he was forced to sign papers guaranteeing not to appear in public anymore with the “transgender” attire and appearance he had at the time of his arrest. These events all happened even though he was just wearing a simple shirt and pants at the time of his arrest. Sayeh fled Iran to Turkey and was granted asylum status by the UNHCR in Ankara. He left Turkey for Canada in 2007. Unfortunately, after a year of living in Toronto, he reportedly committed suicide due to serious problems related to his sexuality. The police did not disclose much detail on the mysterious circumstances of Sayeh’s death. It is not certain whether he committed suicide or had been killed and became another victim of homophobia.
Most transgendered individuals cannot get jobs in Iran until they go through a sex-change operation and receive a new identification card. However, most transgendered people lack the financial means for a sex-change operation. Consequently, many of them turn to prostitution in order to earn money for the sex reassignment procedure. Prostitution brings with it, however, all types of risks and dangers from sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection to abuse, rape and murder.
The actual process of sex-change operation is not without problems either. Doctors often perform these operations haphazardly and ignoring the distinct emotional, psychological and physical conditions of the individual patient. They often perform such operations improperly and incompletely, leaving a majority of post-operation transsexuals unhealthy and sick after. Often, individuals do not receive proper, if any, counseling sessions before or after the operation. As a result, many experience depression and suicidal thoughts after the surgical procedure.
A significant number of individuals go through the operation only to realize afterwards that they may not even be transsexual. The pressure to conform to the rigid conventional gender dichotomy is so high that some of these people decide, out of desperation, to go through the surgery, only to realize that their situation has become even worse.
Those individuals who receive psychotherapy are sometimes assaulted and abused by their therapists. There have been incidents where therapists tell their patients to have sex with them if they want to prove that they have feminine emotions. There have been other incidents where transsexuals have been raped by their surgeons. Surgeons are aware that their transsexual patients do not often have financial and/or family support that they commit the sexual violence without fear of any sanction. Often, victims cannot file a complaint with the police as police themselves commit the same sort of acts all the time.
In February 2007, a 40-year-old transgendered man from the neighbourhood of "Sheikhtappeh" in the city of Orumieh, Azerbaijan, was found murdered. The transgendered man, who was known as "Giz Naser" (meaning Naser the girl) in his neighborhood, was attacked and murdered by three men. The three men broke into Naser’s house, initially strangled him with a telephone wire and then stabbed him to death. IRQR has been unable so far to acquire more information about this case.
Iranian transsexuals experience humiliation, assault, and various forms of abuses, and sometimes even death, not only from the hands of government agents, but also from friends, neighbours and family members.
Holiya is a 24-year-old Iranian male-to-female transgendered person. In 2006, she left Iran for Turkey because of her sexual orientation and gender identity. Holiya is from one of Iran’s wealthier families but unfortunately experienced severe difficulties when her family found out about her sexuality. Her family found it hard to accept the fact their son was a transgendered woman. Holiya’s family repeatedly said she brought shame onto their honour. Eventually, they stopped financially supporting her and Holiya had no choice but to leave home.
While Holiya was in Turkey seeking asylum, she worked illegally at night in order to afford basic life expenses. The IRQR often sent her money through the organization’s Refugee Financial Assistance fund. Holiya applied at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ankara. When she was granted refugee status, the UNHCR referred her case to the American embassy. In May 2008, after 14 months of living in such a difficult situation, she finally left Turkey and arrived in the United States. Holiya is now living in Portland, Oregon, but she is not yet secure. Holiya continues to wear men’s clothes because she hasn’t come out and told people she is a male to female transgendered person. She fears people’s reactions because she used to live in Iran where she had to hide everything.