29/11/2008 | Writer: KAOS GL

November 28, 2008
Hurriyet Newspaper

ISTANBUL - Gays, lesbians and transsexuals suffer discrimination throughout the world, but in Iran, the difficulties are compounded by the government

"There are no gays in Iran" was the statement made in New York last year by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in response to a question on the difficulties gays faced in Iran. It was met with incredulous smiles from the American audience he was addressing, but certainly could not have been more hurtful to the gays of his country.

Aside from negative social reactions toward people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, the Islamic government of Iran recognizes homosexual intercourse as a "crime," penalized, at worst with the death penalty, at best a whipping.

This is why Iranian LGBTs, like many other oppressed groups, are looking for ways to flee their home country and many use Turkey as a temporary stop, until their asylum applications elsewhere are approved.

Arsham Parsi, an Iranian gay rights activist and founder of the Canada-based organization "Iranian Queer Railroad," tries to help asylum-seeking Iranian LGBTs during the lengthy and often painful asylum process. As he was a refugee himself in the past, Parsi knows personally the difficulties Iranian homosexuals endure while trying to escape, having experienced it first hand on his own "trip" from Iran to Canada, through Turkey.

The name of his organization is inspired from "The Underground Railroad," which was an informal network of secret routes and safe houses for black slaves, who wanted to flee the southern United States in the 19th century.

"In 2001, two of my gay friends committed suicide, as their families found out about their sexual orientation. I decided then to found an organization for LGBTs." Parsi told H
Tags: human rights