Three LGBTI people living in Iran have revealed the horrors of living in a country where the punishment for being gay is death.
Suffering forced marriages, whippings, jail and dangerous ‘gay cure therapy’, these people have been punished for being who they are.
Forced marriage and 100 lashes
Maryam, at just 14 years old, was forcibly married to a relative by her family. At 20, she divorced, and after a year started a relationship with a woman named Sarah.
‘After awhile they decided to celebrate their love by arranging a symbolic secret wedding,’ a spokesperson for Iran LGBTI group Joopea told Gay Star News.
‘However, their wedding turned into the hell when a neighbor who knows about their love story threatened them to call the police and she said her plan to the action.
‘In the court, they received nine months jail, one hundred lashes which are the punishment of homosexual relationship for the women for the first time committing it.’
At court, Maryam’s father was told to beat and punish his own daughter for her ‘disobedience and dishonor’. The attack went on until she passed out.
While Maryam has fled Iran, using a friend’s passport, she is now trying to find a way to bring Sarah out of jail.
‘You get used to it when nothing is important anymore’
Forced marriages are very common for gay women, and women in general in Iran.
Arezoo, from Tehran, had booked a flight with her girlfriend to go live in Canada.
And when they were so close to living their dream, their families found out.
Now both are forced to marry men, and will suffer rape in these marriages.
When asked how she carries on in his situation, Arezoo answered: ‘You get used to it when nothing is important anymore.’
Attempting to ‘cure’ homosexuality in Iran
For a gay man like Pirooz, he prayed to Allah he would be ‘cured’ from his homosexuality.
And while his clerics said being gay was ‘forbidden and a great sin’, he was heartened by the positive depictions of LGBTI people online.
‘He believes if his family found out about his unacceptable sexual orientation, perhaps they would kick him out of their house and they will be extremely sad about this,’ the spokesperson added.
‘He has spoken with a psychiatrist who wants to cure him.
‘Despite all of the difficulty, he is standing on his belief on himself even though he knows all of fears and dangers he is facing every moment.’
Marching at Pride
These stories have come on the week of Rainbow Friday, and the announcement LGBTI Iranians will march at Amsterdam Pride.
While many will still wear masks at the heavily photographed event on 5 August, it will be a message to advocate for the fundamental rights of LGBTI people in one of the hardest places to be gay, bi or trans in the world.
JoopeA will be there in the Netherlands capital.
‘We, as an Iranian queer community out of Iran are going to come out of closet and prove that we are not ashamed of ourselves and we are proud of who we are,’ they said.