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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Iran: homosexuals flee to Turkey, hoping to make it to the West
…The atmosphere has only gotten more tense since the arrival in power five years ago of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who famously proclaimed in a 2007 speech at Columbia University that there are no homosexuals in his country. An official memo sent to government departments last year called on employees to either marry or resign — a step seen as aimed at seeking to weed out homosexuals.

Alireza Naimian is one of the lucky ones. After 2 1/2 years in Turkey, he has won acceptance through the U.N. for resettlement in the United States. Sitting in his ground-floor apartment he describes the event that eventually led to his flight: One day in 2007, a group of paramilitary Basijis who noticed his long hair as he traveled in a cab in the northern Iranian town of Roodehen detained him, took him to his home and brutally raped him
...Many are placed by the Turkish government in Kayseri and nearby towns, where they form a precarious community, overshadowed by a larger influx of thousands of Iranians fleeing the political crackdown since June's disputed presidential election. In this conservative region of Turkey, they try to lay low, fearing harassment as they wait in hopes of resettlement.

"Police here tells us to stay indoors when we report violence against us," said Roodabeh Parvaresh, a 32-year-old lesbian who has been in Turkey for over two years.

...Another lesbian, Hengameh, who refused to give her full name to avoid publicity, said she was severely beaten by two Turkish youths soon after arriving in the country a year ago.

Still, Turkey provides an escape from their lives in Iran, where homosexuals can face threats from every direction -- from the state, from co-workers or security officials who harass them or try to blackmail them into sexual favors.

There is no authoritative figure for the homosexual population in Iran. However, recently published data based only on psychological reports of recruits for compulsory military service or for sex change operations put the number of gay men at 200,000 in a country of 66 million, Ghahraman said. Sex changes are legal in Iran, and many gays resort to them as the only way to live with their partners or avoid the harsh penalties.
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