Iran Hopes

A Weblog on Iranian Affairs (Formerly Iran Votes 2005)

Friday, September 16, 2005

When I was a teenager, I had a friend called Shahram. He was a very nice and friendly boy. Everyone liked him. Wherever Shahram was, there was happiness. He would tell jokes, make fun of our neighbours to make us laugh. But his jokes were not like the types of jokes my other friends used to make.
When I left Iran, we somehow lost contact. I hadn't heard from him for a number of years until last week when I ran into one of our common friends. I asked him about Shahram. He said that I'd better not look for him anymore. 'He is not the same person he used to be', my friend said. When I insisted, he gave me his phone number. I was very happy that I eventually found Shahram. I called him. First he sounded very happy to hear me after such a long time. But as soon as I said to him that I wanted to see him, his tone changed. He tried to make excuses. But when I told him that I will not stay in Iran for long, he finally gave up and agreed that we meet somewhere.

We met in a cafe close to his place. My first impression was that he had changed a lot. He was not as cheerful as he used to be. In fact, he was not cheerful at all, although he said he was happy with his life. But I could notice that he was trying to hide something from me. I tried to extract that secret from him. He resisted, saying he was not willing to lose another friend. At last, he revealed the secret. He told me that he was gay and has suffered a lot because of this. His family had found about this and almost abandoned him. As he was saying these things, he fell into tears. Shahram said he had attempted suicide on a couple of occasions. I asked him whether he had considered leaving Iran. His responsed: "why should I leave the country I love, only because of my sexuality"? He also said that he had a boyfriend and neither of them would want to leave Iran. Shahram said he and his boyfriend had no problem in terms of hanging out in the city or travelling. That was no surprise to me though, given that in Iran it is much more difficult for heterosexuals to appear in public than for homosexuals. But what Shahram found unfair was that he could not live his life, express his emotions, etc. in the same way as others do. Then he asked me: "you are a lawyer, you tell me, why shouldn't we have equal rights as others do? [do other Iranians have rights?] Why should we be treated so differently? As if we are nothing else BUT pervert homosexuals?"

I know many like Shahram are suffering in Iran. Many are even forced to get married only to abandon their "pervert" behaviour. But I don't think Iranian society is prepared to approach homosexual rights now. Sexuality, both heterosexuality and homosexuality, is an absolute taboo. When husbands and wives cannot talk about their sexuality, and sexual need, when sexuality is completely absent from public (and private) attention, how can one expect a politician, an MP, a political figure venture into this? I don't know. All I could tell Shahram was that he and his boyfriend would have no future in Iran because the society is not yet ready to take them. Gay and lesbian rights are not a priority in Iran. There are 'more serious' issues than gay rights. Was I right? I'm not sure. All I know that Shahram, the cheerful teenager, has now turned into a depressed and anxious man.

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