Colman Domingo
Subscribe To
The Advocate
Scroll To Top

A tale of
persecution in Iran

A tale of
            persecution in Iran

In this
international exclusive, a lesbian victim of torture in the
Islamic Republic of Iran speaks on the record for the first
time about the horrors she suffered at the hands of a
regime that has made homosexuality illegal and
punishable by death. Maryam, 25, was expelled from
school, forcibly hospitalized, arrested, and tortured for
being a lesbian before finally escaping Iran. She
eventually wound up in France, where she currently
lives in an internment camp. Although she's filed an
application for asylum as a sexual refugee, given the
conservative French government’s new crackdown
on illegal immigrants, Maryam could be deported back
to Iran at any moment. “I don’t know what I
will do if the French government sends me back to
where my execution pillar is awaiting me!” she
says. Doug Ireland spoke to her by phone, aided by a Persian
translator, from Paris, where she had traveled for a day to
file documents for her asylum request. Here, in her
own words, is Maryam’s story.

“I was
born in 1981, a child of the Islamic Republic. When I was 16
and in high school (I studied literature and science),
I had a classmate named Azi who later became my
girlfriend. We were always together. She would lay her
head on my shoulders, touching my hands and my body. With
these tender acts the love grew between us. We later shared
our feelings and emotions, until it was unbearable for
us to separate from each other. The only pleasurable
time we had was in school, because we couldn’t see
each other anywhere else. Our dream was to rent an apartment
and live together.

“One day
Azi and I were studying for final exams in her house, and we
felt enormous desire for each other. We forgot that the
house door was unlocked. Azi’s parents came in
unexpectedly and found us naked in each other’s
arms. The first thing they did was to inform my mother, then
the school authorities. My mother was furious and told
me, ‘You brought me shame and disgrace. Why
don’t you wait to find a good husband and marry?
Why are doing such blasphemy?’

school authorities gave us a very hard time. They
interrogated us and accused us of an illegitimate act
against Islamic laws, against Sharia law. Then they
expelled us. We each received an official letter from
the Ministry of Education in Tehran indicating that because
of our unlawful act against Sharia law, we were
prohibited from being registered in any other school
in the country.

“Azi and I
were jobless for one year. We couldn’t even register
at night schools. After a year I found a secretarial
job in a commercial company. Later, I recommended Azi
for work at the same company. Now we were together

“One day
we went to the restroom together, kissing each other in a
secluded place, unaware that we were seen by someone who
reported us to the company’s ‘Office of
Guiding’ [run under clerical supervision]. Azi
was so afraid she resigned her job immediately, but I stood
strongly on my feet and answered their questions. They
accused me of having psychological problems and said
that my behavior with Azi was a sign of a mental
disturbance or insanity. They gave me a three-month leave of
absence to be under the treatment of doctors. They ordered
me to be hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic for two
weeks. Each night I had to take a handful of tiny
pills, and then I would become unconscious, and
wasn’t able to recognize anything around me! After a
while they convinced me that I was sick and had
psychological problems.

passed, and I went back to work. But I felt worse—the
hospitalization had made me crazy. Finally, a sympathetic
doctor diagnosed that I’m homosexual and told
me that I don’t have any mental health
problems. He emphasized that I should return home
immediately, but the Office of Guiding did not agreed
with his diagnosis.

“At work,
one of the officials of the Office of Guiding asked me,
‘Do you see any changes in you?’ I
answered, ‘No, I’m the same one as I’ve
been before.’ He said, ‘Don’t you
want to be a real human like others?‘ I said,
‘I was a real human before!’

“I was
fired the same day. When I left work, two men came out of a
car and politely asked, ‘May we talk to you for
a moment?’ ‘Sure,’ I said. They
led me to the car, in which were sitting two more men. They
blindfolded me, and I was driven in the car for 45 minutes.
They took me to an old building, leading me by taking
my sleeves (because they shouldn’t touch my
body), then they took me to a room and took off the
blindfold. I opened my eyes—now I could see the two
men, who were aged 40 to 50.

must know who you are!’ I said. But instead of
answering, they cursed me and spat in my face and
said, ‘You’re a filthy, disgraced, shameless
pagan.’ Through the door, I could hear men screaming
who were under torture.

“One of
the men burned my legs with a cigarette. I screamed, and
they cursed me. I spent four days in this prison in a
dark room with a single bed and cockroaches. They took
me to the bathroom only once a day and did not allow
me to call my mother. During the four days they tried to
‘treat’ my ‘sickness’ with
verses of the Koran. I was hopeless and in despair. I
was only 19. After four days they forced me to confess: They
dictated to me a statement saying I’d committed a
blasphemy and wouldn’t do it anymore. I was so
afraid, I signed it. Then I was released but remained
under police supervision.

“They took
my file to the health branch of the University of Shahid
Beheshti and assigned me to two women psychologists who
‘treated’ me for six months. They tried
to convince me that I was falsely inculcating myself
with the notion that my attraction is only to females. At
the end of this ‘treatment,’ they
offered to change my sexuality through surgery, and
later ordered me to have it. ‘No,’ I said.
‘I’m Maryam, a girl, and I do not want
to be a man!' The female doctor told me, ‘If you
don’t change your sexuality and
you continue unlawful acts, your future will be a
death sentence.’

“Six more
months passed, and I was still under the control and
supervision of the Ministry of Intelligence. I lost my
desire to continue living, as life had no meaning to
me anymore, and I wanted to commit suicide, because I
had no hope. I was rejected and banished from society.
I took a handful of tranquilizers to end my life. I was
almost unconscious when I heard my mother’s
screaming, while she took me to the hospital. After my
mother saved me, I decided to leave the country. I
found a smuggler who helped me to go to Turkey.

“I had
been saving my money since I had worked in that business
company. My mother also helped me financially. I was
21 years old when I left the country by bus two years
ago. After two days I was in Turkey. The smugglers
stole my passport. From Turkey I went to Greece, then
Bulgaria. I had to change vehicles several times, from
cars to trucks. And I had to hide in the back of the
vehicles. At borders I had to be silent. I finally
arrived in France, where I was left in the small city of
Alençon, about 100 miles west of Paris.

“I spent
the first night in a telephone cabin, then the next day I
presented myself at a police station. The French police
treated me very nicely. But then they put me in an
internment camp, where I now live. We are given a
subsistence income of 300 euros each month. I have to extend
my temporary resident card every three months. But
I’m afraid that I’ll be refused asylum
and deported.

situation for gays and lesbians in Iran is not good. They
can’t live the way they want to and have no
rights. The government tells us that execution is the
homosexual’s destiny. And lesbians have to be stoned
to death. [Iranian president] Ahmadinejad’s
government is much worse than the preceding one. If
I'm forced to go back to Iran, I’ll definitely be

Tags: World, World

From our Sponsors