Mehdi is terrified of returning to Iran | Photo: Courtesy of Carlo Rapisarda15 February 2019 15:12 GMTJoe Morgan
A gay 19-year-old is fighting for survival as he fears being executed in his home country of Iran.
Mehdi Shokr Khoda, who also identifies as Christian, is hoping he will be granted asylum in Sweden in his final appeal.
The final decision will be made in two weeks.
Terrified of being deported to Iran
‘I cannot live open as a gay in Iran,’ Mehdi told Gay Star News.
‘They won’t understand something about you. They will just kill you first.’
In his corner is his partner, 23-year-old Carlo Rapisarda – originally from Italy.
The two of them have been together close to a year.
Mehdi followed his transgender sister, who fled to Stockholm from Iran a few years ago. Because she was granted asylum, he traveled to Sweden in 2017 in the hopes he would be given the same protection.
Their parents are unaware of their two children’s true sexual or gender identity.
Finding love in Sweden
Mehdi met Carlo on Tinder in January last year. The two quickly fell for each other and moved in with each other after six months.
‘He understands me well. When we fight we are not fire with fire – we are fire with water,’ Mehdi added to GSN.
‘He’s so mature… This is the kind of thing I love about him so much.’
At the end of last year, the Migration Board rejected Mehdi’s application as they thought he was lying.
They appealed the decision and went to court at the end of January 2019. Carlo testified for their relationship.
‘They want evidence,’ Carlo said.
‘We live together, we love each other, we’ve known each other a long time. Isn’t that evidence enough?
‘There’s not a scientific way – you can’t hook him up to cables and check.’
The couple also got a letter from the Swedish Federation for LGBT rights. It said: ‘There’s no doubt. Medhi is gay and in need of protection. ‘
They were once again rejected saying Mehdi was unable to explain his coming out process.
Rejected on basis of lacking ‘nuance’
Sweden’s government questioned why Mehdi had only been baptised when he came to Stockholm. They also said the 19-year-old’s ‘thoughts and reflections’ on Christianity were lacking.
Mehdi said his faith is private, something he learned to do in Iran.
‘You’re either Muslim or you’re dead,’ Mehdi added.
The couple also blames their failure on a ‘terrible interpreter’.
But what the Swedish courts don’t understand, Mehdi says, is that he didn’t really have a coming out process.
He was bullied for speaking higher than other boys, a ‘gay voice’, from a young age.
At 15, a boy befriended him and gained his trust. But then the boy screen-shotted the chats they had and sent them around the school.
‘It was awful for me,’ Mehdi said, quietly.
Mehdi and Carlo have considered getting married. However, they’re in a Catch 22. To go through the normal route involves getting permission from Iran (not an option). But to get married also means Mehdi needs a resident’s card, something he can’t have without the Swedish government’s permission.
Slim chance at survival
If the asylum appeal fails, Mehdi will have two weeks to leave the country.
If he is deported, his life is in immediate danger.
‘[Officers] will absolutely figure it out,’ he said. ‘They’ll ask questions.
‘If they find out I’m Christian or I’m gay or I tried to seek asylum, they will not understand that.
‘They will execute me.’
There is still a slim chance Mehdi and Carlo will win their court battle. Thousands have already been raised on their Go Fund Me page.
And if they do win, they’ll be able to start their lives together. Mehdi will be able to finish school, get a job, and start a life where he’s free to do so.
‘I would like to be a pharmacist – make medicine – make people better,’ he said.
And while Carlo is a Master’s student at a technical university, he’s willing to drop it all to follow his partner.
He said: ‘If he has to go to another country, I will follow him.’