A gay Iranian rape survivor has explained why regressive laws – and the threat of being outed – stopped him from reporting his attacker.
Saeed, a 20-year-old based in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Khuzestan, gave a harrowing account of what it means to be gay in Iran today to the IranWire.
To be gay in Iran, Saeed said, is to exist quietly. Sexual activity between two people of the same sex is illegal and punishable by death, prison, lashings and fines – such penalties mean queer rape survivors like Saeed must remain silent, or else.
Saeed met his rapist at a café. Earlier that day, he had taken driving lessons. It was just like any other day as he struck up a conversation with the only barista.
“At first, I liked him and we enjoyed a friendly chat,” he recalled. “I saw him a few more times there. We became more intimate. We talked more and more and I told him about my sexual orientation.”
But Saeed later learned that the man only sought out a friendship with him to get closer to his female friends. Then, he got a text message from him at midnight “a few weeks ago”.
“I have regretted looking at his message and messaging back,” he said. “I wish I had never done it.
Gay rape survivor ‘didn’t know LGBT+ community was a thing’ in Iran
“He attacked me,” he added, having been made to go with the man to a friend’s house or else be outed to his friends and family. “It didn’t matter to him that I was a human being. It didn’t matter to him that I was in pain.
“He was brutal. The worst part was when he whispered in my ear, cursing me, and my mother and my sister. I couldn’t defend myself or resist.”
And capturing what it means to be gay in the west Asian country – of secrecy and difficult decisions – Saeed said he couldn’t report the rape to the police. If he did, he explained, he would be prosecuted.
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Alireza Fazeli Monfared was the same age as Saeed. He had been planning to flee Iran and join his boyfriend as a refugee in Turkey before he was brutally beheaded by his own brothers earlier this year.
Neither Monfared or Saeed are alone. A report compiled by 6rang, otherwise known as The Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network, last year found that six in 10 LGBT+ Iranians have been assaulted by family members.
“I didn’t know there was such a thing as an LGBTQ community and that my sexual orientation is a natural thing,” Saeed continued.
“I thought I was alone, and based on what I heard from religious people at school, I thought it was a disease that needed to be cured.”
It was only at aged 16 that Saeed realised he was “normal”.
“It’s my misfortune,” he explained, “that I was born in a homophobic country and am deprived of many experiences the LGBT+ community enjoys in free countries.”