A young gay Iranian in his mid-twenties is living under the threat of being deported from the United Kingdom back to Iran. Four years ago he escaped from his native country after coming within seconds of being caught by the Basij police who raided his boyfriend’s house while he was there.
He spoke to UK Gay News under conditions of strict anonymity.
The man – we will call him Ramin – now lives in England and is in fear of the British immigration system returning him to Iran where he could face imprisonment, or even execution.
Ramin is not an illegal immigrant. He is in the United Kingdom as an asylum seeker whose complex case is still “under consideration”.
But there is still the fear of deportation.
He realised he was gay at the age of 11 and admitted that, as a boy, he was “caught” with boyfriends in his early years.
ESCAPE FROM IRAN
Ramin was at his boyfriend’s house in 2001. At the time, he was a student in college.
The Basij police, the so-called “religious” police force founded 26 years ago by Ayatollah Khomeini, arrived at the house – in plain clothes. They knew that Ramin was gay. The Basji enforce the Iran’s strict Islamic codes.
“They are the worst kind of police,” he said. “I was so scared, and knew I had to do something very fast.”
Ramin literally fled for his life, escaping over the rooftops and going to a sympathetic uncle.
He could not go to his immediate family. “They might have tried to kill me if they knew I was gay,” he admitted.
One of the problems was that, as is traditional in Iran, Ramin had become engaged at birth to an Iranian girl – a distant relative – who was born on the same day.
“We were exactly the same age, we grew up together, went to the same school – she was my best friend. As I gay man, I didn’t want to let her down.”
Ramin journeyed secretly to the north west of Iran and then set off on a 3-day hike over the mountains and across the border into Turkey.
“I knew that I could not stay in Turkey as there is homophobia there as well,” he said. So he traveled to Istanbul where he planned his escape into a European Union country.
He stowed away with three others on a lorry carrying farm machinery, the driver not knowing of their presence. And for three long days he endured a journey to an unknown destination.
It was winter. It was cold
ARRIVAL IN ENGLAND
“I asked myself at the time if it was all worth it,” he said. “There was one period on the journey when I went about 18 hours without food or water – and it was so cold.”
After three days, the lorry reached it destination. Ramin got off and found himself in Dover. He was spotted by a security guard and hand over to the British authorities.
He was treated well by British immigration, he said. “I did not speak English then. Through an interpreter, I applied for political asylum.
“They were very friendly and I was sent to a hostel for a good night’s sleep – and some food,” he said. “And in the hostel, I was treated very well.”
Ramin was allowed to stay in the short term. After two months, he was called to the Home Office immigration facility in Croydon.
“Although it was very busy there, they did try to help me,” he recalled. “I was interviewed and asked how I managed to get out of Iran and to England.
“It was at this interview I told them I was gay.”
The interviewing officer was a Muslim woman. “She told me that there was not enough evidence,” Ramin said.
“She just didn’t believe me – there is not enough evidence,” he repeated.
He was expecting the worse. And sure enough a letter from the Home Office arrived. It refused him asylum.
Then came the appeal procedure. And Ramin was allocated a solicitor who he said “was not very good”.
“I was not even told that I had a tribunal appeal, so I missed that. And when I questioned the solicitor, I was told that they were sorry, but they forgot to tell me.”
A year after his arrival in the United Kingdom came Ramin’s one and only day in court.
“Again, I was disappointed with my legal representation. It was as though they had little time for my case,” he said.
In an ironic twist to Ramin’s story, he got involved with an Iranian Christian organisation.
“They told me that I could be cured of being gay and they promised me that if I went along with them, I would be able to stay in England,” he said.
He admitted that he was confused. “I was desperate for help,” he said.
“Even this Christian group failed to turn up in court.”
The judge postponed the court hearing for a month. But when the case was resumed, there was no help for Ramin. The judge found for the Home Office and not long after came the letter saying he was going to be deported.
Up to then, Ramin had not made contact with the gay community. But he then started getting contacts.
“To be honest, I thought that I would be let down by them as well,” he said.
Ramin was proved to be wrong. Two years ago, he met “Bill” – again, not his real name. It was not long before the couple became partners.
Through the gay community, Ramin met an immigration advisor. The result now is that his case is “under investigation”.
Even so, Ramin fears a knock on the door – or a letter arriving.
“I love my country, but not the political system,” he said. “If there wasn’t a problem of me being gay, I would never have left.”
He is well aware of reports from Iran in the past year of hangings of gays in Iran.
“Yes, it goes on,” he insisted. “The religious courts do execute men and women because they are gay. The Basij see to that.”
For now, Ramin and Bill live together happily in suburbia, and are about to celebrate two years together as partners.
That, they both consider, should be enough evidence for the Home Office.