Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Iranian: 'I won't apply for asylum, I'm scared they'll send me back'


Source: Guardian Weekly

By Rowenna Davis

As a gay man in Iran Amir, 27, was cast out of society for perceived wrongs against his religion. He was arrested by Hizbollah, thrown into jail and sentenced to 90 lashes. But when he narrowly escaped execution he fled from Tehran to seek refuge in a foreign country. He has been in London for four years but refuses to apply for asylum out of fear of being sent back to Iran

When I was 13 I had a boyfriend in school. My religious teacher found out about us. It was obvious, we were always together laughing all the time, and we shared everything. They gave us a caution to separate, and said that if we didn’t we’d get in trouble with the law that opposes gay people. We didn’t listen and we carried on the relationship. It lasted two or three years: we were in love.

Because I didn’t listen to the cautions they took me into one of the classrooms and slashed me, and pulled my finger joints until they dislocated them. They talked to my boyfriend’s parents and said that what we were doing was wrong and against our religion. My boyfriend’s parents mentioned it to my parents. I saw in their faces that their attitude towards me had changed. Their behaviour changed – they put my bed in the basement. I didn’t belong to that family anymore.

My boyfriend and I were chucked out of school, and my boyfriend’s parents moved with him out of Tehran – they knew they’d have big problems if they stayed. I never saw him again. After a few years he phoned me. It was really hard to hear from him because we’d had such good times together. He said that he was always thinking about me. He said that he was still gay and we were in this together. "You can’t change yourself," he said.

After I was chucked out of school I started to have a different life. I met up with an older guy regularly, but he had a drinking problem. I started to drink too, and take tablets. I was lost and didn’t have anything else. I was treated badly by my family. My brothers and sisters hated to see their brother was gay – they looked at me with a different mentality. We were a very religious family.

One night I was on my way back to my basement after I’d been out with this guy and I was stopped by Hizbollah. (They patrol the streets looking for people who are taking drugs.) They could smell alcohol on me so they took me away and detained me for three days.

I went to court, and the judges were Mullahs. They sat there in their turbans and asked me if I knew it was against our religion to drink. I said I did. They checked my records from school and saw I’d been with a boy for a long time. They told me they were going to give me 90 lashes. I was crying and calling for my mum the whole time. I couldn’t sleep on my back for months.

I started working with my father because I’d been chucked out of school – he’s in contracting construction. I knew he didn’t want me any more but my mother told him to take me into the company. I worked with him for almost two years.

During that time I was with a guy in secret. I knew if I got caught by Hizbollah or the police again I’d be in real trouble. Then one night, on my way back home, it happened. I was caught and they put me in a cell. I knew the prosecution was final – that this was the ultimate treatment. I thought they were going to execute me – I was crying in that cell.

I called my parents, and after two days I saw my father in the corridor. "We can go home," he said. I asked how, and he said that we had a powerful neighbour and he’d paid him a lot of money. When I got home my mum said that I had to get ready to leave. I started to call my friends in London. My mother gave me money for a dodgy passport and transport.

European rules state that you have to make your asylum claim in the first country you come to. For me that was Greece. I arrived with four other Iranians who I met in Turkey – I never asked them about their problems. They arrested us and kept us in a detention centre for three months.

When they started deporting my friends after two and a half months I was scared. I didn’t have a passport, and I knew that if I was sent back to Iran I’d be put in the military. Eventually I got the detention centre to release me. I was allowed to live in Greece for a few months on a red paper, but I had no friends. I had a friend in London; he told me to come to England where it was safer, where I could be openly gay.

So I travelled by lorry and then by a big ship to Italy; from there I went to France and then London. At one point on the journey I heard I might be sent back to Greece. I was so scared about that. I’m ashamed to say it, but I was raped in the detention centre there. He was an asylum seeker too, straight, and much bigger than me. But when I told the guards they told me to keep quiet. It was a very bad experience.

I’ve been here in the UK for nearly four years and I’ve not even registered with the Home Office. No one knows I’m here. I’m just an illegal immigrant. I don’t apply for asylum because I’m scared of being sent back to Greece or Iran.

When I first arrived my friend let me stay with him for a while, but then he said that his flatmate wouldn’t like it if I stayed longer. After that I slept at the construction site where I was working.

After two or three months I made a bit of money and things got better. I met a boy here, he’s English and we’ve been together for three years. I met him at a party and we fell in love and tried to have something of a normal life – but things are so difficult. I have no education, job, doctor or dentist. When you don’t have anything you don’t have a plan for life. You become isolated.

I’m happy with my partner but I’m fed up with life. I hate myself first of all. I'm slowly despairing of the lifestyle I am forced to live due to my illegal status in England. And I hate my country. I don’t see any future – I don’t have one. I can’t even think about it. Since I was 15 I’ve been imprisoned or tortured, or running.

I want to have a normal life. I would like to do some voluntary work and help people who are in the same situation as me. I just want that feeling of being alive back. I don’t know how life feels and I want to find out. This is just the short story – it is cut really short. But I don’t know how to say the rest.


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