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Thursday, 12 February 2009

Gay refugees safe in Toronto

Two Iranian lovers who claim they face death in their homeland because they're homosexuals touched down at Pearson airport last night after being granted refugee status in Canada.

Ali, 32, and Mohammad, 25, a student, arrived in Montreal after a long trip from India and then boarded another flight to Toronto, where they will be staying with friends.

Organizers, who were to meet the men at Pearson, didn't release their surnames yesterday to protect their family members in Iran.

"It took them three years to get here," said Arsham Parsi, of Iranian Queer Railroad, who helped bring the men here. "Canada is a gay-friendly country and they will be successful here."

Parsi said the men, who are both college educated, left Iran in 2005 because of their sexual orientation and made their way to New Delhi, India, where they sought and obtained help from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Parsi said it's against the law to practise homosexuality in Iran and the couple could be arrested and sentenced to death.

"Canada is a better environment and offers more support for these people," Parsi said. "Iran is not known as a gay-friendly country."

The men, in an interview with Parsi, said they couldn't wait to get to Canada -- and freedom.

"This news is a testament to what international community support can help achieve," he said, adding his group has asked supporters to e-mail their MPs.

The men said the UNHCR made an "urgent and high priority" plea for their resettlement at the Canadian embassy in New Delhi.

He said his organization has helped more than 60 gay Iranian refugees resettle in Canada, the U.S. and Australia.

"There are many more Iranian queer refugees who are still being processed," Parsi said.



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