By Arsham Parsi, Executive Director, IRanian Queer Railroad (IRQR)
Earlier today, we received a message from Switzerland asking us to call the number of a public phone booth in order to talk with an Iranian refugee who does not have any money and needs our support. His name is Ali and he’s a 33 year-old man from Qom, the central city of Islamic clergies in Iran. He arrived in Switzerland just yesterday and claimed refugee status based on the well-established persecution of Iranians who have a homosexual orientation. Ali needs our urgent support.
I spoke to Ali for about 20 minutes to find out more about his situation and why he was forced to flee. When he was only one year old, his parents left him on a street and he grew up in a public orphanage. When he was 15, Ali realized his true sexual orientation following a relationship with one of his friends at the orphanage. It was very difficult for him to live in Qom as a gay man because he felt guilty due to his “immoral behavior”, according to Islamic law, and he feared persecution and death (the proscribed punishment).
Ali’s situation became worse when he was arrested by the authorities after they received a report from one of his neighbors who had spied on him while he was engaged in sex, with his boyfriend, in his private home. He was eventually released from detention centre on bail and Ali was asked to appear before the moral court of Qom.
“I was scared to death because I knew they would kill me. Not only did they already have witnesses but also, they kept my boyfriend in Langroud prison in Qom where he confessed that he had sex with me. He might have confessed due to their torture because I know what they do,” Ali said in our phone conversation.
He fled Iran for Switzerland with the help of a passer-by in order to save his own life and have his basic rights protected. Ali told me that: “I can never go back to Iran because I do not want to be executed. I did not do anything wrong and I wonder how come I do not have the right to privacy?”
He is in very difficult financial situation and needs our help. It is challenging to keep in touch with him because he tells us: “I do not have any money to go to the internet café because it costs 7 Swiss Franks per hour (about $6.50 USD). I only had 150 Euros on me (approx. $214 USD) when I arrived here. I needed to use this for my shelter and food.” We encouraged Ali to fill out the IRQR’s online refugee application on our website.
We immediately sent him $200 so he could buy food and other daily expenses during his first few days in exile. But Ali needs further financial support so we turn to all of our supporters and sponsors who wish to help him out in these very difficult circumstances. You can make a donation through our secure PayPal at www.irqr.net
In last two weeks, the IRQR has spent $795 in financial assistance to help refugees in Turkey and in Europe. Mohsen is one of them. He spent a few nights sleeping outside, next to the Mediterranean Sea in Cyprus -- not at all in a romantic setting! Homeless, he was forced into this situation when he could not pay his rent. The IRQR is working with more than 200 refugees and providing financial support as well as legal support so they can be granted refugee status and live freely.
The IRQR’s financial resources are very limited. Without generous support from you and others, our ability to help refugees is limited. We need your donations to continue helping Iranian refugees, especially Ali in Switzerland who is in urgent need.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions. Thank you in advance for your donation. All amounts are welcome, even small donations of whatever you can afford.
IRanian Queer Railroad - IRQR
www . irqr . net
info @ irqr . net
414-477 Sherbourne St.
Toronto, On - M4X 1K5