In this issue we had an interview with Sepehr (Morteza) Masakeni, political, student and also homosexual activist in Iran. Mr. Masakeni is studying sociology at Tehran University. One of his article’s with the name of “the body of Kooier will raise” was published in the previous issue. In this occasion and considering the recent crises in Iran was a good reason to have an interview with him.
Cheragh: To begin, would you please tell our readers about your activities, publication and writings?
Sepehr Masakeni: I’m studying sociology at Tehran University and during this time I have been the director and chief editor of student’s publications “Cheraghzanboori” and “Rooze Davari” in the field of social studies, political and cultural. I’m also a web blogger. My weblogs with the title of “Man va digari” and “Harzebafhaye Roozmare” are accessible for my readers. My articles have been published on “Azadi-Barabari” website along with Cheragh magazine. I’ve also worked with Anjiavi “Kar Koodak” and student rights at universities.
Cheragh: Since you are homosexual activist and currently live in Iran, we would like to hear about social situation of homosexuals and their activities, especially during the recent incidents in Iran.
Sepehr Masakeni: The truth is that Iranian homosexual in Iran in addition to legal and religious problems and difficulties; have to deal with other issues and barriers. One of the major issues, which make them hide and live an invisible life, is social, religious and family barriers. During and post election crisis, we witnessed that homosexuals like any other suppressed groups had some demands, such as the publication of a homosexual student letter, a letter to demand citizen social rights, which was a reaction to publication of citizen rights by one of the presidential candidates. They marched to the streets along with other protestors, were arrested and tortured. Sadly in Iran we face extensive homophobia which even exists among the intellectual class. The existence of homosexuals remains ambiguous, and we don’t talk or write about them. In fact, what happened was a beginning for a new movement. Despite all the tires and budget spent by government and social and family ignorance in this matter; for the first time we witnessed the homosexuals came to the streets, wrote letters, voiced their demands, arrested and were tortured. This is a hopeful beginning despite all the pressure and danger to these people.
Cheragh: What do you think the student homosexual groups are facing in work fields in future? What do they need to focus and more, which have been considered by other homosexual groups?
Sepehr Masakeni: Considering the suffocation and repression atmosphere of Universities and Iranian society; it’s obvious that homosexual students have to face difficulties 100% more than other groups. In this situation, we witness how the homosexual students in the sidelines of staying safe in terms of what government repression and social taboos even inside of universities; have to continue to their activities figuratively, which in this situation is absolutely logical and natural. I believe that a good event has occurred, for the first time these students are announcing that up to this day we’ve been active and have paid the price, but none of our demands have been considered. This time we want to raise our colorful flag!
But points which must not be neglected are the theoretical shape of these demands; use of new ideas brought up in western academic environments and pressures to discuss these scientific ideas at least in humanities atmospheres. However, not much can be expected considering the recent situation and the attempts to eliminate humanities and replacing it by Islamic studies. I believe in such situation the first step students must take is to contact one another and create supportive rings, but in very safe and considerable manner.
Cheragh: Now the question is raised that to obtaining citizenship rights for homosexuals in Iran, what strategies should take place?
Sepehr Masakeni: My reasonable or unreasonable critic of homosexual activists is their low sensitivity to issues other than homosexual’s suppression. In fact, in order to be relief from multiple suppression (multiple because in addition to lack of freedom like other classes in society, they face extended homophobia), they must stand by other groups; religious minorities, women's movement, student movement, and other liberal groups. That means, for obtaining citizenship rights, instead of focusing on their issues they must focus on the bigger picture, which is to overthrow the fascism government of Iran. I believe, obtaining citizenship rights is the first step to freedom of sexual suppression and not the end of it and therefore, they must not only insists on specific issue. To destroy such extensive homophobia, fight must continue in living, literature, theater, music level and etc. As I always have doubts how to separate homosexuals from non homosexuals, in this fight we must be careful and not create and reproduce separation in a different way. Obtaining political identity is a beginning in which we must be careful to not create these issues and oppress others in a different way. In Iran for example, we have women lesbians and gay workers, which a side from homosexual oppression have to deal with women and worker class oppression.
Cheragh: You mentioned a creation of united chain against social oppression. Are suppressed groups such as women, workers and students have the same point of views? What I want to ask is, considering the extensive homophobia and sexual cliché you mentioned; are they (women, workers ...) ready to stand by the homosexuals?
Sepehr Masakeni: You bring up a good point. I would like to have a critic or a suggestion to sexual human right activists. What I witnessed during this time was removal or not considering oppress on lesbian/homosexual women by homosexual organizations. In another word, it seems like the dark shadow of patriarchal still exist even among the homosexuals. On the other hand, you can criticize women, left and worker activist of the same fact. For instance, in million signature campaign and worker activist’s discussions we don’t hear bout the multiple suppression on lesbian women, like homosexual worker doesn’t exist! This means we can talk about this chain once the homosexual movements have reached some sort of radicalism. It is obvious that we can’t expect student groups such as the organization of Tahkime Vahdat and also the one million signature campaign with such liberal attitudes that sometimes can be considered as part of Islamic Republic reformists to accept homosexuals. To tie all these to the big picture, we must look for a radical movement which could end in freedom and equality.
Cheragh: What is your future work vision in Iran’s homosexual field? And how possible you think it is to continue with these types of activities considering current situation in Iran? Also we would like to know about your programs and activities in the near future.
Sepehr Masakeni: To quote one of my dear teachers, artists are those who make their personal issue the first and most important one. And to quote Max Webber; to do scientific work you must be angry, and to control anger do scientific work. I also believe we all have to try hard to reveal different type of suppression bring upon us. Being active in Iran in social and political atmosphere can be difficult or even impossible. We can only be hopeful in small daily and personal activities in small atmosphere and until the further notice as you are also aware the core activities are being handled by our friends out side of Iran, which are playing a major role in this situation. We must thank them and get in touch with them. About my future plans and programs, I’m currently researching the homosexual’s oppression and those struggling due to bad economical situation. I’m also documenting the living of Iranian homosexuals.
Cheragh: What kind of future Sepehr Masakeni will have in Iran? Sepehr Masakeni who is student and homosexual activist and has closely touched the barriers and restrictions of being a minority?
Sepehr Masakeni: Optimistically, however; you can’t be optimistic during this massacre, hearing and raising the suffocated voice of thousands of homosexuals. And the cynical of it, or maybe I should say the reality of is, joining the suffocated voices of freedom and equality. Obviously those decide to become and activities in these fields knows he/she has stepped in a dangers filed. As a student and homosexual activist in Iran, I’m not exempt of this fact and I’m aware of my difficult and dangerous future.
Long live freedom and equality