Wednesday, 25 January 2012

"Ich bin ein Niemand" ["I'm a nobody"]: Gay Iranian refused German asylum

Sepehr Nazari
Source: Frankfurter Rundschau (via Google translate)

By Von Marian Brehmer

Sepehr Nazari is gay and comes from Iran. Where gays are executed when they are discovered. Nazari took refuge in Germany, presented an application for asylum, and learned that he is not welcome here.

Sepehr Nazari, 25 years old, would like to start a new life without fear. But it's not that simple.

In Iran, the country Sepehr Nazari comes from, men like him do not exist. At least, says the  Iranian president,Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When asked in 2007 during a visit to New York's Columbia University about homosexuality in Iran, he shrugged his shoulders. He did not know what was the question. There are gays in America perhaps, but not in Iran.

The country Nazari talks of seems to be another one to Ahmadinejad's. He knew many gay men in Iran. He tells of secret hangouts and gay cafes, five queer identified online newspapers he has written for. At an international Online Dating Service for homosexuals were just in his home city of Tehran thousands of gays with profiles - more than in Berlin, he says.

Being gay in Iran is dangerous. The article 110 of the "hadd punishments for homosexuality" is: "The hadd punishment for homosexuality in the form of transport is the death penalty. The method of killing is at the discretion of the judge." But even "who has a kissing another of sensuality, is punished with a Tazir penalty of up to 60 lashes." Since 1979, according to Iranian human rights activist, four thousand homosexuals have been executed.

Sepehr Nazari in the spring of 2011 sought asylum in Germany, he currently resides in Dresden, and often comes to Berlin. As a meeting place the 25-year-old has picked his favorite cafe, located in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin Reichenberg. In perfect English he tells his story.

Sent to the psychologist

At fourteen, he knew he was gay. Once, when his friend was visiting, Sepehr's mother burst into the room. She saw her son, entwined with a man, "This is immoral! I knew that you're spoiled," she shrieked. The friend fled from the apartment. Sepehr locked himself in the shower, until his father persuaded him to come out. This is only a phase that will pass soon, his father said. Since then the two have never spoken a word about his homosexuality.

Homosexuality is against nature, it is contrary to God's will. How often has Sepehr heard this. However, his parents are not religious, but rather concerned about the family, neighbors and friends. What to think? "I've always asked my mother what she really thinks," said Sepehr. He never received a reply.

Instead, his mother sent him to a psychologist. Some doctors in Iran are focused on the "disease" of homosexuality, prescribing electric shocks as therapy. Sepehr Nazari was lucky. The lady examined him and asked many questions. The result: He had a strong personality. Nothing more.

Sepehr never had trouble with the police. In the university no one knew about his homosexuality, he never talked to anyone about it. A double life? He laughs. "No, a multiple life. A life for the university, one for work, one for friends, one for close friends and one for the family. "

Once, Sepehr complained about a professor at the university because the language students had been only hours to translate Koran verses. He wrote a complaint letter to the dean.

Shortly after Sepehr got a call from the Secret Service. They want to meet with him to clarify a few things, it said. Through friends at the university he learned that the agency knew of his homosexuality. In March, the Persian New Year holidays, Nazari was flying on a Schengen visa to the Netherlands. There he wanted to visit some friends he knew from student exchange. The return ticket was already booked for Iran. But then he came to Berlin, met old friends from the German course. They convinced him not to return to Iran. Only then did he realize that his return could actually be dangerous for him.

He applied for in June 2011. Priority is given to applicants who have been tortured or leave their homeland for political reasons. Homosexuals are not considered hardship cases and thus can not count on a quick settlement of the asylum application. Not even when they face the death penalty in their homeland.

"War zone" in Chemnitz

The first stop of Sepehr was Chemnitz. "This was a war zone," he says about the time he spent in a halfway house in the Saxon town. He describes the home as crowded and cramped. There were burglaries, suicides, and once even a stabbing. The police were called, but did not do anything. Social workers were never seen.

He was then transferred to Schneeberg, in the Erzgebirge. The home was a former military barracks. "This brought the determining authority under the easy-care foreigners who did not want trouble," said Sepehr. The mood was good. The residents helped each other, celebrated and danced in the night, despite the adverse circumstances.

Three times a day were given to asylum seekers bread with cheese, lunch or a soup. Bread was rationed. When the residents asked for more, it was said that there were only two slices for each. In protest, the Afghans went on a hunger strike and rioted in the kitchen. "On so many nights I went to bed hungry," said Sepehr. "There were way too pregnant women there, it was threatening for them."

Then he went to Neustadt in the 'Saxonian Switzerland'. There, the asylum seekers were living in containers. Some of the residents had been there for years. "A totally deserted village," said Sepehr. Only old people on the streets. He was constantly stared at, followed by the supermarket's security personnel. The idea that he might have been in ​​this place for months tormented him. The first three days he did not leave his room. In Iran, he had studied, translated books, was employed. Here he felt under-challenged, intellectually stunted. The boredom slowly wore him down.

Here they can perhaps be better controlled, they can do nothing here. And here they might think again if they really want to stay in Germany. Sepehr also talks about walks in nature, moments of joy in a bleak environment.

In August, one of the living containers was set on fire. The asylum residents were moved into a gym and then transported to other transitional homes.

The closest accommodation assigned to him by the immigration office was in Pirna. Three hundred people crowded there for hours. "It was pure chaos," said Sepehr. Each individual was called into an office and got a new place allotted. Those who had bad luck, had to go back to Neustadt. Sepehr was called in with a Russian. The Russian was desperate, had been drinking brandy and threw, in his rage, the office computer out the window. The police came and Sepehr tried to explain the disillusionment and hopelessness of his friend.

Sometimes Sepehr asks himself whether the police officers and officials in the immigration offices and staff in the homes can ever imagine how an asylum seeker feels. How sad and lonely you can be here in this rich and beautiful country.

At last he was lucky. He was sent to a suburb of Dresden, where the asylum seekers were housed in a residential block. The other residents met their new neighbors with suspicion. No one greeted Sepehr back when he said hello. One day a note from the local authority was left in the doorway. Because he understands German, Sepehr could read the message: the residents should please have no fear as the asylum seekers are under the observation of the authorities.

Whenever allowed to leave his home Sepehr went to Berlin. Florian lives there. The two met on the Internet, fell in love and became a couple. Florian has helped deal with the bureaucratic pitfalls in the procedure. Are you wondering whether they should marry. A marriage might make things easier. After three years of marriage could Sepehr even get German citizenship. "But that's just one small reason. The most important thing is our love and that we both can be in one place", says Sepehr.

Deportation in the Netherlands

But now Sepehr is to be deported to the Netherlands. Since he came to Germany with a Dutch visa, formally the neighboring country is responsible for his case [under the 'Dublin regulation' asylum seekers must be sent back to the EU country they first entered].

Sepehr has become accustomed to the uncertainty. "I've lost my self-confidence. Here I am officially a nobody," he says sadly. Whenever he meets new people in Berlin and the question arises "and ... what are you doing in Germany?" he feels bad. "I know not what to say then," said Sepehr. He has studied, speaks English and the German language well enough to communicate in all areas of everyday life. Actually, exactly the image of a migrant the Federal Republic wants: Educated, young, curious.

But that is not true in asylum cases. Only the threat to the person is crucial. It's about what fate threatens the applicant, if he is deported. And if one from another EU country is entering Germany, then he must be deported under the law there. This is not xenophobia, but European asylum law. But that does not make it easier for people like Sepehr, only here because they have to fear for their lives in the homeland.

When his grandmother calls and asks if he's fine, he told her nothing of the asylum homes, of the difficulties. He only told of the green landscape in Germany, the clear air, the TV in the room. His grandmother always then begins to cry. Because she misses him so.

Sepehr says that others are much worse off than him. Of all those he has met over time in the homes, the Afghans have the worst fate, he says. They are suffered many years of war trauma. Most of them have grueling escape route behind them after being smuggled overland to Europe. Of the two hundred euros, which an asylum seeker gets from the German government the majority of the Afghans save, which then goes to the family members back home in Afghanistan.

Sepehr sometimes supported the Afghan refugees with translation and making sure that the children can attend school. He finally found himself being used and found useful - a feeling that he had almost forgotten.

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