Tuesday 6 April 2010

On film, the trials of an Iranian lesbian activist (at the hands of UK authorities)

Source: Radio Free Europe

In a new feature film, “Cul De Sac,” London-based Iranian directors Ramin Goudarzi-Nejad and Mahshad Torkan tell the story of a lesbian woman who flees Iran’s repressive Islamic regime. The script draws on the real-life experiences of Kiana Firouz, who plays herself in the film. Hossein Ghavimi, a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, asked Goudarzi-Nejad and Firouz about their motivation in making the film.

Ramin Goudarzi-Nejad: The story is in fact based on the life of an Iranian homosexual woman who attempts to draw the world’s attention to the voices of Iranian lesbians. She consequently finds her return to Iran impossible. She claims asylum in the United Kingdom, but the Home Office incredibly turns the case down.

She had been making a documentary film about Iranian homosexuals back when she lived in Iran, but the Iranian Intelligence Service found the footage and started following her. She managed to leave the country because she realized that the security service had become suspicious about her activities and the existence of her film. They started to investigate regarding the identity of the filmmaker and interviewees and the content of the documentary, but she was already here in the U.K. to study and work for human rights.

The evidence clearly shows that she is a lesbian [facing persecution in Iran.] But the Home Office did not consider the facts and refused her asylum application.

RFE/RL: What motivated you to make this movie?

Goudarzi-Nejad: I made a short film in 2007 called “Have I Ever Happened?” which at the time was reviewed by Radio Farda. It was about an Iranian poet who was also a lesbian. The film was screened at two international film festivals together with other events. I received lots of messages from Iranian homosexuals, especially lesbians, and they gave me the impression that they were quite impressed and admired the work. They kept asking me to make more movies about homosexuals’ lives.

Once Kiana called me while she was in Iran and briefed me on her filmmaking experiences in Iran. She was considering making a documentary film about Iranian homosexuals. She was concerned with finding out whether there would be a chance to screen the film after completion. I gave her my best knowledge about the dangers and risks that she has to take into account, but she seemed determined to do it. So I agreed to support the distribution of her film and to help publicize the voice of this innocent, vulnerable minority internationally.

RFE/RL: Did Kiana write the script of “Cul de Sac” herself?

Goudarzi-Nejad: No, she wasn’t involved with writing the script, but it was written based on her life story.

RFE/RL (to Kiana Firouz): I’m interested in what inspired you to act in “Cul de Sac.” Can you tell us some details about your role in the film?

Firouz: Sure -- I played the role of an Iranian lesbian in this film. The story is mainly based on my life.

In my opinion, the film potentially falls into the genre of docudrama. It was important to me as an Iranian lesbian to play a role like this. I believe the best way to enlighten people is to raise public awareness through free media, and film is the most powerful medium that can share the difficulties that all Iranian lesbians are experiencing. I strongly believe this film will touch everyone.

RFE/RL: What stage of completion is the film at now? Will it be screened soon?

Firouz: The movie is scheduled to be screened next month. The trailer has been on YouTube since December 2009, and it was watched by more than a thousand viewers just in the first four days.

RFE/RL: Will it appear at film festivals?

Firouz: Yes, it will definitely be shown at film festivals. So far, two film festivals in San Francisco and Canada have invited us.

RFE/RL: Can you tell us about the difficulties you’ve faced in applying for asylum in the United Kingdom?

Firouz: As an Iranian lesbian activist, I sought asylum in the U.K. My application was turned down and ignored by the Home Office, despite the serious threats to my life that I’ll face if they deport me to Iran.

I’m shattered and emotionally devastated that they have dealt with my application so irresponsibly. A serious campaign has been already launched to support me and save my life.

The Iranian Queer Organization and the U.K. Gay and Lesbian Immigration Group are also supporting me. I am ready to take any further risks to fight for our rights.

The situation for homosexuals is not only terrifying and horrible in Iran, but also for those who have escaped to seek asylum in other free countries, mostly signatories of the Geneva Convention, and especially Turkey. It seems to me that fate still does not wish us a peaceful life. We are going to resist and we will take every possible action until the day the whole world hears our voices.

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