Hamed Escapes Iran, Finds Home And Friends In Canada

HamedYesterday, the Winnipeg Free Press published the harrowing story of Hamed, a 27-year-old gay man whose 17-month flight from persecution in Iran has finally concluded in Canada:

Growing up in a country where homosexuality is so taboo it's not even discussed, was difficult. As a child, he says he knew he was different but didn't know what it was or what was "wrong" with him.

He'd never heard the term gay.

"And I can't find anybody else like me. I was 20 before I found another gay person," he said. When he knew what he was, it wasn't much of a relief.

"I can't be myself," he said. "I had to tell all those lies. I must hide myself. I'm alone all the time. I'm scared (of) my problem and running from myself."

Hamed was in a relationship with another man for five years in Iran before his partner's family discovered their romance. The family was appalled, as Iranian families are wont to be, and threatened to tell Hamed's family. The news could have led to anything — disownment, imprisonment, execution — and so Hamed fled to Tehran. But friends told him he still wasn't safe. They suggested he go to Turkey.

He couldn't get work there, but he could apply for refugee status. And he would be safer. So he went. While waiting on a more permanent arrangement, Hamed boarded with another gay man and a trans couple. None of them had work-permits, and they were forced into low-paying and dangerous under-the-table jobs. They were terribly poor. One of Hamed's roommates lost his savings when he broke his leg on a job — he was forced to pay both his hospital bills and a fine for working without proper documentation.

From the Fress Press:

"They're in limbo," says Arsham Parsi, executive director of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, based in Toronto. For privately sponsored refugees, the processing time can be up to two years before they get to Canada, said the founder of the organization that started in 2008.

"They don't have any means and are at risk of being deported," said Parsi. The railroad helps an average of five or six new Iranian refugees a month who are in such limbo.

Hamed was one of them. During his time in Turkey, Hamed was in frequent Skype contact with the men who became his sponsors in Canada. Now he's in their care, looking for work, and mastering English — his second language in a year and a half:

Hamed said he'll attend special classes at the University of Manitoba in the fall to improve his English to a Benchmark 8, the level required to attend post-secondary programs. Right now, he's reading at Level 4 and speaking and listening at Level 5.

In Turkey, he practised his English with an online tutorial. In Winnipeg this spring, he passed the written test in English to get his driving learner's permit. In June, Hamed is to take his road test, and hopes that will look good on his resumé.

This summer, his sponsors are planning to take him to the Winnipeg Folk Festival and Winnipeg's Pride parade next week. Human rights activists Chris Vogel and Richard North are leading the June 3 parade, which starts at the legislature.

"I want to try it," said Hamed, who can't fathom gay men talking about their rights on the doorstep of a government building, then celebrating their sexual orientation with a parade.

Things are going swimmingly for Hamed, though he's having trouble finding a job. Yet:

[Hamed's sponsors, Horst Backe and Mark Rabnett] say there are tens of thousands of people such as Hamed in countries where they're persecuted for their sexual orientation. Rabnett cited one estimate that Iran has executed 4,000 people over the past 20 years for being gay.

The sponsors said they'd like to see more people contact the Rainbow Resource Centre in Winnipeg to form a Group of Five and help an LGBT refugee.

If that's something you'd like to do, click here.

Comments

  1. jamal49 says

    Bravery and courage. I hope this man can finally find peace and be able to live his humanity. A reminder to all of us that no matter the nationality, all of us are of the same community and share the same humanity and we owe it to our fellow travelers to do what ever we can to make sure all of us can vanquish this hateful bigotry against LGBT people.

  2. Farbud says

    You guys love these kinds of stuff, don’t u? Look, Iran is hostile for gays. It’s one of the worst places to be gay, but what these guys portray of the situation is absolutely exaggerated. They do this to get out of the country and be able to get a better asylum situation in a better country, so when they’re telling their story they exaggerate, cause their future depends on those lies. and in the end nobody cares that they’re lying, cause they’re standing up against the big devil that is the iranian government. but it shouldn’t be in no way considered as an honest story. I’m gay and I come from that place so I should know. during the 21 years i lived there i have never been disrespected by anyone for being gay. In middle school, yes, but outside that, never. and maybe I was fortunate to live that life and maybe Hamed’s life wasn’t the same as mine, and I’m not saying there are not gays in Iran who face hardship and death threats and violence for being gay (and btw, nobody’s facing execution for being gay. to get executed the judge has to have 4 testimonies from 4 adult men who testify that they saw a person actually doing it. they say if there had been even a milimeter of distance between their bodies, execution is not allowed. so basically it NEVER happens for someone to be executed for being gay. it has happened very very very few times before, but those are complex ones). I’m just saying that considering Hamed’s situation, he easily could’ve moved to not even another city in iran, but just another neighbourhood in his own city and nothing would’ve gone wrong. Just look at the news from these parts of the world more closely please.

  3. Farbud says

    You guys love these kinds of stuff, don’t u? Look, Iran is hostile for gays. It’s one of the worst places to be gay, but what these guys portray of the situation is absolutely exaggerated. They do this to get out of the country and be able to get a better asylum situation in a better country, so when they’re telling their story they exaggerate, cause their future depends on those lies. and in the end nobody cares that they’re lying, cause they’re standing up against the big devil that is the iranian government. but it shouldn’t be in no way considered as an honest story. I’m gay and I come from that place so I should know. during the 21 years i lived there i have never been disrespected by anyone for being gay. In middle school, yes, but outside that, never. and maybe I was fortunate to live that life and maybe Hamed’s life wasn’t the same as mine, and I’m not saying there are not gays in Iran who face hardship and death threats and violence for being gay (and btw, nobody’s facing execution for being gay. to get executed the judge has to have 4 testimonies from 4 adult men who testify that they saw a person actually doing it. they say if there had been even a milimeter of distance between their bodies, execution is not allowed. so basically it NEVER happens for someone to be executed for being gay. it has happened very very very few times before, but those are complex ones). I’m just saying that considering Hamed’s situation, he easily could’ve moved to not even another city in iran, but just another neighbourhood in his own city and nothing would’ve gone wrong. Just look at the news from these parts of the world more closely please.

  4. Iban4yesu says

    Thanks, Britain and CIA!

    Throwing up a democratically elected government in a secular and ‘westernized’ country for the sake of darn oil, this is what you get, down the road!

  5. RWG says

    @Farbud: We aren’t buying your propaganda. We’ve all read the reports and seen the pictures of the executions. Take your lies and disinformation someplace else.

  6. drumstick says

    @Farbud – Even if the executions for homosexuality take place very seldom, it’s still outrageous that they occur at all! Who would want to live in a place that threatens you with death for loving someone?

  7. Paul in Honolulu says

    Islamist troll alert!

    Ignore religiously fanatic provacateurs like Farbud whose only mission is to marginalize and condemn the lives of suffering gay people.

  8. Rovex says

    Iran does indeed rarely execute anyone for ‘just’ being gay, but they DO want them dead, so they make up other offenses and execute them based on the whole package. They claim they raped someone, or had drugs etc.

  9. ratbastard says

    I wish Hamed well, although I suspect there’s at least some truth to what ‘Farbud’ posted, especially regarding exaggerating in order to get refugee status. And it’s true, progressive westerners do ‘love these kinds of stuff’.

  10. says

    farbud, i highly encourage you to make a youtube video about your particular circumstances to better make your point. after all, what better way to prove your message to be true than by putting a face and name to what it means to be a gay Iranian? as you face no prejudices or persecution as a gay man you should have no reason not to. i eagerly await it.

  11. Farbud says

    @RWG: It’s not propaganda. I never said there’s no death and no report and no picture. I clearly said nobody can execute you for being gay. they will execute you for any kind of sex that happens outside marriage and that’s not just for gays. there has been very very very very few times when people were executed for being homosexuals, like it’s portrayed in the piece above.

  12. Farbud says

    @DRUMSTICK: You’re absolutely right. I never defended the country. I clearly started my comment with “Look, Iran is hostile for gays. It’s one of the worst places to be gay” so you guys don’t call me a propaganda machine, but it didn’t work i guess. My point was about the measures of exaggeration you outsiders add to it.

  13. Farbud says

    @PAUL IN HONOLULU: I’m not a muslim, and not a troll. I’m an atheist gay who hates his government for the situation of his country, but I also have a brain that doesn’t let me exaggerate just for the sake of drama.

  14. Farbud says

    @ROVEX: absolutely right. the difference is nobody’s coming after you for being gay, but if they catch you while doing any kind of sex act, and they have 4 adult men who have seen you while doing it, and they all come and testify, they may start to do bad stuff to you, like all the things you said, but nobody’s planning a gay auschwitz there. the president thinks there’s no gay in the country… I think that should say it.

  15. Farbud says

    @LITTLEKIWI: I’m doing my part elsewhere, so you don’t need to worry. I’m not just a name and a photo. Email me and I’ll tell you more. farbud@gmail.

  16. Leroy Laflamme says

    FARBUD – Looks like you spent an awful lot of time & energy writing that mammoth post of yours. And did we really have to endure your diatribe twice? Try working from love sometime & see how economically you’ll be able to express yourself. I don’t know where you live, but if you know anything at all about Immigration Canada, you will know that Hamed’s refugee claim was not taken lightly, & certainly not at face value. It would have been investigated thoroughly – more thoroughly, probably, than many refugees deserve. Why not celebrate Hamed’s good fortune along with the other posters here, & wish him every success in his new venture? We don’t know his exact circumstances, so we have no right to judge him. Western mothers have a wonderful lesson for their children, “If you have nothing nice to say about someone, say nothing.” Actually, I know a few Iranian mothers personally, & I believe they have the same advice for their kids. Hope I didn’t take up too much of your time.

  17. says

    why should i email you when you can simply put a face and name to your stance and statements via youtube? take advantage of the benefits of the world wide web – it’ll make your point much stronger.

    if you have nothing to hide and no claims you can’t back up then there’s no reason not to do it.

  18. Farbud says

    @EROY LAFLAMME: I didn’t know it was posted two times. not my fault. if you check the timelabels they are 2 seconds before and after, and i have no control over deleting it now. you may ask the admin for that. (and I also didn’t put a lot of time on that. it was almost the standard lecture you give people who don’t seem to really care about something, but just show interest in the superficies.)
    and thanks you for teaching me basic stuff about love and “western moms” as you put it, but I don’t believe my comment was coming from anywhere but love. I love my country and I hate its situation and it kills me to see there’s not even one post about all the actually brutal stuff that’s happening to gays in Iran and asylum-seekers in Turkey and all the others, and how of all those things Towleroad blog (which i respect a lot) could’ve chosen, chooses this. And the only conclusion I can make is that sensationalism is the only things that gets the attention of you “children of western moms” as you may put it. An Iranian who has escaped his brutal country and now is living in the land of free, safe and sound. I never once have seen ANY posts on this blog about the iranian gay asylum seekers in all the countries around the world and the hideous situation they’re living in. but the one who gets to canada? we report on it cause it’s a cindrella story.

  19. Farbud says

    @EROY LAFLAMME: I didn’t know it was posted two times. not my fault. if you check the timelabels they are 2 seconds before and after, and i have no control over deleting it now. you may ask the admin for that. (and I also didn’t put a lot of time on that. it was almost the standard lecture you give people who don’t seem to really care about something, but just show interest in the superficies.)
    and thanks you for teaching me basic stuff about love and “western moms” as you put it, but I don’t believe my comment was coming from anywhere but love. I love my country and I hate its situation and it kills me to see there’s not even one post about all the actually brutal stuff that’s happening to gays in Iran and asylum-seekers in Turkey and all the others, and how of all those things Towleroad blog (which i respect a lot) could’ve chosen, chooses this. And the only conclusion I can make is that sensationalism is the only things that gets the attention of you “children of western moms” as you may put it. An Iranian who has escaped his brutal country and now is living in the land of free, safe and sound. I never once have seen ANY posts on this blog about the iranian gay asylum seekers in all the countries around the world and the hideous situation they’re living in. but the one who gets to canada? we report on it cause it’s a cindrella story.

  20. Rovex says

    Farbud. I agree with what you say to some degree, BUT if they want you dead they will find a way. They MAY execute you for rape, murder etc, but they went after you for being gay, thats the difference. The rest is just a justification.

  21. Farbud says

    @LITTLEKIWI: what do you wanna know? do you want photos? check my flickr > flickr.com/farbud. You want an ID card? I’ll mail you that. You wanna know what I do to make things better? email me and I’ll tell you but I’m not gonna brag about it here in public and make the discussion about me. I’m taking advantage of the wwb, but I don’t necessarily have to do it the way you want to. and even if we do, do you think you’d notice? we had a campaign called “we are everywhere”, much so similar to “It gets better”. have you heard of it? I don’t think so. did towleroad or joemygod or other blogs report that? I haven’t seen it if they did. so don’t just sit back and act tricky and wise honey.

  22. Farbud says

    @ROVEX: I absolutely get where you guys are coming from, but look, it’s like, I don’t know, many of the people want gay people dead in let’s say Texas, and yes there are hate crimes there, yes there’s injustice and all of that, but if someone comes and says I’m a texan and my boyfriends’ family found out that we’re gay and they were gonna tell my family, and for that reason not only i left my city, but also my state and also my country, and even Turkey wasn’t good enough for us iranian gays so i applied for canada. You may say the comparison is not right cause texas is a part of the united states and Obama supports gay marriage, but that’s because you have no idea about the situation of gay people in Iran. Because you have an image that’s made up of all the sensational stuff the media feeds you, but as I said, you have a much much worse image that is made up and not real at all. and that’s where the problem lies.

  23. Farbud says

    @ROVEX: I absolutely get where you guys are coming from, but look, it’s like, I don’t know, many of the people want gay people dead in let’s say Texas, and yes there are hate crimes there, yes there’s injustice and all of that, but if someone comes and says I’m a texan and my boyfriends’ family found out that we’re gay and they were gonna tell my family, and for that reason not only i left my city, but also my state and also my country, and even Turkey wasn’t good enough for us iranian gays so i applied for canada. You may say the comparison is not right cause texas is a part of the united states and Obama supports gay marriage, but that’s because you have no idea about the situation of gay people in Iran. Because you have an image that’s made up of all the sensational stuff the media feeds you, but as I said, you have a much much worse image that is made up and not real at all. and that’s where the problem lies.

  24. says

    it’s not bragging, it’s sharing your specific message via social media so it can have actual impact via legitimacy.

    i have no heard of your campaign. i’d LOVE to see it. please share the URLS.

    the best way to have blogs pick up on your campaigns is to, you know, make them visible and available.

    i’m not being tricky, i’m trying to help you share this message of yours.

    provide us the URLS, i’m sure Andy and the folks at towleroad would love to share them all.

  25. Rovex says

    Checked out your Flickr.. Hotness!

    I dare say that some parts of Iran are better than others, but not everyone can feel free, if their family reacts badly, they are doomed. 4 witnesses can be faked easily enough

  26. Farbud says

    @ROVEX: right. but not to the extent of fleeding the country for the other hemisphere… and you were the understanding one here, thanks for that.

  27. Rovex says

    I think the point here is that the guy in the article had major problems and had no fallback. Clearly the state isnt going to help him, so he fled. If i was in his position id rather go to Canada than Turkey to!

  28. Farbud says

    @ROVEX: obviously.
    but still, he’s USING being gay for fleeing the country. I can assure you people escape from their families, families who wanted to burn them for being gay, and they continue to live happily after in another neighbourhood or at most another city. anyone who gets out the country with the excuse of being gay is just someone who doesn’t like iran in general (which i understand) and USES this to escape, good for him, and so so bad for the image he’s creating of the country, and off all these disturbing images, the worst is the image these news outlets “choose” to give. The most superficial and again sensational.

  29. Caliban says

    Uh-huh. And I suppose there are no families that kill their gay children or relatives either for bringing dishonor on them. It’s all just hunky-dory for gays in Iran. Good to know!

  30. mike128 says

    hey guys. instead of getting down on the gay guy from iran could we learn from him? i don’t think he’s saying that iran is a wonderful place for gay men to live. i think he’s just saying that life there is more nuanced than the picture we get through the western media. having lived in a non-western country, i can say that this is pretty much true of the western media. many countries are painted as evil – with some good cause – but the situation on the ground is not always as it appears when we look at it through just the information we get here. I think that the more we understand the actual situation, the more we can really help our gay Iranian brothers and sisters. I dont hear anyone saying the Iranian government is just great – so why does it feel as if we need to shoot any grey information down?

    ALSO: can someone reading this give this refugee guy a job? There’s got to be a gay guy on here who can help him out.

  31. mike128 says

    Also, guys: When the story is about someone fleeing from political persecution, doesn’t commenting about how “hot” they are seem a just a tiny bit shallow?

  32. JP says

    While the condition for GLBT in Iram is worrying, I am glad to see there is one Iranian man who shifted towards a brighter future at Canada. I wish him all the best. At least there is one less man going to be persecuted.

  33. says

    Names like “Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees” are appalling! They reinforce a deviant concept of LGBT status that is the very basis of LGBT persecution.

    Words DO matter! They can either perpetuate or repel ignorance. When will Gay activists ever realize that hate speech (especially directed against your own kind) cannot fight hatred? Or are they just pretending they want to fight it?

  34. Farbud says

    @STUFFED ANIMAL: so true. that organization is more or less a big fraud, and the guy who runs it (Arsham Parsi who’s mentioned in the post too) is also an infamous activist-wanna-be with the exact same state of mind that you explained!

  35. Max says

    I stand by my previous assertion that Hamed is hot.

    Farbud, most people in the U.S. understand that there is a world of difference between the Persian people and the illegitimate, tyrannical theocracy that rules over them. Criticism is directed at the latter.

  36. ratbastard says

    @Farbud,

    You seem to have managed to shut up Little New Canadian [Little Kiwi]; I’m impressed.

    Thanks for your interesting posts, not the usual, predictable cr*p that some people post on here.

  37. Farbud says

    @MAX: Of course they do. But they see both the “Persians” and their government in a much much more brute form and shape than they actually are.

  38. sara says

    Wasn’t Iran in the news recently for sentencing 4 gay men to death by hanging for sodomy? In that same story it was stated that since 1979 over 4000 gay men and lesbians have been executed.

    The Human Rights Watch Report states: “Because of the lack of transparency, Human Rights Watch said, “It cannot be ruled out that Iran is sentencing sexual minorities who engage in consensual same-sex relations to death under the guise that they have committed forcible sodomy or rape.”

    The issue of the death penalty for same-sex acts is further compounded by the fact that the Iranian legal code does not differentiate between rape and homosexual acts.”

    Besides the death sentences, there’s also many reports of beatings, rapes & tortures done. There’s a documentary called: Out in Iran: Inside Iran’s Secret Gay World, that speaks of this.

    It seems to me stories like this is what contributes to Iran’s reputation as being inhospitable to gays & lesbians. I don’t blame the man for getting as far away as possible.

  39. millerbeach says

    @Sara, Amen. I’d get out like yesterday, too! Farbud, where ever you are, whomever you are, thanks for posting a refreshing perspective. Good luck, brother!

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