Image courtesy Cheraq Magazine
Interview by Darya and Baran (Translated by Ava)
To all the lesbian women of
Iran: As of this day we will walk in the path of freedom, hand in hand,
with linked arms, firm steps and heads held high. We will break the chains
that bind us – chains of captivity, chains of fear. With solidarity,
strength, and pride we shall stand up for life in freedom. The time of
censorship, oppression and isolation has come to an end. The time has come
to speak courageously of injustice, tyranny, and violation. If you and I
don’t air our cries of pain and sorrow to the world, we will die in a prison
of terror. With one voice let us convey the problems of a lesbian Iranian
woman to the world. If you and I remain silent, not only our rights but
those of countless others shall be sacrificed. What are you waiting for?
Together, let us cry freedom.
■ For confidentiality reasons,
names have been changed in the following interview.
Please introduce yourself, in
whatever way you prefer, to our readers.
I am Taraneh, an Iranian lesbian.
I'm 48 years old. 17 years ago I became a refugee in Europe.
When did you realize you were a
From childhood I preferred to have
girlfriends rather than boyfriends.
Why did you become a refugee?
I am a lesbian. For this reason I
was arrested countless times. I went to prison and ultimately sentenced to
death [by hanging]. I remember the first time I was arrested; I was 21 and
a student in Esfahan. I was making love with my girlfriend in a car when I
was arrested. I was kicked out of university. I spent 3 months in prison.
I was whipped. Eventually I went to India to continue my education. But
my family did not want me to stay there so I had to return to Iran. From
there began the rest of my problems.
What problems did you have in
Iran as a lesbian woman?
Everyone had found out I was a
lesbian. They [my family] married me off, I had no other option. I married
a relative. But I had a girlfriend. When the neighbours found out they
informed on us. The Revolutionary Guards stormed our house, beat us up
severely, and took us away with blindfolds.
Did they have evidence?
Yes, they also arrested my
girlfriend and their evidence were letters we had written to each other –
they had found them.
They arrested you for writing
In my second arrest I was forced to
confess my lesbianism. Right now as I am writing these words my body is
shaking, all of a sudden I feel cold. I wish God would avenge every second
of my life spent being beaten with cables and filled with the screams of me
and my girlfriend, who was only 17 at the time. They placed me in the
solitary confinement wing. I had been beaten so much, I was bleeding
heavily. I pleaded with them to help me but they didn’t.
Still, the side-effects of the
beatings have not gone away. The judge in Esfahan’s revolutionary court
suggested I repent and cooperate with them, help them arrest others in the
lesbian community. After rejecting his offer, I suffered another severe
beating and a couple of days later they relocated me to the woman’s ward.
What condition was your
Since she was younger, they said
she had been manipulated and released her with bail after 6 months. In my
case, since it was my second arrest, since I had a husband, and since I
would constantly talk back [to the authorities] I remained in prison for an
extra two years. Then they showed me a paper and told me it was a verdict
for hanging. Every day they would mentally torture me by saying “even if
you’re released, we’ll get you, send you to prison and hang you”.
I was in the ward for women who
were prostitutes, murderers, thieves, etc in Esfahan’s Dastgard prison. I
was given 160 lashes in a judicial office by a man named [name deleted].
They tied me to a bed in the middle of the backyard. The other prisoners
came to watch me being whipped.
In the evenings, as torture they
would blindfold me and then lead me around the backyard over and over again,
turning me this way and that. My inspector Mr. [name deleted] would say to
me “this year they should burn you”. All this torture only for being a
In prison, were there also other
women arrested on homosexuality charges besides you?
Yes. I found 38 friends who were
all lesbian and had been arrested on this charge. Most of them were forced
to marry. Some of them ran away to Dubai or France.
How did your husband and family
They told my husband “you must show
your wife the righteous path”. My husband was in disbelief. But my family
had known I was a lesbian since my childhood – that is why they married me
off. I have been violated my whole life without anyone ever hearing my
voice. I have lived a life I did not want. I have laughed for others so no
one would know what was inside me. Believe me; I am ashamed that so far I
have not been able to relieve this pain.
How come you were released?
By giving lots of bribes and using
connections, I was released on the occasion of Imam Zaman’s birthday.
What did you do after prison?
Flee. I searched for a way to flee
life in Iran. Nor family, nor husband, no one was important to me anymore.
Psychologically I was in a bad place. I had gone mad. I went to Cyprus,
then to Turkey, and then I became a refugee here. After five years,
brimming with things to say, I was completely alone. My father came here.
To appease him, I was forced to bring my husband over illegally. In court
they told him “your wife is a lesbian” and they separated us.
What is your current situation?
I am alone. Even here I am afraid,
and I think it is this fear that isolates me. A strange fear is my constant
companion. If I were to write the torments I have suffered on a piece of
paper the reader would surely go mad. Everyone has suffered pain in one
form or another. Have you heard of someone being tied to a car and pulled
over the ground? In Kashan, they tied me to a car and pulled me across the
ground. What should I say, who should I say it to? If there was a God who
would punish these criminals…
Why must I, at the pinnacle of
freedom, even fear myself? Why doesn’t anyone listen to us? Where is this
‘human rights’? Which Islam? Which God?
Many assume that since lesbians
in Iran are women and keep their sexual orientation secret, they don’t face
problems. What is your opinion?
They have many problems, but they
cannot voice them. They cannot, because they have no defendants. My father
was head customs officer. They shamed our family in such a way that to this
day my family does not love me. From childhood this feeling was within me,
I couldn’t discuss it with anyone. Is there anyone capable of understanding
We think there are many women
like you in Iran, but why is no one aware of their plight?
Because Iranian women have not
reached that level of maturity in terms of accepting themselves and their
lesbianism. And they have no other choice. There is no law to defend them.
Even if someone has screamed, no one was there to hear it.
Some people believe that if
lesbians in Iran lived a secret life they wouldn’t run into problems!
In my opinion, one cannot live
secretly in Iran. Because Iranians cannot accept a woman living alone. I am
even afraid of Iranians here. If you live alone they ask “who is providing
for you?” With this ridiculous culture that we have, the mentality of
Iranians here is still the same as it was.
What is your dream?
If I could, I would rescue all
lesbians [in Iran] and bring them here. It has been years that our screams
have died out and not reached anyone’s ears.
||The IRanian Queer Organisation website
where you can find details of how to help gay men and women in Iran
Posted: 26 June 2007 at 14:00 UK