I am a gay man from Iran, a country where sexual activity between members of the same sex is frequently punished by imprisonment, corporal punishment, or execution.
I was working for the Iranian government always expected to be religious, and compliant with Islam and official government policy. Being gay is a red line for the government and marriage is compulsory if you want to stay employed in governmental jobs. People will assume you are gay if you are not married. I refused for many years but aged forty the pressures were too much for me to bear.
In my case, the authorities kept inspecting me and kept reports labelled me as gay. The homophobic harassment started when I was about 30, causing issues in my job, sending threats and pressuring me to attend a ‘meeting’ at the Department of Security and Information. They wanted a written commitment that I would marry.
I was also a protestor against the Iranian Islamic regime. They knew about it by spying on my lectures, monitoring my online activity, and articles I had published in newspapers and websites, even ones when I had covered my tracks using a pseudonym.
I secretly collaborated with IRQR (Iranian LGBT organisation based in Canada) writing articles for their magazine as well; they knew this as well.
I was in danger of being dismissed from my job, imprisoned and even death. I did not want to leave my family and beloved country so hiding my sexuality was all I could think to do.
My situation was dire as the authorities knew my every move. I decided to get married with a lesbian or an asexual woman to live. To my surprise, one of my students proposed to me. I suggested a marriage without sex and she agreed. I was thinking she might be a queer or perhaps an asexual but I was wrong. She was just thinking to entrap me married. We got married, and the struggles started from the first day and got worse and worse every other day.
She demanded sex, and it was really impossible fighting with her every day; but I was obliged to go on with it. I was still regularly inspected and monitored by the government. It was really tough to remain silent, not be myself and have sex in a loveless marriage.
My marriage was one big psychological trauma. I made myself busy all day long. The only time I felt slightly relaxed was when I slept.
She opened our secret to some of her friends and her family so I pretended I was asexual. I tried to divorce her several times, but she wanted to keep me in any condition and this added more pressure. She even threatened to report me to the authorities.
Iran is a country where people just disappear, including many LGBTs. I knew I could have been snatched at work or even off the streets.
I had limited financial resources and did not know what to do. I was alive, but I did not live like a human being.
I contacted many LGBT organisations including the Peter Tatchell Foundation. I knew I needed to build a support network.
I decided to get out of Iran and seek asylum. However, all my attempts like job applications abroad and European visa applications failed. I even tried entering a human trafficking line to Turkey but even that didn’t work.
My wife and her family kept upon the threats and again refused my request for divorce and insisted to keep me in that terrible life even though they were suffering too.
Finally, getting help from some of my friends, I secretly got a visa for Europe and miraculously fled.
I have now been granted asylum and can really start to live. I feel so relieved. I never thought that one day I would be free. It is hard to express in words what it means to me. It is a new beginning, a new life for me.