My name is Mani an Iranian asylum-seeker man in Belgium. I felt confused and isolated when I realised I was different from my friends even prior to reaching adulthood. Their unmeaning discussions about my passion for girls made me question myself and feel like something was wrong with me. I struggled to suppress my unfamiliar feelings for other boys, hoping I would mature and desire girls eventually. I enrolled in university hoping to change my sexual orientation by interacting with girls, but it did not work. Discovering homosexuality online brought relief but also fear. I kept trying to deny my inclinations. A chance encounter with a girl named Sarvin in the University’s library gave me the opportunity to try changing my sexual orientation. Our relationship grew, but I still felt no attraction and carried a heavy burden.
I approached Parmis, a girl whom I heard roamers say had the same-gender attraction as me. It sparked curiosity in me. Breaking free from the painful relationship with Sarvin, I tried to reach out to Parmis. She accepted and understood me, and we shared our experiences. I confessed my interest in the same gender, and Parmis supported me to accept myself. She introduced me to a group of like-minded boys and girls, and together we formed a band. I found happiness in our shared experiences but still felt discontent, longing for deeper connections and genuine romantic relationships.
Our band was constantly monitored by the university security officer, and they looked for an excuse to reprimand us. Kasra, one of our bandmates was caught by the security officer kissing a friend, resulting in their suspension from the university. Our group fell apart after that incident, scattered and disheartened.
After completing my military service, I enrolled in a new university, and there I met Farshid, a childhood friend. Seeing him filled me with joy, and our friendship grew stronger. But my feelings for him went beyond friendship, and I yearned for more. I was scared he would find me out and our friendship would be ruined. After months of overwhelming emotions, I gathered the courage to reveal everything in a heartfelt message. His response was brimming with hatred, as he resorted to calling me derogatory names such as a filthy pig, sexually sick individual, and a pervert, choosing to block me. I was devastated and humiliated. Upon returning home, my father told me Farshid had forwarded all my messages to him. He unleashed his anger, physically assaulting me. Thankfully, my mother stepped in to protect me.
After a while, as I faced challenging times, I sought solace in Daneshju Park, connecting with other queer people who understood me. Suddenly, one fateful day, the morality police descended upon us, unleashing a wave of brutal beatings upon everyone present. I managed to escape the police beatings, but I was overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness and self-hating. I could not return to the park, leaving me wandering the streets, consumed by tears and self-curses.
During this distressing time, a university friend called and invited me to his birthday party, promising the presence of our mutual friends. I had a glimmer of hope. But upon arriving, Farshid's enigmatic smile raised my suspicions. The atmosphere grew tense, leading to an orchestrated incident where they made me dance, mocking me. Farshid had betrayed my secret to everyone there. Their ill intentions turned into physical violence, striking me with a stick and forcing me to dance. They laughed heartlessly as they tore my clothes and intensified their assault. Overwhelmed by humiliation and pain, I screamed, fearing attention. In shock, I urgently called a taxi, to escape home. The torment continued at university, with constant teasing, body touching, and laughter.
For a long time, my father and I had no communication. One day, Parmis reached out and called me in tears. Her father forced her into marriage. After a lengthy conversation, she proposed that we marry each other to escape from our difficult circumstances. Reluctantly, after several days of internal struggle, I finally agreed to pursue our safety. We engaged in discussions to gather the necessary funds and plan our departure from Iran. I told my family I loved a girl, and we planned to marry. After overcoming numerous challenges, we became engaged. After two years, the pressure to marry and have children grew.
I and Parmis attended queer parties to embrace our true selves, but one night, we were attacked by the University Basij. They subjected us to brutal physical violence and threatened to expose our identities as homosexuals. Parmis and I fled in fear and sought refuge at my grandmother's house. We concocted a story about being involved in political activities and protests to our fathers to protect ourselves from their violations. The authorities continued to pursue us, delivering threats, and demanding our surrender. Finally, Parmis's father convinced everyone that we needed to leave Iran for our safety. After careful deliberation, we decided to embark on a risky journey to Europe via Turkey. We were smuggled in the back of a truck, given essential supplies, and made our way to Istanbul. The journey was filled with danger and uncertainty, but we were determined to escape Iran and find a safer life.