Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses

Hasti: They Forced Everyone to Get Naked, Violently Taking our Clothes off

Boroumand Foundation
Boroumand Foundation
December 9, 2013

My name is Hasti. I was born on October 9, 1984, in the city of Esfahan, where I lived until I left Iran. I am a transsexual.

I was not able to go to college in Iran because I was a transsexual. I was admitted to Islamic Azad University, Mashhad Branch, in 2002, where I was to pursue my education in industrial engineering. Unfortunately, my father, who was still alive at the time, did not allow me to go to Mashhad [and live there] by myself. My education was therefore halted with a high school diploma, and I did not pursue the matter further.

Work conditions are far less than favorable for transsexuals in Iran because of their mannerisms, their look, and their behavior. Fearing persecution and torment, I was not able to work.

After the passing of my father, I made a successful attempt at becoming exempt from military service, being my family’s only son. At the time I did not know that there was a law in place which exempted transsexuals from military service. I gradually became aware of the existence of the law. I also found out that homosexuals can be exempted from military service just like transsexuals. They have to obtain a letter from a psychiatrist [attesting to their] homosexuality and present it for exemption. The Exemption from Military Service Card, however, will state the reason for exemption as homosexuality/transsexual. I personally saw a number of psychiatrist letters [attesting to homosexuality] that my friends had presented to the Military Service Office and on which basis were exempted. The doctors and the authorities know that these individuals are homosexuals. This is a ploy, [however, in that] it can be used by anyone who is willing to state that he is a homosexual in order to obtain exemption.

A few years ago, Mr. Ahmadinejad stated in a conference that there were no homosexuals in Iran. It is ridiculous to make such a statement. Many films have been made about homosexuals in Iran and all psychiatrists and [relevant] authorities have thorough knowledge of the state of affairs. They do not wish to [admit nor] discuss the matter, however, because of the religious government in place. In the Islamic Penal Code, homosexuality is [a crime] punishable by death. In my opinion, though, this law is not [always] implemented: many homosexuals have been arrested, the sexual preference of whom and the fact of whose past homosexual relationships could easily have been proven. If anyone has been executed in the past, I have heard that it was primarily because there was a complaint lodged against them, or because they had raped children. But I haven’t heard of anyone having been subjected to this law [and executed] simply because of their homosexuality.

In Iran, one of our outlets as homosexuals was to throw parties. Since none of us could have [an open] and easy presence in society, we resorted to getting together every once in a while and throwing a party. These parties had no specific objective; we simply wished to get together in a private setting where we could be comfortable as to our mannerisms, our clothes, and our behavior [and just be ourselves].

About four and a half years ago, in May 2007, I was invited to a homosexual friend’s birthday party held in a residential building in the Vali-e-Asr subdivision in Esfahan. There were 85 people there, 18 of whom were transsexual. There were guests there that I did not know and had never seen before; people had randomly brought their friends to the party. Around midnight, intelligence agents, along with a large number of soldiers, attacked the party. I was close to the entrance when they came in. They were yelling and videotaping everyone. Suddenly, there was a frightening sound; I believe it was a warning shot, and the guys’ screams followed. [I must add] that there were heterosexual individuals at this party as well. One of them, seeing that the agents were insulting and beating our guys, fought back: he cursed at them when they cursed at us, and attacked the agents when they started hitting our guys with clubs. This caused the agents to severely beat him, to the point of opening a wound on his head. He was bleeding profusely and was taken to the hospital later. One of my friends, whose father had fought and been killed (martyred) in the [Iran-Iraq] war, told the agents that he was the son of a martyr, which [had the opposite effect of what he had intended and] caused them to hurl insults at him even more than the others.

The agents proceeded to beat those who were wearing short shorts or tops (showing parts of their body) with clubs, turning their bodies black and blue. One of my friends was beaten so badly (with clubs, kicks, and punches) that he could not walk without our help. Another person jumped from the balcony [to escape] and broke his leg.

After a few minutes, the agents ordered everyone to lie down on the floor, with the exception of me and a few other people; we were ordered to go sit in a corner. They then proceeded to break and destroy all the sound and lighting equipment. Subsequently, they made a call to another location telling them that they had “busted a mixed party.”

That night all the guys were [actually behaving] normally. Many hadn’t even had alcohol; the agents, however, emptied all alcoholic beverages on our clothes. I understood the reason for this action only later, while we were in detention. The interesting thing was that they had brought an exact number of handcuffs, which meant that they knew approximately how many of us there were, which led me to believe that someone had provided them with complete information about the party beforehand.

I had worn women’s clothing [a long dress] and was wearing makeup. They were not able to ascertain that I was a transsexual. When we were exiting the house, my hair was not covered and I was wearing a dress that showed my shoulders and my arms. One of the agents said: “Cover your hair and your body Madam,” and gave me a scarf and a jacket. I was one of the first people to exit the building.

There were four [police] minivans and several regular cars and soldiers in front of the building. They took us to the Rudaki Intelligence [detention center]. Soldiers had lined up from the apartment to the main entrance of the building to beat everyone who was being taken to the waiting vehicles with a club.

All the neighbors had gathered around the building to watch us. [The agents] took me and a friend of mine’s sister in a regular car to Rudaki Station, but the rest of the guys were thrown into minivans. The process [of taking us there] took approximately an hour, and they did not say anything in particular on the way.

None of the agents found out I was transsexual until we entered the detention center, but when they did, they looked at me [and treated me] as a boy in women’s clothing, a “faggot,” so to say, and slapped me twice. They made me take my clothes off so they could see what “my sexual condition was.” They could not believe I was a man and they wanted to see for themselves, which bothered me tremendously. Some of them were saying that we should be executed.

At the station they videotaped us and took our pictures. They put a sign around my neck, as with criminals, on which was written “has dual sexuality,” and took a full-faced and two profile pictures. When they were videotaping us, they beat anyone who bowed their head and told us to “look straight into the camera.” Intelligence agents and some of the soldiers took videos of us on their personal cell phones and we were not allowed to object; we would get beaten and insulted if we did.

At Rudaki Station, there was a person who was thoroughly familiar with transsexuals and fully explained the subject to the authorities. They still couldn’t understand; for them the subject was beyond comprehension and belief. It was an awful night and we were interrogated several times and asked repetitive questions such as, “Why had you gotten together? What was the reason for the party?”

They told me to admit that I had had alcohol. I told them that I had never had alcohol but they refused to believe me. They beat me with a club and told me: “Admit that you had alcohol.” They said: “Why were you wearing makeup? Why were you wearing that dress? Was it to attract other boys?” They thought we were out to [sexually deceive] and mislead the young, so to say, and said: “You invited these other people to the party to attain your sexual goals at the end of the night.” They [had no clue and] could not understand at all that we were different; they did not care one bit about our feelings and emotions.

They did not allow me to change while we were there and I had to spend the entire night in my dress.

We spent one night at the Rudaki detention center, during which they separated homosexuals and transsexuals. The authorities would come in droves to the detention center to see us up close, as if we were fish in an aquarium.

The next day, they gave us a pen and paper and told us to write about ourselves. We thought they wanted a written promise from us [not to engage in certain conduct] and would release us afterwards. However, what happened was that they put us on a special bus and transferred us to Esfahan’s Dastgerd Prison, located in a neighborhood of the same name, a few kilometers from Esfahan.

We all felt sort of dizzy and confused and did not know where we were. When we arrived at the prison and got off the bus, we were told to sit on the ground in the prison yard. They read our names off of a list and proceeded to take us inside to change our clothes, cut our hair, take our pictures, and fingerprint us. The insults, curse words, and disrespect kept increasing.

The first step was the change of clothes. They forced everyone to get naked, violently taking our clothes off. Then they forced us to put the filthy prison clothes on. They then quickly shaved our heads, and finally took our pictures and fingerprints. All of this took quite a long time. Their attitude was simply despicable. They treated us like animals, as if they wanted to herd animals from one place to another. They did not care that we were distressed. They pushed and shoved whoever they wanted to and would curse at us and belittle us if we said anything.

They separated transsexuals from the rest at Dastgerd Prison. I was detained in a cell with the other transsexuals for two days.

The first night, the person responsible for the section asked us a bunch of questions and would beat us if he felt that we were lying to him. He asked my friend: “How old are you?” “I’m thirty-three,” he said, telling the truth. The agent slapped him, not having believed him, and said: “I’m thirty. How can you be thirty-three?”

That same person asked me a question in the prison hallway to which I did not respond and he punched me in my side.

Three of the prison authorities persecuted us [regularly]. One was the warden, another, the person in charge of the prison’s solitary confinement, and the third, a tall man whose function was unknown to me. Later on I saw this same man performing as an actor in a movie entitled “Efrati ha” (“The Radicals”) that was made in Esfahan, starring Mr. Akbar Abdi (a famous Iranian actor).

The interrogations started on the second day and we were interrogated twice, if I’m not mistaken. They were conducted by two clerics, one of whom was an assistant prosecutor, and the other, the judge in the case. We were not insulted or cursed at during these interrogations. The only time we were was when we were on the way to the investigation chamber from our cell. The interesting thing was that the judge and the assistant prosecutor would compare our statements with the statements already on file [given at the detention center] to see if they conformed; and if we omitted even a single word or sentence, they would say: “This is not what you said at the Intelligence detention center. What are you saying now?”

During detention, several different groups came to prison to meet with us. We did not know who these people were, what [government] organ they belonged to, or what their official capacity was. In any event, they treated us like laboratory mice; they would ask us a series of questions that we had to answer and would persecute us if we didn’t. All the questions were repetitive: “Why were you arrested? Why are you like this? Why were you wearing women’s clothing? What is your problem? What did you do at the party? Did you have sex or were you supposed to have sex?”

On the third day of detention, we were taken to the medical examiner’s office. First we spoke to a psychiatrist named Dr. Karimzadeh. The meeting was in the form of a half-hour consultation. He knew me from before because I had previously gone to his office. After the consultation, bodily examinations began which were just awful. They were trying to ascertain whether we had previously had sex or not. We entered a room where there were two physicians who told us to take all our clothes off and lie down on our stomachs. Then they examined our rectum. I don’t remember if this was done by hand or some instrument was used. Nevertheless our transsexuality was confirmed. We were subsequently transferred back to prison, where we were divided into two groups and placed in two different cells. I must emphasize that the cell doors remained open at all times except for when we were going to sleep. From that day on, everyone’s treatment of us improved and we were no longer insulted and belittled.

On the fourth day, I was interviewed by the prison radio and television people. This was very interesting to me because I had seen prisoner interviews on TV before but I never thought I would one day be in the same situation. The interview had nothing to do with our arrest and focused solely on my being transsexual. The questions were roughly as follows: Who is a transsexual? What are their preferences and leanings? How does society treat these individuals? How do they live in society? Can they get married? What are a transsexual’s temperament and behavior like? They wanted to know, in effect, who was considered a transsexual. The responses to these questions inevitably raised other questions for the interviewers, which led to the interview being longer than planned.

The prison doctor, who was also a psychiatrist, came to examine us once as well, if I’m not mistaken. He also confirmed the findings and told the authorities: “I totally understand these individuals.” He told us: “I had never seen a transsexual in my life. I have read 40 books on the subject but these few hours that I spent talking to you was more educational [and enlightening] than all of those books put together.” What he said was very interesting: He was a prison doctor, a psychiatrist nonetheless, and had never seen a transsexual up close.

His students came to interview us once as well. They also asked similar questions regarding transsexuals, which I answered thoroughly, explaining to them who was considered a transsexual and who “F to M” (female to male) and “M to F” individuals are.

In the entire time we were detained, we were only allowed one three-minute call to our families. Since I knew my mother was having a tough time, I called my boyfriend and told him to bring me clothes and a deed of title to put up as bail for my release. He and my mother came to the prison main entrance every day and so he told her to bring me clothes and the deed of title. The families of some of the guys had come to Esfahan from other cities such as Shiraz, Tehran, Abadan, Ahvaz, and Mashhad, and had had a very tough time.

Eventually, after six days, transsexuals were released on a 50 million Toman bail; the owner of the apartment and the person who had thrown the party on 200 million Tomans. The others were cleared of all charges and released one day before us, without posting bail. One of the transsexuals was not able to contact his family and spent an additional 15 days in jail. My friends and I pursued the matter and informed his family, who came to Esfahan from Shiraz and posted his bail. He was released after 23 days.

Upon release, all of us who had been friends and had had family relationships cut off all contact with each other. Phone numbers were changed. Families had problems with each other.

I was supposed to take the CD of a film that dealt with a transsexual’s life after a [sex change] operation to prison officials upon my release, something that I forgot to do. About a month later they called my house and asked for it. I took the CD to prison and gave it to Mr. Kargar.

Our trial took place two months after my release. There were 23 defendants: 18 transsexuals who were charged with “arranging a gathering for the purposes of corruption and prostitution,” and the rest for “drinking alcohol.” We were all allowed to retain counsel. The judge did not allow us to speak during the trial. They read our names. We would stand up and the judge would announce the charge against us: “You are charged with the crime of conducting a gathering for corruption and prostitution. What do you say in your own defense?” We each had about 2 minutes to speak, and if we actually wanted to say anything in our own defense, the judge would cut us off and say: “You are ranting. Sit down.” They had printed all of the pictures in the guys’ cell phones -- pictures of the party, as well as [private] pictures that had nothing to with the party. They were all there on the judge’s desk. Our trial was, in effect, nothing but a formality.

The decision of the court consisted of a one million Toman monetary penalty, to which we all objected, stating that we were not the ones who had thrown the party, that we had been invited like everyone else. How can someone be a guest and at the same time the host? We had simply attended the party in clothing of our own choosing and were no different than the other guests. Unfortunately, they did not consider our objections.

The individuals convicted of drinking alcohol were condemned to 60 lashes.

We appealed the court’s ruling. A month and a half later, at the Appellate Court trial session, the one million Toman monetary penalty was suspended for 5 years. Unfortunately, however, the sentence of 60 lashes was carried out for those who had been so condemned. They were told to procure a willow branch so that the sentence could be carried out. One of my friends was in that group and I accompanied him through the entire administrative process. As far as I know, his sentence was carried out at that same session.

Esfahan newspapers had published the news of our arrest, which I saw after my release. The headline read: “85 homosexuals were arrested at a party. Some were disguised in women’s clothing.”

A year and a half later, in the summer of 2008, I was sitting in a park in Esfahan with two of my friends, when suddenly two individuals on motorcycles stopped in front of us, having recognized me. “You’re the guy who was wearing a long dress at the party, aren’t you?” they asked, to which I replied in the affirmative. They then asked for our identification cards and told us to go to Rudaki station the next day. I went even though I was really scared.

There, they proceeded to interrogate us, asking questions such as, “Where were you? What were you doing? Why had you assembled in the park?” I said: “What is the meaning of this? We are human beings, aren’t we? Don’t we have the right to get out of our house? We can’t be imprisoned in our houses. We weren’t doing anything. There were no boys chasing us and we weren’t with anyone either. We were just sitting there.” I was very angry but I suddenly started crying. They asked me why I was crying, to which I replied: “I’m not crying. I’m just thinking how miserable and unlucky I must be to have to answer to you for something I haven’t done. We can’t ask for your protection for the persecution we suffer at the hands of the general public, and we can’t seek refuge with them for the pain and persecution you inflict upon us. Don’t we have any place in this society? Is there nowhere in this society where we can feel safe and secure?” When I was finished, that person bowed his head and remained silent for a few minutes. I don’t know what went on in his head but they quickly returned our identification cards and called a private cab to take us home. They told us not to take public taxis and not to go out together as much as we could.

These events led me to the conclusion that I could no longer fight my family and society. I was sick and tired of acting and pretending [to be something I wasn’t]. I wanted to live the way I wanted to, not how society wanted me to. That was why I decided to leave Iran to go to Turkey. I finally left Iran on January 1, 2010, and after going through the [United Nations] refugee process, I was transferred to a third country, Canada. I have been living in Toronto for four months. I can easily wear anything I choose to wear, associate with whoever I please, and go anywhere in women’s clothing. In Iran, however, because of family and societal [restrictions and taboos], I had to play a role in order to [belong].

All of that had had very serious adverse psychological effects on me. When I wore men’s clothing, people would talk anyway they wanted to about me [in my presence] and would hurl any insults at me they wanted to. That was why I had decided to have a sex change operation when I was in Iran. I went to the medical examiner’s office and even obtained a court permission for the sex change. In time, however, as I became more at ease with myself, I changed my mind. At the time [when I was still in Iran] I thought that if I had a sex change, I would be able to officially change my identity and easily live as a woman. But all of that was due to family and societal pressure, and my own state of mind. Currently, I no longer think about a sex change for two reasons: first, because I’m afraid of the operation and possible post-op complications; and secondly, now that I am no longer in Iran, I realize that I can lead a normal life, wearing what I want to wear and keeping my sexuality [intact]. There is no need for a sex change operation to live well in society. Then, again, I might change my mind in the future.