Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses

Nima: They Treated me like a whore because they had learned that I was gay

Nima Nia/Interview with ABF
Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
April 3, 2014

My name is Nima Nia. I was born on April 03, 1987 in [the city of] Shiraz. I was an Art student at [the city of] Esfahan’s Bozorgmehr University in 2006-07.


Artistic Activities at the University

My activities were rather personal [in nature] and had nothing to do with the Green Movement. I’m gay. One of the problems [I always faced] was that, because of my sexual orientation, there was always a gay motif in my paintings and I did not wish to take this element out of my works. As a result, I was constantly criticized. I could not exhibit my works in public and I was forced to show them in private galleries, café-galleries, and in private gatherings.

I was under tremendous pressure from students, the university, and the university Herassat [security apparatus.] They had a very negative view of my works and were constantly mocking me.

I became friends with a number of students at the university and we started to work together. I had four friends who were Art students as well. We were two boys and three girls and we started setting up painting and drawing workshops in 2007 at the university. We would invite other students and professors to work with us for a [specific] period; our goal was to show the works at an exhibition at the end of that period. Painting was our passion and our profession. Our motivation for the workshops and exhibitions was to bring attention to and introduce ourselves.

I was under tremendous pressure from students, the university, and the university Herassat [security apparatus.]

The subject matter of our works was [primarily] political and social. One of two things, therefore, would [always] happen: either we were not given permission to exhibit them, or [the security people] would simply pick them up. For instance, I had a collection of works entitled “Pregnant Men” which showed the naked body of a pregnant man. These works were never allowed to be exhibited. When we had “Jugement”* in the workshops, Herassat people would come and pick our works up.

My close friends knew I was gay and had no problems with it. I always had issues with other students, however, about my opinions and outlook. They would always create problems for me.

At some point I had grown my hair long, shoulder length. It was precisely during that period that wearing short sleeves was banned at the university. Also, Esfahan is a very religious city and people are sensitive about these issues. They persecuted me at the university because of my long hair and my short sleeves.


Persecution Suffered at the Hands of the Ministry of Information

I started receiving text messages and voicemails from a particular number (asking me for information) at precisely the same time I went to Esfahan in September 2006. When I started to answer the phone, the person who had called would say: “I am an agent of the Ministry of Information. [We know who you are] and you must cooperate with us.” I do not know how they had obtained my number and how they knew I was gay.

There was no way that anyone would be able to tell I was gay from the clothes I wore. The only way would be to become my friend and find out I was gay from my personality.

This person would call me a few times a day. He knew I was gay. He would tell me that I had to make plans to go to the Ministry with him. There, he would set up an internet connection and make me chat online with my friends and set up meetings with them, so that they could be arrested. He said that if I did what he said, he would not bother me, otherwise he would. In fact, he wanted me to both cooperate and have sex with him. He knew where I lived and would constantly show up at my place and bother me. Once he even came to the university.

The day he showed up at the university, I wasn’t there. The next day, Herassat summoned me and said: “One of our colleagues came here and got your class schedule. What’s going on?” “I don’t know. And I don’t know this person,” I replied. But that person had obtained my schedule from the university Herassat, knew about my [associations], and had additional personal information about me. He would [call and] tell me where I was and what I was doing. I felt unsafe.

I think that person must have been around thirty years old. One night he called and said: “Guess where I am right now.” When I said I didn’t know, he said: “Right in front of your house.” He then described my apartment and honked his horn so that I could hear it both on the phone and from the window. At the same time, an ambulance went by and I heard that as well. Sometimes he would call from his place of work; I could tell because I could hear the sound of walkie talkies. He continued to bother me for about two months.

These events coincided with that infamous party in Esfahan. The Ministry of Information agents had arrested the gay people at that party. Since then, the university Herassat was very suspicious of me and would find any excuse, like hairstyle, clothes, my paintings, and anything else they could come up with, to question and bother me. Some of my friends had attended that party. That is why I have a feeling that some of the people there had given that person (who had introduced himself as an Information agent) my phone number and other information about me.

When I spoke to my friends after the party, they said that the agents had raided the party, had arrested and taken everyone away, and had released them after a week. My friends told me that the [Ministry of] Information had thorough knowledge of the party before hand and had informants among the guests. One of the guests had even been an agent. One of the people arrested went to school (the university) with me and told me that they had taken them away “blindfolded.” Later, they had learned that they had been taken to Dastgerd Prison, outside [the city of] Esfahan.

All [those who work for the] Revolutionary Guards have constant dealings with Sepah Bank. One of my acquaintances worked at the Bank’s central branch in Tehran and, with help from one of his Revolutionary Guards friends, was able to obtain the Information person’s phone number and call him. This acquaintance had introduced himself as my father and had told him: “My son has become depressed because of you. What you’re doing is illegal. You have jeopardized and destroyed my son’s psychological and mental stability and well-being.” Since that person had propositioned me a few times, we were able to threaten him with legal action: I had saved his texts and voice messages and so I had proof. The contacting [and harassment] ended at that point.


Arrest and Detention

The [watershed to] Zayandeh Rood [river] is closed off [at some point] every year [to be opened later that year.] November 4, 2009 coincided with the opening of Zayandeh Rood. Aside from the fact that demonstrations had been organized in protest of the [presidential] elections results, that day had another symbolic significance for the people of Esfahan: The re-opening of Zayandeh Rood signified freedom. My friends and I decided to participate in the demonstrations, which were to take place at Enqelab Square, adjacent to [the historic bridge of] Si-o-Se Pol.

He took me by the throat and squeezed. Then he raised his club and hit me on the back of the head.  He hit my left leg with an electric club

I was with three friends. There were only a handful of people at the Square when we got there at 10 A.M. People kept coming until, gradually, a huge crowd had gathered. The agents did not want us near the river and kept telling us to leave “or they would resort to violence.” These agents were plain clothes agents as well as uniformed police.

[The agents] were arresting a number of people, among them a young boy. He was wearing a green bracelet and the agents were taking him away. He looked 15 or 16 and was crying. I went toward them and tapped the agent on the shoulder and said: “He’s a child, he doesn’t understand anything. Where are you taking him?” My friends followed my lead, so did the rest of the people, and [they all] started booing. Two agents approached me from behind. One of them put his hand on my shoulder and said: “Well, you’re not a kid. You come with us.” He was a plain-clothed agent. He took me by the throat and squeezed. Then he raised his club and hit me on the back of the head. My head was injured. He hit my left leg with an electric club. I wanted to run away. [When I started running] he grabbed my backpack and took it off. I had to go back because my camera, my university papers, and my university identification card were in it. When I went back they arrested me. Two agents took me to the Police Force booth that they have at certain street intersections. These booths are the size of a bedroom. There is a desk and a man who registers your name. When you enter the booth, there is a very small room, the size of the inside of a small elevator, where there is a soldier who searches bags and people. A few others stand guard in front of the booth itself.

I lost my friends when I got arrested. Once I was inside the booth, they started calling me [on my phone.] They hadn’t taken my cell phone yet and in a split second I answered the phone and told them that I had been arrested. Then I turned the phone off. The agents took it from me.

They used extremely vulgar language. I get anxious just talking about it, even now

They asked my first name, last name, father’s name, home address, address of place of work, home phone number, university address, and the like. They hurled extremely obscene and vulgar insults at me. For instance, when they asked my father’s name, they said: “You have a father?! Is your father in the same profession as you also?” They said things that really got on your nerves. They used extremely vulgar language. I get anxious just talking about it, even now. An older information agent said: “You’re a supporter of the Green Movement, huh? I’ll give you a green dick so you can have fun with it.” That’s what he said. When they were emptying the content of my backpack in the booth, they found some brushes and paint tubes and asked: “And just where do you stick this stuff? Where do you stick this stuff at night?”

As soon as the information agents read the contents of my cell phone, their attitude toward me changed completely. That is, they started to treat me like a “street” [whore] because they had learned that I was gay. They thought they could take advantage of me. Their attitudes became completely unbearable.

I was arrested around eleven A.M. and was in the booth until one o’clock. The agents were waiting to reach their quota [of arrests.] Apparently, they had to report the number of arrests made to their superiors. I can’t say exactly how many people they arrested but the booth had reached capacity, so much so that we were sitting on top of one another.

They brought a van and handcuffed us with plastic cables that looked like a watchband. They pushed our heads down so we could not see what was going on around us. Then they put us in the van. They took us to the Police Force’s Seyed Ali Khan Detention Center, located on Seyed Ali Khan Street, near Enqelab Avenue. We were held there temporarily. There, they took our handcuffs off.

We were held at the detention center from around 1:30 to 8:30-9 o’clock that night. I was not wearing a watch but when we left there, it was already dark. We didn’t know where they were taking us. When I asked, they said: “They’re going to send you to [the local office of the Ministry of] Information. From there, they will put you on a bus to Tehran. In Tehran, they will do whatever they want with you.” I believed them. My friends had been to different places [to try to locate me.] They had eventually found out that I was at Seyed Ali Khan Detention Center and they had been waiting for me outside. Later, they told me that I had been transferred to Dastgerd Prison at 8:30 P.M.

We were put on a minibus and handcuffed in pairs. They closed the curtains so that we wouldn’t be seen from the outside. Dastgerd Prison is outside of Esfahan. When we got there, they kept us in the yard for a while. It was very dark and very frightening. The yard was very big and the building lights seemed very far away. It was like a military barracks.

They kept us there for a while. Then they lined us up and did a body search. We had to take all our clothes off. I was a bit uncomfortable because they touched our bodies [in a not so innocent fashion.] I closed my eyes. When the body search was over, they gave us back our clothes. They helped us put them on. Our hands were untied at that point. Then a man handcuffed and blindfolded us.

Then we started walking. We had blindfolds on and our hands were tied behind us. This was torture because I could not see in front of me and there was a considerable distance between me and the next person. It was very strange: we would walk up ten steps, then walk down five. We were just turning around. I didn’t know what they wanted to do with us. I had seen a video clip where they had blindfolded students and were throwing them off buildings. I was worried that they would throw me down like that, because I have a fear of heights. We kept going up and down until we were in open air. It seemed to me like it was a rooftop. A person that was next to me said: “Now go. Take another step forward. One more step and you’re there.” This was the worst kind of torture to me because I thought that I would fall down at any moment.

They were playing with our heads. They said things that psychologically bothered us very much. For instance, when we asked: “What is going to happen to us? Where are we supposed to go?” they would reply: “You guys are finished. Say your prayers.” One time I said I wanted to call my family, that I was a student and that my family had no news of me. He told me: “You won’t see your family again. Let it go. Consider yourself dead.” Hearing these things was extremely difficult for me. It was tremendous psychological pressure.

Then they took us to a hall and sat us on the floor. It was a very strange environment. We were not allowed to look up. I could see from under my blindfold that the floor was partially tiled and partially carpeted. It looked like a hospital environment. I felt cots passing us. The walls were white and empty. You could hear yelling and screaming from afar. I even heard women crying and pleading. It was a muted voice that came from far away. From another side you could hear the call to prayer. They said they would call us one by one.

The interrogations were very scary because the interrogators were physically ugly and scary looking, as well as extremely insulting and offensive

They sent us upstairs one by one. We were getting ready for interrogations. They interrogated us again. There was a room with two men sitting behind two desks. They would send us in, in pairs, but each person would talk to his own interrogator.

The interrogations were very scary because the interrogators were physically ugly and scary looking, as well as extremely insulting and offensive. They treated us like animals. I shuddered when they talked to me during then interrogation. For instance, when they wanted to ask your mother’s name, they said things that would make you physically ill. “What is the name of your mother the whore… you know, the one who sleeps with everyone” they would ask.

They [asked for and] got every piece of information. “What group or political party are you active with? Why were you arrested? What happened? What street were you on” they would ask. We had to explain all of that in writing on one piece of paper, from beginning to end.

They had taken my camera and my cell phone. I had text messages in my cell phone, private texts I had exchanged with Ramin [Haqju] which effectively confirmed that I was gay. I also had audio files which were a sort of diary: instead of writing my feelings and my memoirs, I had recorded them in my cell phone. These were heart to heart conversations with myself, so to say. Like a diary, but in audio form. These files too, definitively confirmed my homosexuality. Aside from all of that, I had the phone numbers for the BBC and Voice of America Television in my cell phone. My camera was also in my back pack and the agents had thought that I was a [volunteer] reporter. In my interrogation questionnaire, however, I wrote that I had gone to change my camera and was arrested during the demonstrations. They asked me why I had brought a camera to which I responded that it was in need of repair and that I was taking it to the authorized dealership.

I had never contacted either the BBC or Voice of America but those were tumultuous times in Iran and I used to constantly watch both channels. I had recorded their numbers in my cell phone so that I could immediately call and send them any events I witnessed on the streets. But up until then I had never done so.

The interrogator was sitting to my right in such a way that, even if I raised my head I could not see him from under my blindfold. “Don’t look up or I will beat you over the head,” he kept saying

They then took us into the room. They would show up every one or two hours and wreak havoc a little bit and bother us. For instance, they would line us up again. I was the last person in line. They would say: “Your nose must be against the wall.” My nose was against the wall and I was in constant fear of someone hitting me from behind or doing something else to me. Then they would start from the head of the line and kick everyone. My head was bleeding because they had hit me earlier with a club.

They called me into the interrogation room a short while later. There was a chair facing the wall so that my back would be to the person asking me questions. I felt like there was someone standing behind me. I could hear him walking and breathing but I couldn’t see him. The interrogator was sitting to my right in such a way that, even if I raised my head I could not see him from under my blindfold. “Don’t look up or I will beat you over the head,” he kept saying. I was shivering because of the horrible treatment I was receiving. “Why are you scared? Why are you shaking” he asked, putting his hand on mine. “Why are you so cold?” “I think my blood pressure has dropped,” I said. Then he said: “You shouldn’t fucking get on the street [and demonstrate] when you don’t have the balls for it. All you do is create headaches for us. Now I’m going to fuck you up so you’ll know who’s boss.” He was screaming at the top of his lungs, like a madman. One minute he would speak softly and ask me why I was cold, leading me to think that he was a good person, and the next minute he would start screaming. I became extremely nervous and hysterical. It seemed as if these people were trained to talk to you like that, to make you even more nervous.

He then asked my name again, asked about my family. He knew about the content of my backpack. I had a wooden key chain in the form of a penis in my backpack that a friend had brought over from the Ukraine. The interrogator asked: “What do you do with this? You satisfy yourself with this at night? Does it make you feel good? We have the real ones. What size do you want? What color would you prefer?” At that point, someone walked into the room and I got the feeling that he gave him something. I think it was a fruit platter because he put a banana in front of me and said: “Eat.” This was the first time they were giving us anything to eat. I said I didn’t want to. “I’m telling you to eat it or I will forcibly shove it down your throat,” he screamed again. I was afraid that it would be poisonous or something. I was afraid to eat it. The interrogator forced it in my mouth, then went on with the questioning.

“You have to identify your friends. We have pictures of you in the demonstrations. You have to tell me who you came with,” he would say to me

“What do you do at the university? What do you do at your single’s pad,” he asked. It was very strange that he had every piece of information about me. When I gave him my home address, they knew it was a single’s pad. They knew what courses I had taken in what semester. I said I was carrying a camera because it was necessary for a photography course I was taking, to which he said: “But you took and passed that course already.” That was very strange to me.

I think the interrogation went on for an hour and a half to two hours. The questions were repetitive. He would ask the same question many times. I eventually ended up writing whatever he wanted me to write. If I didn’t, he would start screaming and threatening.

“You have to identify your friends. We have pictures of you in the demonstrations. You have to tell me who you came with,” he would say to me. “I was not there with anybody and I don’t accept your pictures,” I replied. “Why not,” he said. “Because anyone can be in a picture. If at that very instant, someone is crossing the street, or going to the supermarket, or is sweeping the street… Anyone can be in that picture. So you should interrogate them too. I was just crossing the street,” I replied. “You have to identify the people who were with you” he persisted. I don’t know any of them. No one was with me,” I said. Then he started threatening me: “If you don’t start speaking correctly, I won’t let you get out of here in one piece. I will send out your corpse.” “If you want to send my dead body out of here, by all means, do so, but I’m telling you I wasn’t with anybody, I was alone,” I said. “You have to give us the phone numbers for three of your friends” he insisted. “Why do I have to give you my friends’ phone numbers?” “Because it needs to remain in your file, it’s like your first and last name. You also have to give me the address of three neighbors or other people you know in this town.” I gave him three phone numbers of friends I wasn’t close to, who were, incidentally, very religious and supporters [of the regime.] When it came to addresses, since I didn’t know Esfahan very well, I wrote down the addresses of a few acquaintances in [the city] of Shiraz. I was only a student in Esfahan. I went to my friends’ houses based on memory and I didn’t know exact addresses.

[The agents] already had my number but they got my home number and my mom’s number as well. They also wanted my father’s work number. I told them that I did not know it by heart and that it was in my cell phone and that they could look it up. I said the same about my mother’s number: I didn’t know it by heart, it was in my cell phone.

When the interrogation was over, they took me to a place that looked like a hallway. I sat down with other prisoners. They brought us a disposable plastic plate in which there was a tomato, some cheese, a cucumber, and a piece of bread. I had absolutely no appetite. I was so stressed out I couldn’t eat anything. I felt like I was even going to throw up the banana I had had earlier. I didn’t eat. I could see the agents’ pants. They were wearing regular fabric pants and slippers, as if they were in a house. They were not wearing police uniforms. They were just normal fabric pants.

The interrogator was always the same person and kept asking the same questions. If the answers were even slightly different [than before] he would start mistreating me and insulting and...

Someone stood over me and said: “Why aren’t you eating?” “I’m not hungry,” I replied. “You have to eat. I’m going to stand here until you eat your food.” “I can’t. If I eat anything I’m going to throw up.” He grabbed my neck with one hand and with the other he shoved the plate into my face and said: “You have to eat. Go ahead.” I ate a little bit and I put the plate aside. Then he turned around and said: “Why didn’t you finish your food?” he was really insistent that I finish my food.

Then they took us back to a small room that was like a holding cell but much smaller. It was the size of a bedroom maybe a bit smaller, but with a very high ceiling. They sent ten of us there and took our blindfolds off. Then they called us again one by one. We had to go for interrogations again. I think I was interrogated three or four times before I was released.

The interrogator was always the same person and kept asking the same questions. If the answers were even slightly different [than before] he would start mistreating me and insulting me and telling me that I was lying. One time when he was trying to make me understand that I had to write the same response as before, I turned to him and said: “But I swear to God, it wasn’t what you’re saying.” He slapped me in the face really hard and said: “You are seeing me. I told you to keep your head down. You can’t look at me.” He was really worried that I might have seen him.

There was a student among the prisoners who [had been arrested] because of an article he had published in the university publication. He was a political science student at Esfahan University. “I think I’m in trouble. They might keep me here,” he told me.

I was very worried about my family and I was hoping [the prison authorities] would inform them. I’m my family’s only son and they’re very sensitive about [and protective of] me, especially my mother. I didn’t want them to worry. One or two of the prisoners were in trouble because they had previously been released on bail, after having pledged [the act(s) for which they had been arrested would not happen again.] But there were others who had been arrested for absolutely no reason. It was as if they had a quota of arrests, like 10 people, and they hadn’t reached that quota. So they had [randomly] arrested people without any reason. There were people there who were not [political] and had not come for the demonstrations.

The entire time I was there I was not allowed to go to the bathroom. During the last interrogation session, the interrogator said to me: “Don’t think you fooled me. I will never let you get your college degree. You’ll take the dream of continuing your education to the grave. Right now I’m just letting you go. But you can be sure we’ll come after you again.”

It was around 5:30-6:00 in the morning when they called my name and a few others. They put a pledge document in front of us. On top of the paper something was written to the effect that “I, Nima Nia, having participated in street riots, promise that I will not partake in any other riots or demonstrations. If I do, I will be solely responsible for any consequences such actions might have.” I said: “I haven’t done anything wrong, why should I sign a pledge? You’re labeling me as ‘one who has engaged in a riot’ but I did not. I’m a student who just happened to be in the street. I will not sign this document.” “If you don’t, you will stay here for a very long time,” he said. Then he started screaming: “You have some nerve. We’re being way too soft with you people.”

 I will not sign this document.” “If you don’t, you will stay here for a very long time,”

In any event, they forced me to sign that piece of paper. After about a half hour or an hour, they returned my backpack to me, without my camera and without my cell phone. They simply returned some of my everyday things, and threw me out. Dastgerd Prison is outside [the city of Esfahan.] I didn’t know where to go. I was released with two other individuals. We walked for a little while. A taxicab stopped for us. We had no money because they did not give our money back. I told the driver I would pay him once I got home.

I felt dizzy. My head was still bleeding because of the blow I had received earlier. Around 7 o’ clock in the morning, I went to the nearby Hojjatieh Hospital with my sister and my uncle. When I went to get my head stitched, there was someone else there other than the doctor, standing next to him. “My goodness, what happened to you?” the doctor said. My sister went off and started insulting [my captors]: “Look what those bastards did to him.” And as she kept talking, the man next to the doctor pulled his jacket slightly to the side so we could see his gun and handcuffs. This meant: “Shut up or we’ll take him again.” And my sister became quiet. I got eight stitches.

After I was released, I had two phone conversations with an individual by the name of Morteza or Mostafa with whom I had been detained. A week after my release, he called me and said: “I have just been released after a week. They really gave it to me. They beat us up really badly. Our situation is unclear. They told us not to leave town. My mother is supposed to come here (Esfahan) from Ahvaz to see me.” He called one more time and said: “I’ll make dinner one night and ask you to come over. We have a place, me with some other students. Let’s get together.” But after the incident with that information agent that I talked about before, I had become paranoid and was suspicious of everyone and everything, for absolutely no reason. And I would become anxious. That was why I did not return his calls and did not contact him again. I was suspicious and fearful.

The agents continued to contact me. They would call my home in Esfahan in the middle of the night, [insult me and] utter vulgarities, and make threats. All the calls were made in the middle of the night, just to prevent me from sleeping. During one of those calls they said: “Well, it seems you like it, so we’ll come over right now and give it to you.” That’s exactly the tone they used. They would call my mother and bother her. They would call constantly. On the occasion of December 7 [Student Day] my mother was very worried and said that she didn’t want me to stay in Esfahan and that I should go to Shiraz and stay with them. So I did.

On December 7, they called my mother and told her: “Your son is here. Come pick him up.” My mother replied: “What are you talking about? My son is sick and is sleeping in his room. Why do you keep bothering us?” Then they hung up. They called again on the occasion of Tasua and Ashura [one of the most important Shi’a holidays, commemorating the killing of Imam Hossein] and said: “You had brought charges because of your son. We want to start investigating.” My mother replied: “We did not bring any charges against anybody. And if you people want to drag us out there and are looking for an excuse to do so, [don’t waste your time.] It’s best if you speak your mind directly.”

They called again on the occasion of February 11 [the day of the Islamic Revolution.] The last time they called, they said: “You have to come and get your cell phone and your camera.” They had my cell phone from October 2009 until May 2010. My phone had been turned on at the Ministry of Information up until that point. I told them I no longer wanted that cell phone and camera, to which they replied: “You have to come and get your cell phone and camera, otherwise we’ll come to your home.” When I [finally] went to recover the two items, I realized what the whole thing had been about: a new round of interrogations. I was at Seyed Ali Khan Detention Center for an hour to an hour and a half. They interrogated me on the second floor. It was a plain-clothed interrogator who seemed to know the entire content of my cell phone.

I had taken a friend of mine’s mother along. The interrogator kept telling her: “We know your son better than you do. We know your son so well, and we know things about him that if you learned of those things, you would kill him before we did.” Then he turned to me and said: “We should not have released you. We should have kept you. Your case falls under “Socially Corrupt Acts/Sedition. You should have been turned over to them.” Then he started screaming again. I filled out a form in which I wrote down the information he wanted, such as home address, university address, home address and phone number in Shiraz. I then got my cell phone and camera back. My camera was not working at all. I don’t know what they had done to it. Every time I wanted to turn it on, I would get an “error” message. I sold my cell phone immediately, and destroyed the SIM card and threw it away.

Things quieted down a bit but my personal problems persisted. Ramin had left Iran and I missed him tremendously. Ramin himself was under a lot of pressure here (Turkey.) I had not cut communications off with Ramin’s family. I kept in touch with them by phone and I would go see them whenever I went to Tehran. I like his mother very much.

Ramin’s mother once said: “Make sure you go to Turkey to see Ramin. You two were together and right now, you need each other.” I was afraid of leaving Iran and my mother was extremely worried. Aside from the fear of being arrested [while leaving Iran] I had another concern. I was exempt from military service, not because I was gay, but because my father had worked for eight years in war zones and he could therefore have his son exempted from military service. So it was that I was exempted. I was worried about this as well. But fortunately, I was able to easily leave Iran.

I came to Turkey with my father and my sister and saw Ramin. I had no intention of applying for refugee status, but Ramin had done an interview with NPR in which he had mentioned me by name. This interview [September 30, 2010] made a lot of buzz outside Iran. When I wanted to return to Iran, Ramin’s family called us and said that the Information people had called and threatened them and had also mentioned me. They had asked what relation I had with their son. They had also contacted my own family and had asked where I was. Consequently, I stayed in Turkey and applied for refugee status.


*In order to present their works in universities and art education centers, art students routinely present their works to be judged by their professors. This process is called “Jugement.” The judging can take hours in art universities. The professor finally issues a grade to the student for the course and for the particular semester. “Jugement” is similar to a semester’s final exams.