Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses

Iran: Gay Parties Turned Nightmares

Puya/ABF interview
Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
April 25, 2014

My name is Puya. I’m 33 years old, and I was born in [the Province of] Khuzestan. My family was displaced during the Iran-Iraq war and was forced to move to another city.

The soldiers would walk on our backs with their boots on and the Special Unit agents were beating us with their clubs...The agents were yelling: “Perverts! Lechers!”

I was accepted at State University, Bandar Abbas Branch, to study for an associate’s degree in marine structures. Thereafter, I moved to [the city of] Bandar Abbas to continue my education. At the same time, I started working for a private company as an inspector.

On May 10, 2007, I was invited to my friend’s birthday party in Esfahan. The location of the party was an apartment building in Hamzeh Alley in Esfahan. My friend was one of my closest friends and had invited me to the birthday party a month in advance.

Thursday night, at 8 o’clock, I went to the party with another friend. There were about eighty people at the party, some of whom had come from other cities, and I did not know them. The guests had dressed any way they liked: transgender individuals were dressed in women’s clothing and were wearing makeup, and some of the other guests had died their hair.

The party started. Music was playing, and everyone started dancing and having fun. One of the guests had brought a few liters of [alcoholic beverages] to the party.

Some of the guys had suffered from concussions and severe bleeding, resulting from being beaten by clubs while still at the apartment.

Around 9:30 P.M., I had gone to the balcony with two other friends to smoke a cigarette. As we were talking, we heard a very strange noise, like that of a hundred glasses breaking. This was the sound of the Special Unit soldiers breaking windows and doors down with their clubs. My two friends and I had realized that the agents had come into the apartment after the rest of the guests. We had just barely realized what was going on that one of the soldiers came on the balcony, grabbed me and one of my friends by the collar and threw us to the ground and told us to lie there. That instant, my other friend jumped from the balcony of the apartment, which was on the third floor. At that moment, I wasn’t thinking about myself but was rather worried about my friends, especially the one who had jumped from the balcony to the yard below.

The soldiers would walk on our backs with their boots on and the Special Unit agents were beating us with their clubs. We were not allowed to raise our heads. The agents were yelling, “Lie down, and do not look up,” and would continue with their insults: “Perverts! Lechers!”

I kept looking up every chance I could. After a few seconds, I noticed that a number of bearded men dressed in suits had come into the house, along with another person who started filming the guests. One of those men was telling the rest of the agents not to beat us, but the Special Unit agents didn’t listen and continued to beat us.

One of the agents grabbed one of the transgender kids by the hair and raised his head and asked: “Are you a girl or a boy?” He replied, “Let me go, I’m a trans,” to which the agent said, in an Esfahani accent, “What the hell is a trans?”

After a short while, they pulled sacks over our heads and tied every two persons together with plastic cords and moved us to the building’s garage. I was one of the last people to be transferred downstairs, and, by that time, they had run out of sacks. So they said, “Pull your shirts over your heads.” In the building hallway and stairway, agents were lined up from the top of the building to the ground floor; they beat everyone up with clubs as we were passing them.

Upon arrival at the police force’s information building... they lined us up and put a sign around our necks that said, “Participating in a Prostitution Gathering.” They then took our pictures one by one.

When we got to the garage, they made rows of 8 people and took us to Toyota [vehicles] that were outside the building. Each vehicle had room for ten people, but they would pile us up on top of each other like sheep. Outside in the alley, people from other buildings had gathered around and were watching us.

The person to whom they had tied me was bigger than me, and that’s why our plastic band tore apart as we were getting into the car.

Inside the vehicle, I was under the other guys and didn’t know how many other people were there. I only noticed that my friend (the person who had thrown the party) was in the same car. One of the officials in charge of arresting us had emphasized that the soldiers keep an eye on my friend. One of the soldiers asked him where he was from, to which he replied, “I’m from Sirjan.” At that point the soldier proceeded to beat him and insult him saying, “Shame on you for having shamed us. I’m from Kerman too. Are you a man? Why do you do these things? Why are you dressed and made up like women?”

[This is how the vents of that night unfolded.] When the agents had arrived and wanted to enter the building, one of our guys had opened the door [not knowing it was Special Unit agents]. When he had come face to face with them, he had simply frozen. One of the agents had told him, “Do not say a word. Just stand aside.” The agents had then quickly gotten themselves to the third floor and had broken everything in the house with their clubs, and they had then proceeded to throw the birthday cake down into the yard three stories below. Then they arrested everyone.

After a few minutes, the cars started moving, and we were taken to the Esfahan Police Force Information Section Detention Center. At first none of us had any idea where we were being taken.

Some of the guys had suffered from concussions and severe bleeding, resulting from being beaten by clubs while still at the apartment. They were taken to the emergency room. They joined us at the detention center after having been treated.

Upon arrival at the police force’s information building, all our personal belongings -- including cell phones, photography equipment and video cameras -- were confiscated. Then they lined us up and put a sign around our necks that said, “Participating in a Prostitution Gathering.” Everyone protested, saying that that was not true and that we would not allow them to take pictures of us with that sign. What they said was, “Really?! You will do as you’re told, you pieces of shit. You will take pictures, and that’s all there is to it.” They then took our pictures one by one. We were subsequently transferred to a small room, a twelve-square-meter room, if I’m not mistaken.

The second phase was interrogation. They took us in groups to the door of a large room, and we were sent in one by one to be interrogated. Those standing outside could easily see what was going on inside. The interrogations were conducted by four interrogators. There were a bunch of desks, and we had to stand next to one of those desks and answer the questions we were asked. The most interesting part of all this was that they would beat us and curse at us if our answers were not to their liking.

The first question was, “Did you have any alcohol?” Some of the guys answered in the affirmative and some in the negative. To those who said they had not consumed any alcohol, the interrogators would say, “Bullshit! You didn’t drink! You fucking faggot! Everybody’s fucked you, you fucking faggots! Everywhere you go, everybody fucks you up the ass, and now that you’re here you’re acting all holy? You faggots! Now open your mouth, and let me smell. I’ll tell you if you’ve had alcohol or not.” And if they smelled alcohol on someone’s breath, they would insult him and make notes in his file. They asked other questions too, such as, “Do you have sexual problems or not? How many parties have you participated in up to now? Who are you friends with in this bunch? How do you know the person who threw the party, and how is he related to you? Who among you is a homosexual?” They even told me, “If you tell us who the homosexuals are in this bunch, we will let you go. It’s to your advantage to tell us who is a homosexual, so that you won’t face any problems.”

When I was standing outside the interrogation room, I noticed that the interrogators were kicking and punching some of the guys, while insulting them. I was slapped, also, when I told them I was not a homosexual during the interrogation. The interrogations ended at 2:00 in the morning. The conduct of police officials toward us was extremely bad, and they hurled extremely offensive expletive-ridden insults at us.

At the end of the interrogations, they separated transgender individuals from the rest of us, and we were taken to a bigger hall. It was cold there, and there wasn’t even a small piece of carpeting for us to sit on. When we went into that room, we each went to a corner and sat on the floor. We were all afraid of what might ultimately happen to us. Some of the guys started crying and others were saying things like, “What will happen? What are we going to tell our families? They will lose all respect for us if they learn of what has happened.” Some of the guys who came from religious families were much more worried and frightened.

In any event, we spent the night at the detention center. In the morning, they told us to give them money if we wanted something to eat. We all chipped in and gave the money to one of the soldiers to get us something to eat.

After we ate, they took me and a number of other people for another round of questioning. This time, they were asking questions that had nothing to do with the previous night’s events. They had learned that I had thrown a birthday party the previous month and had fairly thorough information of it. Someone had obviously told them about it. During the interrogation, they were asking me questions such as, “You had a birthday party last month. Why did you throw a party? Who was there?” My answer was that my family and my friends had been there. They also asked me a question that was quite surprising to me, “You are subscribed to Monajjem website? (This is a website for gay people to find each other and make friends.)” I couldn’t say that I wasn’t, because they had unfortunately found my profile on the site and had printed my picture, which they showed me. After they were done with the questioning, they took me back to detention with the others.

That same night, the Esfahan District Attorney (DA) came to the detention center and, once again, we were handcuffed, but not blindfolded, and taken upstairs for questioning. There was a desk in the room behind which the DA was sitting. When I entered the room, I was told to “kneel before the DA’s desk.” I did so, and the interrogation started. Only a few questions were asked: name, last name, and the like. Then, for individuals such as myself who had been interrogated several times, bail was set in amounts ranging from 10 to 300 million Tumans. My bail was set at 30 million Tumans. Everyone was then transferred to Dastgerd Prison (near Esfahan) in a single bus. That is, 80 people in one bus.

I was interrogated three times at the Police Force Information Section Detention Center, twice by the interrogators, once by the DA.

When we entered Dastgerd Prison, we were all lined up in the prison’s main hall, awaiting the next phase. They checked out everyone’s appearance and bothered those who had plucked their eyebrows or were wearing more fashionable clothing. They would take some of them by the collar to a corner, place them against the wall and tell them, “You’re a trans. You have to admit you’re a trans,” and the guys would deny and state that they were not transgender.

Among the transgender people, there was a guy who had been a soldier [performing his mandatory military service] at that same prison, and had been able to obtain an exemption from military service, after a while, for being transgender. When they saw him among us, they quickly recognized him and beat him and insulted him for wearing women’s clothing.

The first phase after entering the prison was cutting our hair. They transferred us one by one to another room where they shaved all our heads; they then registered our names and specifications. We were then transferred to another room, where we were told to take our clothes off and to bend over so that the soldiers could conduct a bodily search. We were then allowed to put our underwear back on and were taken to another section to wear prison uniforms.

They would say, for instance, “You’re homos. Shame on you, poor bastards. You’re not men, are you? Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves?

Then, we were sent to a huge and scary hall in the solitary confinement section. This hall was reserved for prisoners who had been involved in prison riots and was located in Dastgerd Prison’s basement. At the end of the hallway were two bathrooms and two toilets. A camera in a corner of the room monitored our activities. When we entered the cell, we were asked who among us was transgender. The transgender people identified themselves and were taken to another cell. It was close to morning when they brought us a limited number of pillows and blankets.

During all this time, the prison guards were completely disrespectful of all of us, hurling the worst insults at us and saying things in order to play with and mess with our minds. They would say, for instance, “You’re homos. Shame on you, poor bastards. You’re not men, are you? Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves? Don’t you have families? Obviously not, because, if you did, you wouldn’t be like this.” In fact, the prison guards knew in advance that a group of “homos,” as they called us, were to be taken there, and that’s why they had prepared an entire hall for us. One of the prison guards told me, after I had been there for a few days, that they knew beforehand that we would be transferred there.

The prison warden came to see us in the morning and asked how we were doing. He said, “I don’t care who you are or how you are. I’m the warden, and I have a duty to respect you, and I don’t want you to have any problems here.” I was extremely surprised, because we had been treated badly the previous night.

On the second day of detention, a number of interrogators, appointed by the Judiciary, came to the prison. The interrogations were conducted in three different rooms. The guys were taken from their cells to these rooms without blindfolds. When we were being transferred, they would close the other cell doors, so that other prisoners would not be able to see us.

Inside the interrogation room there were a desk and two chairs. A very scary-looking man was sitting behind the desk. He was so scary that you couldn’t bear to look at him. He was short, fat, and had a full beard, and there was a prayer stone mark on his forehead. They asked pretty much the same questions of everyone: “Name? Last name? Alias? Do you have a sexual problem or not? Who among you is a homosexual? Who is a trans? What was your intention in going to that party? Address? Where do you work?” I answered in the negative to the question about sexual problems and said that this had been a birthday party with a birthday cake and birthday presents. But the interrogator insisted, “No, this was a gay sex party, and you were supposed to have a sex orgy at the end of the night.” This was exactly the sentence he uttered. I was then transferred back to the hall.

When we were in prison, some of the guys were saying, “There’s news coming in that they’re going to execute us. They’re going to throw us off of a cliff.” Others would say that we would be freed and yet others that we would be incarcerated. In fact, the prison guards were spreading these rumors to instill fear in us. They would take a person outside, tell him this stuff, and send him back in to tell the others about what he had heard. Prison officials would also say things like, “Human Rights Watch has learned of your story on the second day of detention and is following it closely, but there’s nothing anyone can do for you.”

On the third day of detention we were allowed to contact our families. [Prior to that,] I had been able to talk to my mother for about thirty seconds. She had actually found someone she knew who was able to contact me inside prison and tell me, “Don’t worry, your problems will be solved. Be patient. Your families are trying to free you on the outside.” That was when we understood that our families had become aware of us having been arrested.

On the outside, our families were being given the runaround: When they would go to the place where they had kept us the first night, they would be told that we weren’t there and that we had been taken to jail; and when they went to jail, they would be told that we had been transferred to court. They had also been told that we had participated in a homosexual party, where a number of two-sexed persons had also been present and that we had all wanted to have sex with each other. Our families had gotten extremely worried after hearing all of this and were going anywhere they could to secure our freedom.

On the fourth day of detention they separated the older guys from the younger guys. This separation was based solely on their perception of who was younger and who was older. In other words, if they thought that someone looked older than twenty, they would separate him from the others. They kept only one person whom they thought was older with the younger guys. This was an insult to us, because they thought [again based on their own crooked perception] that older guys might rape younger ones [and that they would catch people in the act], whereas there was a camera recording our every move the whole time, and they knew that we hadn’t done anything wrong.

In any event, they transferred older people to another cell on the ground floor, a very narrow hall with two rooms and a bathroom and toilet at the end of the hallway. That was where they kept political prisoners. Inside the room, there were plastic pipes running inside the walls and there were a series of tiny holes in the ceiling where they had placed hidden cameras to control the prisoners’ moves and conduct, twenty four hours a day. One of the guys, who had been a prisoner there, told us all of this.

During the time I was imprisoned, I was taken to court in Esfahan once. I do not recall the date or the court branch number. This particular session dealt with my birthday party the month before and with my membership in the Monajjem website. I had thrown a party one month prior to my arrest, which a number of foreigners had attended and one of whom was an employee of the Italian Embassy. The judge told me, “You gather various people in your home so that these foreigners can promote homosexuality.” At the end of the court session I was convicted of promotion of homosexuality and membership in the Monajjem website and was sentenced to 91 days imprisonment and 74 lashes. Unfortunately, I did not have the financial capability to hire an attorney, and I therefore preferred to go to prison and do the time.

The 91-day sentence started running the same day we had been taken to prison. The other guys were cleared of all charges leveled against them, and they were all set free on the fifth day of detention. Before release, however, they were given a piece of paper and told to write “that they had not been beaten or insulted at all” and that they would not be released unless they wrote and signed the statement. They all did what they were told, filled out the forms and were released. Some of their personal belongings such as photography equipment, movie cameras, and cell phones, were not returned to them. Transgender individuals and individuals who had consumed alcohol were also released on bail.

When all the guys were released, I was transferred to solitary confinement, which consisted of a two by three meter cell divided by a half wall, on one side of which there was a shower and on the other side, a toilet. The room was completely dark and without a window. I could tell what time it was only when they brought meals. I was not allowed to smoke cigarettes, and there was nothing else to do. The food was really awful and never enough. Some days, it consisted of Estamboli (rice with tomato paste and potatoes) and other days, Qeymeh (rice with split peas, fried potatoes, and small pieces of meat.)

I was given 10 days of solitary confinement, but since I hadn’t made a sound the whole time, they forgave one day, and I only stayed in solitary for 9 days. I was then transferred to a ward where people who had not paid dowry and alimony, or had been involved in accidents [and had to pay “Dieh” (“blood money”)] were kept. The prison hygiene situation was really awful; we had to really protect ourselves and to prevent ourselves from getting sick.

In solitary, I was with another man named Hossein for about 5 days. I don’t remember his last name. All I know is that he had killed his friend during a street fight and had been arrested on a murder charge. When I was released from prison, I learned, from friends I had made inside, that he had unfortunately been hanged.

On the last week of my prison sentence, I asked to receive the lashes. 3 or 4 days later, they said they would carry out that portion of the sentence. It was on the 85th day of imprisonment, if I’m not mistaken, that they came and told me they wanted to take me for the flogging. When I entered the room where they carried out the punishment, there were two people there; one was the one who actually did the whipping, the other was the witness and observer. There was a bed in the room. They checked my clothes and told me to take my pants and shirt off and lie down on the bed. Up until then, I was under the impression that they flogged you with your clothes on. In any event, I took my clothes off and lied down on the bed. The person who was in charge of the flogging itself said, “Don’t move. If you move, for every lash you’re supposed to receive, I’ll give you two. That means, if you move, you’ll get two more.” The other one said, “Don’t move at all. Even if it hurts, don’t move. This guy really hits. Hold the legs of the bed so you won’t move.” And I obeyed. Then he started. He would turn his hand around and the lashes would come down on my body. The lashes started from my shin and gradually came up to my neck. I don’t know how they were counting the number of lashes, but I really thought there was no counting at all. The whip itself was made of wire, if I’m not mistaken, that had been interwoven in the form of braided hair.

Once the flogging was over, I was transferred back to the ward. My entire body was black and blue and I could not sit very well. I had to lie down on my stomach. I had a very sharp pain in my back. One of my prison mates put Vaseline on my wounds to prevent them from getting infected and to help them heal faster.

I was finally released on August 9, 2007. Because of psychological problems that I had developed due to my detention, I started seeing a doctor. I was afraid of loud noises, even music; I was afraid of the sound of things breaking, and I was constantly anxious. For a time, there was no sensation in my left thumb; this condition was caused when they had attached us together with plastic restraints. I gradually got better after a few months.

After a while, I saw the friend who had jumped off the balcony into the yard below. He said, “When I fell, it felt like I had been paralyzed. I dragged myself to the bathroom in one corner of the yard and hid there from the agents. I was afraid to contact my family, so I called your sister and told her where I was. [I told her] that I was stuck, and that she had to come and get me.” After making sure that the agents were gone, my sister had gone there and had taken my friend to the nearest hospital. She had told the hospital people that he had been in a hit and run accident and that the driver had fled the scene. My sister told me that they had brought some of the guys who had head injuries to the hospital and that they were looking for my friend, telling the hospital staff that “there was a possibility he might show up there, because he had thrown himself off the balcony from the third floor.” That same night my sister had contacted some of the families she knew from before and had told them about our arrest.

The news of our arrest had even been published in some local Esfahan newspapers. My mother saved one of these newspapers for me to read after my release. The news read, “Homosexual Ring of 80 individuals Dismantled in Esfahan.”

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would one day get arrested for throwing a birthday party. If I had, I would never have thrown that party under any circumstances. And regarding my friend’s party, none of us thought what happened there would happen, otherwise we would have never gone there. I never went to another party again after I was released. I had been so affected by the ordeal that I seldom even went to family gatherings.

In any event, I returned to Bandar Abbas a month later to go back to school and work. When I went to register for the new semester at the university, however, I was told that I had been expelled. They gave me a piece of paper which stated, “In accordance with Article xyz, you are no longer allowed to study and are hereby expelled from the university.” I took the paper and went to the university president’s office to ask him the reason for my being expelled. Surprisingly, he treated me very badly and said, “This is no place for homosexuals.” That was all I heard. He then called the security people and said to them, “From now on, do not let this man enter the university,” and I was escorted to the university exit gate.

When I was expelled from the university, I went back to my previous place of employment in that private company and told the company president that I had had financial problems and could not come to work. Fortunately, he allowed me to continue working there like before. Two weeks later, in late September, my family contacted me and told me that I had been summoned by the Police Force Information Section and that I had to go there as soon as possible. I quickly went back to my hometown to speak with my family. I was told that, a few days earlier, my sister was at home alone when agents had come. She had initially thought that they were there because of my brother’s problems, since he had gotten a divorce from his wife and was having trouble paying the dowry.

It was when they entered the house that my sister had realized that it was something else all together. They had then proceeded to go into my room and confiscated my computer, some books and CD’s, and my photography and movie camera and equipment. When my sister had tried to stop them they had put a gun to her head and told her to “go sit in a corner and not make a sound.” So my sister had done as she had been told. After this conversation with my family, I realized and was sure that, if they arrested me again, I would not be able to go free easily this time, because my computer contained a number of gay movies, videos taken at parties I had attended with my gay friends, and articles on Islam and Christianity. Among my books they had confiscated were a translation of [Salman Rushdi’s] “Satanic Verses” [a book that had caused Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a Fatwa (Islamic edict) calling for his execution for blasphemy], a few books about the realities of Islam, and books on the New Testament. I was therefore afraid that they would charge me with Moharebeh (“waging war against God”) [a crime punishable by death] and issue a death sentence for me. I told my family that I would not answer the summons and asked them to allow me to leave the country. That was all I could do at that point.

Before taking any action, I emailed Mr. Arsham Parsi [an Iranian LGBT Human Rights activist who lives in exile in Canada] and told him that I had been arrested at the Esfahan party and that I was facing new problems and asked for his advice. In the meantime, I met someone through a family friend, who said he could do something for me before I presented myself to the authorities. When I talked to him, he said he would try and do something for me and that nothing would happen because “we could solve this problem with money.”

He was able to then establish contact with a high-level Police Force Information official who [had said he] would help me in my case in return for a bribe. After a few days, our friend told me not to worry and to go present myself. Ridden with fear, I ended up going to the  Police Force Information Section and presented myself. They asked me for my ID when I was entering the building, to make sure I was who I said I was. I showed them my Exemption from Military Service Card, which they attached to my file, and they directed me to another room. After a few minutes, a woman and two men who were the investigating judges in my case, came into the room. They were carrying a file about six inches thick on which “confidential” was written, along with a movie camera, some CD’s, and books. They set all of the evidence on a desk. They sat behind that same desk and the interrogation began.

The questioning went on for a few hours. They asked me a lot of questions, the first one of which was, “Are you a homosexual?” to which I answered I wasn’t. Then they said, “So what is your relationship with homosexuals?” “I want to marry a trans.” “What is a trans?” one of them asked. “These people change their sex because of the multitude of problems they have, and then they can get married” I replied. “Says who?” “It is Imam Khomeini’s Fatwa (edict).” Suddenly one of them said, “Shut up. Where is this written?” “It is in his Treatise. You can go read it,” I said with certainty. I then explained to them that the Fatwa was issued in 1985-86, that these people could have a sex change operation, and that I wanted to marry one. They repeated: “Don’t you have a father, don’t you have a mother? Don’t you have a background? Why do you want to marry one of these?” “What’s wrong with that? These people are human beings too” I said. This conversation kind of convinced them that I wasn’t gay.

“Why do you associate with them?” they asked again. “Because I want to familiarize myself with their behavior. After all, I’m going to live with one of them, so I want to know what kind of people they are,” I replied.

They also asked me some questions about the birthday party I had thrown. They played the video taken at my party and asked who everybody was. I told them who they were. They said, “How can you allow [the female members of your family] to attend this gathering with their hair uncovered? Where is [your sense of honor]? How can you allow your mother and your sister to parade around like that?” Their next question had to do with my five foreign guests. One of them was an employee of the Italian Embassy, who was a friend, and the other four were tourists and were brought to the party by another one of my friends. “Who are these people?” they asked. I told them that the four were brought by a friend of mine who was a tour guide and had asked me if he could bring them along, and that I had said that he could. The investigating judges were very sensitive about the five foreigners. “They have come to Iran on a mission. Their mission is to promote homosexuality in our country and you have knowingly or unknowingly collaborated with them” they said.

I told them that that case had already been decided, a sentence had been issued [and carried out] and it was over, to which they said, “The judge’s information at the time was incomplete, but we now have thorough information and all the evidence is there, including film, books, CD’s, and your hard drive.” They then asked me about my religious beliefs, to which I answered that I was a Muslim. This interrogation session lasted three hours, and I was questioned by all three judges. The interesting thing was that the woman interrogator was much harder on me than the two men, and treated me very badly. I was not beaten, but insulted and belittled.

After the session was over, they told me “not to talk to anyone about it. If we learn that you have talked about this [or had given an interview], you will regret it.” And I did not talk to anyone about anything to the best of my ability. They then made me [sign a] pledge that I would not attend any homosexual or transgender gatherings. They also said that an official government employee had to vouch for me and to leave [his or her] ID card with them as collateral to secure my release. I knew beforehand that I needed a guarantor in order to be released, and that was why I had already talked to one of our acquaintances, and he had agreed to put his card up as collateral. I should emphasize that this case was sent to the Chief of the Information Section and he had been paid a five million Tuman bribe for my release (based on what we had agreed upon), money that I had borrowed from a friend.

About ten days later, my guarantor was contacted and told that he could go pick up his ID card. Six months later, around March, I went to the Information Section and got my Military Service Exemption Card back. I noticed the word “closed” written on my file.

I then returned to Bandar Abbas and went on with my normal life. I became very close with a number of gay friends from the city of Shiraz.

It was in the early months of the year 1391 (March to May 2012) that one of my friends from Shiraz, decided to leave Iran. At the time, I had traveled to Tehran with my boyfriend. My friend was supposed to fly to Tehran, where we would meet, and he would then go to Turkey. I had gone to a friend’s house with my boyfriend, and my friend was supposed to contact us the day after his arrival to Tehran. The next day, when I called my friend’s cell phone, I noticed that it was turned off. I knew our other friends were taking him to Shiraz airport, so I called them, but all of their cell phones were turned off, as well. I got worried and thought that something must have happened.

We found out through one of the guys that about 10 people had gone to the Shiraz airport to see him off. When our friend had obtained his boarding pass and gone to the waiting area, an individual had approached and arrested him. The rest of the guys had been arrested by the Revolutionary Guards at the airport and had been taken to the Guards Information Section for interrogation.

As far as I know, after these arrests, the Guards Information agents had gone to every single one of the guys’ homes and had taken their computers to the Guards Information building. The agents had then extracted all of their pictures and films and had forced them to provide their Yahoo ID’s and passwords.

Their families had talked to attorneys about the arrests. One of the lawyers had said that this could be very serious and that they could even be sentenced to death.

After a few days, all eleven individuals were transferred to Adelabad Prison in Shiraz. Unfortunately, they had really scared the guys a lot and had told them that they were going to execute them. They had even told one of them to write his will, “because they wanted to execute him.”

After they were transferred to jail, my friend contacted me from the inside, having made sure that the phone was not tapped. He told me that they had recovered from his computer the video of the party in February-March 2012, at a Shiraz restaurant, where my boyfriend and I were celebrating the anniversary of our meeting, along with thirty other friends. He said the Guards were in possession of that film and that they were looking for me. He also said that, during the interrogations, they had told him that “this was a homosexual wedding ceremony.” He said that they had asked my name and that he had told them that my name was Puya. He said that they had also asked my last name and that he had told them that he didn’t know it.

After this conversation, I got whatever money I was owed from my job, sold everything I had in Bandar Abbas below market price, left the country for Turkey on August 11, 2012, and applied to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees for asylum.