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  ROAD TO FREEDOM

Iran’s Gay Underground Railroad Is A Bumpy Ride To A Brighter Future

Iran-LGBT-Railroad-051171834898If you can make it to Turkey, you’re set.

That’s the mindset of the many LGBT Iranians who flee their home country seeking a brighter future free from constant government harassment and persecution. They call it the gay underground railroad.

The decision to leave your home — family, friends and all familiarity — for an uncertain fate is never easy. Iran’s anti-gay laws are harsh — being convicted of a same-sex kiss will get you a flogging, and sodomy is punishable by death. For those who do decide to take a leap off the proverbial cliff, the choice can be a necessary last resort.

News website Vocative recently profiled an adorable couple who made the journey to Turkey, where they now both live in limbo awaiting their asylum paperwork to be processed.

Sepehr Rajaei and Ata Leysi met online, fell in love and began living together in Tehran.

Eskisehir, Turkey, 2014 Sepehr Rajaei  and Ata Leysi in their Eskisehir flat.They were living a lie, forced to hide the nature of their relationship from family, unable to show any kind of affection in public. The stress was too much, and they knew they stood a good chance of relocating to the West by traveling the gay underground railroad.

Turkey doesn’t require a visa, so for Rajaei who has an Iranian passport, the journey was a relatively simple one. Leysi paid a smuggler $1,000 to transport him to the mountainous border where he found a spot to slide under a barbed wire fence.

Life as a refugee isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Though not legally permitted to work, the two have found odd jobs to tide them over. And while free from government persecution, they’ve had their fair share of run-ins with homophobia in their temporary home.

But their outlook remains positive. Leysi was recently approved for asylum in the U.S., though Rajaei is still waiting for his status. “I know we’ll end up being together,” Leysi says.

Read the full story here.

By:           Dan Tracer
On:           Mar 11, 2014
Tagged: ,

  • 4 Comments
    • Boricuaex
      Boricuaex

      This is such touching, heart rending story. Thank you for posting!

      Mar 11, 2014 at 4:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mikah
      Mikah

      They are so brave and strong.

      Mar 11, 2014 at 9:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • barkomatic
      barkomatic

      Yet another reminder of how lucky we have it in western countries.

      Mar 12, 2014 at 3:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • chip_in_ga
      chip_in_ga

      I have gay friends in Algeria, there they still have honor killings, where if the family finds out your gay they have you killed. They are so conflicted, they don’t want to leave their families and everything they know, but at the same time want to be able to live their lives as their true selves. The U.S. makes it very hard for them to get asylum here, which is so sad. Even if they have sponsors. Something needs to be done.

      Sep 22, 2014 at 3:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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