As of this day we will walk in the path of freedom, hand in hand, with linked arms, firm steps and heads held high. We will break the chains that bind us – chains of captivity, chains of fear. With solidarity, strength, and pride we shall stand up for life in freedom. The time of censorship, oppression and isolation has come to an end. The time has come to speak courageously of injustice, tyranny, and violation. If you and I don't air our cries of pain and sorrow to the world, we will die in a prison of terror. With one voice let us convey the problems of a lesbian Iranian woman to the world. If you and I remain silent, not only our rights but those of countless others shall be sacrificed. What are you waiting for? Together, let us cry freedom.
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*For confidentiality reasons, names have been changed in the following interview.
---Please introduce yourself, in whatever way you prefer, to our readers.
I am Taraneh, an Iranian lesbian. I'm 48 years old. 17 years ago I became a refugee in Europe.
---When did you realize you were a lesbian?
From childhood I preferred to have girlfriends rather than boyfriends.
---Why did you become a refugee?
I am a lesbian. For this reason I was arrested countless times. I went to prison and ultimately sentenced to death [by hanging]. I remember the first time I was arrested; I was 21 and a student in Esfahan. I was making love with my girlfriend in a car when I was arrested. I was kicked out of university. I spent 3 months in prison. I was whipped. Eventually I went to India to continue my education. But my family did not want me to stay there so I had to return to Iran. From there began the rest of my problems.
---What problems did you have in Iran as a lesbian woman?
Everyone had found out I was a lesbian. They [my family] married me off, I had no other option. I married a relative. But I had a girlfriend. When the neighbours found out they informed on us. The Revolutionary Guards stormed our house, beat us up severely, and took us away with blindfolds.
---Did they have evidence?
Yes, they also arrested my girlfriend and their evidence were letters we had written to each other – they had found them.
---They arrested you for writing love letters?
In my second arrest I was forced to confess my lesbianism. Right now as I am writing these words my body is shaking, all of a sudden I feel cold. I wish God would avenge every second of my life spent being beaten with cables and filled with the screams of me and my girlfriend, who was only 17 at the time. They placed me in the solitary confinement wing. I had been beaten so much, I was bleeding heavily. I pleaded with them to help me but they didn't. Still, the side-effects of the beatings have not gone away. The judge in Esfahan's revolutionary court suggested I repent and cooperate with them, help them arrest others in the lesbian community. After rejecting his offer, I suffered another severe beating and a couple of days later they relocated me to the woman's ward.
---What condition was your girlfriend in?
Since she was younger, they said she had been manipulated and released her with bail after 6 months. In my case, since it was my second arrest, since I had a husband, and since I would constantly talk back [to the authorities] I remained in prison for an extra 2 years. Then they showed me a paper and told me it was a verdict for hanging. Every day they would mentally torture me by saying “even if you’re released, we’ll get you, send you to prison and hang you”. I was in the ward for women who were prostitutes, murderers, thieves, etc in Esfahan's Dastgard prison. I was given 160 lashes in a judicial office by a man named ***. They tied me to a bed in the middle of the backyard. The other prisoners came to watch me being whipped. In the evenings, as torture they would blindfold me and then lead me around the backyard over and over again, turning me this way and that. My inspector Mr. *** would say to me 'this year they should burn you'. All this torture only for being a lesbian.