Living in exile

An Iranian man, at risk of being killed in his homeland for being gay, is trying to seek refuge in Canada

Photograph Milad Mahdavian

Edison wasn’t home the first time Iranian police came to arrest him. He had been photographed during the mass demonstrations that rocked Tehran following last year’s seemingly rigged presidential election.

When police couldn’t find Edison, they took his computer and scoured its hard drive. Sifting through his emails, photographs and Internet search history, they discovered he was gay. When the police returned to his house three days later, they were no longer interested in his politics. Edison’s mother answered the door. “The first thing we have to do is stone your faggot son,” they told her.

Homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran, and young men have been hanged for the supposed crime. Edison’s mother didn’t know he was gay. The police slapped his elderly father about his face and detained Edison’s sister. When Edison (who asked that his full name not be used) reached his mother by phone, she begged him to get out of the country. Edison first tried sneaking across the border into northern Iraq, without success. He spent four days wandering in the mountains before returning to Tehran. With the help of his partner of five years, Milad Mahdavi, who had recently immigrated to Canada, Edison paid thousands of dollars to a people smuggler and an airport security official who agreed to look the other way. Edison flew to Cuba, and, eventually, to São Paulo, Brazil, where he secured refugee status.

Mahdavi, who was studying mechanical engineering at Ryerson University, has flown to São Paulo to be with Edison. “He’s my family. I want to be with my family and support my family,” Mahdavi says. He has a tourist visa and is not allowed to work in Brazil. Edison doesn’t speak Portuguese. They’re living on Mahdavi’s student loan. Mahdavi is trying to sponsor Edison to come to Canada as his partner. They lived together for years in Tehran and now must prove their relationship to the Canadian government. It’s a lengthy and difficult process.

For now, Edison and Mahdavi are two among thousands of gay Iranians in exile. Arsham Parsi, who founded the Toronto-based Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, an organization that helps gay Iranians find refuge outside Iran, is working on some 250 active cases. Since 2006 he has helped more than 100 gay Iranians come to Canada.




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Living in exile

  1. But Ahmadinejad said there were no gay Iranians. Who are we to believe here – a noted world leader, or somebody who is a wanton criminal in his own land, who has refused the many services available to him in his homeland (Iran funds sex change operations for homosexuals)?

    • to let you know, homosexuals do not need sex change operation, if you want to leave a comment it is not bad to first think about it or at least read about it to have some knowledge about the subject.

    • A noted world leader? do you mean that terrorist who denied the holocaust? Idiots like you must be hanged, same sex operations are for people with sexual identity disorders, not homosexuals. Please, we are living in the 21st century, put your stupidity aside and think for one second.

  2. If the christian fundamentalism is not restricted in it's power in North America,they won't be any safer here either.I wish them all the best.

  3. Ahmadinejad has also said many other things, such as the denial of Holocaust and so forth which have false bases and pretences. Secondly, there are many homosexuals living in Iran (whether still in the closet or not) which are part of the larger LGBT community that exists in every part of the world; Iran does partially fund the sex change operations, but for that you need to have a certificate that you are in need of an operation to become a transexual and this has nothing to do with being a homosexual.

  4. To be fair, Ahmadinejad said (translation), "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country." That could mean "we have homosexuals, but not the kind you have in your country" (the kind that march in parades and say they're proud of being gay, etc.). The statement (at least in translation) was somewhat ambiguous, and the original Persian version of it left that part out entirely.

    Anyway, of course there are gays in Iran. Everybody knows that.

  5. kicked in the cojones or f****ed in the culos. talk about your rocks being stuck in a hard place!!

  6. he didnt leave his family just to be what u called him in Brazil. he left because if he had stayed there, he would have been executed by now. so when a person has all the right to live, why he should have stayed somewhere that he knew he would end up dead in no time. and he left iran, because by him staying there, there was lots of pressure on his family from the side of the so-called crazy plainclothes police of iran, they did the worst things to this family to make them give their son in. his family did not cooperate with the police and in return the police started to torture them more. but when edison left his country, after sometime, the amount of the pressure on his family got reduced due to many reasons.

  7. to O.J. he didnt leave his family just to be what u called him in Brazil. he left because if he had stayed there, he would have been executed by now. so when a person has all the right to live, why he should have stayed somewhere that he knew he would end up dead in no time. and he left iran, because by him staying there, there was lots of pressure on his family from the side of the so-called crazy plainclothes police of iran, they did the worst things to this family to make them give their son in. his family did not cooperate with the police and in return the police started to torture them more. but when edison left his country, after sometime, the amount of the pressure on his family got reduced due to many reasons.

  8. oh! where is human rights here ! in iran ! they dont care even! they are really just about money and america ! there is a shame

  9. Human Rights in Iran is a Joke, when they do not see us as a Human how
    can we have any Rights? Country without law, if you are aware of the punishment, why do it?? Eslomeh Arabi Badbakhtemoon kardeh!! We are not Arab….we do not know what have we become anymore? No where in the world want us. Worst thing Iranians are without Unity!! All talk, Chokeretam, Nokaretam but Unity Zero, no matter where in the world!!

  10. Rather than barking about the nut Regime in Iran or the imaginary dangers of Christian fundamentalist, we all should be thinking of ways of helping Edison and Milad and others in their situation. That is the greatest help that we gays in the West could do for young men and women who could be jailed and/or executed for being gay.

  11. In today's day and age, it is quite surprising to witness the and realise that this kind of love still exist. A love that exist between Edison and Mahdavi which is no less then a True love. Yes, with this report I just realised that they have set an example for many lovers who look at each other for a hope and commitment. . I am an open and proud gay and if I was in his shoes , I would've tried the same thing, the same effort, because to those we love deeply, we can never see them in pain and misery. I am stunned and will pray for this couple with every living day of my life that they both will live happily together ever after. . . There is so much hatred and pain and so much wrong in this world. What has gathered and kept humanity in its own boundary is the love that we feel for each other and this couple right here is not less extraordinary than Romeo and juliet…. Love is what makes every thing going around in this world. If there is a God up there and he expects something from his children…. it has to be Love nothing else but love for each other. I just hope and pray that both of them get reunited and stay happy for years to come.
    My prayers are with you both
    Sambhav
    New Delhi

  12. @hosertohoosier, Listen dude as Michael and Reza mentioned homosexuals do not need sex change. If they wanted to change their sex for ignorant so called straight person like you then they are better off to stay what they are. You are a total embarrassment and a shame to whomever you are associated with. I cannot believe that we are in 21st century and we still have to have ignorant and uneducated people like you who think of a terrorist hostage taker like STUPID “Ahmadinejad” as a world leader. Please stop embarrassing yourself and show the world how ignorant and stupid you are and do not leave any more comments any where anymore until you go and finish your high school. By then we all will hope you possibly may have read and learn something. Also don't look at yourself in the mirror either because you may see nothing but a BIG IGNORANT Dumbo. I can't believe you are so IGNORANT that you think a dictator blood sucker like Ahmadinejad is a world leader. LOOOOllll. . .Do you ever read the news about Iran and what this bastard Ahmadinejad is doing to Iranian people?? It is bad enough that you are an ignorant homophobic but to top that you really are STUPID too dude!!! Just shut up until you get some education STUPID!

  13. @ O.J.; Listen, Orange Juice, “O.J.” I could not find any word in dictionary that would be good enough to describe how illiterate, dumb, ignorant, homophobic, racist, dirty, airhead, low life and a nothing you are. I don't know which woman gave you a birth but if I would be her I would never give a birth to another waste of skin like you bastard ignorant again. You are so low life and so sad that you are better off to jump off the roof. Your existence is an embarrassment to humanity you SICK uncivilized ignorant bastard.

  14. @Milad & Edison, Gentlemen I salute both of you for your bravery, love and commitment which you have for each other. That is ADMIRABLE!!! I am so sorry that you have to face ignorant homophobic individuals like; “hosertohoosier” and “O.J.”. Unfortunately there are disrespectful thugs and idiots like these two all over the world and sadly we have to share our beautiful lives with them too. But the best is to ignore waste of skin like these two thugs and move on. Just let's hope individual like these two get some education and civilization before they crock dead and hopefully they will not have any off spring like the idiots like themselves. I would like to let both of you know that Iran, Iranians and all the Gay people in the world are 100% behind you and we will not let you down. Both of you are the pride and admiration of all the Iranians and the world Gay community. Just be strong and proud!!! Love & Respect.

  15. i wish them both success and happiness. they were lucky enough to escape. but there are plenty still remained in Iran who need support. i'm not talking only about gay people. any member of any kind of minority group are in danger in iran.

  16. It is really sad to read what people go trough in Iran. It is none of
    anybody's buissnes that who we want to have a relationship with.
    Wish you all the best.Good luck.

  17. Its really sad to see how many innoccent people in my home country have to be in jail or be killled by the sattan regime of Iran.
    who realy said that a Government can mix itself with the privacy of the people??? we should all do something against the Criminal regim of Ahmadinejad and those who support the "Islamic Republic"

  18. u r not alone. we all support u. i am not a homosexual myself, but homosexuality has nothing to do with being a criminal. when these people can not have a safe happy life in their home country, then it is the duty of other countires who claim to care about the human rights, to welcome them.

  19. you are very courageous. i hope canada takes action ASAP.

  20. it is so sad to see that people are still suffering due to their sexual orientation on 21 century. wish you all the best.

  21. i wish canada accepts these 2 nice guys ASAP. they deserve to be in a safe place.

  22. I am dead sure, with supports from IRQR, your case would be finalised in a matter time because you are genuine and responsible citizens. All you need to do is to be patient and strong as always … we love you and support you.

  23. I wish Canada undrestand the tough situation these two Iranian freedome seeker have and support them ASAP.
    They have been looking for democracy and freedom in Iran which also Canadian government has alwayz claim the is a supporter of that so its time for Canadian Gov. to show what they really belive in…
    I wish them all the best…

  24. these 2 gentlemen have tried alot for the freedom of the iranians. we appreciate all their efforts. and i am sorry that iran's government was not able to accept these guys the way they are. we all hope that the esteemed government of canada help these two gentlemen ASAP and give them the chance to have a settled happy life. they have gone through alot. we should all respect the rights of human beings.

  25. Dear Hamed

    Edison's case is followed up by Iranian Queer Organization -IRQO. The case has been referred to IRQO on December 2009, by Milad Mahdavi, and right away IRQO got in contact with Edison while he was still waiting in despair in the airport and in danger of being deported back to Iran. Since then, fortunately, IRQO managed to collaborate with his client, Edison, and his dedicated partner Milad, the respective organizations working along with the UNHCR in Brazil, until Edison was granted refugee status. At present, IRQO is communicating actively with Canadian embassy and other institutions to bring the couple to Canada for permanent resettlement. Thank you for your interest in the couple's well-being.
    Saghi Ghahraman
    Iranian Queer Organization – IRQO

  26. you two are very brave and you deserve to have the best. hopefully canada will welcome you both in no time.

  27. courage, my brothers revolution is here .

    Down with Khamenei !!!

  28. I really hope and pray that Canadian Goverment grant the permit for Edison and Milad to permanently setle in Canada, it is not only about their relationship, but most importantly… their Life.

    Everyone deserves to leave happily with their love ones no matter what kind of relationship they have or what kind of person are they.

    I Hope that one day, people of Iran will get the freedom to leave the way they wanted.

  29. i hope these 2 will be allowed to live a long and happy life and m ay others in same situation find peace too i wish them luck

  30. i hope canada accepts these 2 nice guys ASAP

  31. I hope they can reach to Canada as soon as possible

  32. Iranian people pursuing Human Rights and democracy.Iranian rulers are against humanity.

  33. I hope one day we can see these tow guys living their life and I am asking government of Canada to help them start their life

  34. you guys are so brave. bravo and god bless you both

  35. Government of Canada is a big role model in human right issues and I am sure that they will prove this one more time

  36. As Ms. Saghi Ghahreman mentioned, IRQO is the organization that is following the case, just for clarifications and information.

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