Gay Iranian granted refugee status by UN

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A gay Iranian asylum seeker has been granted refugee status by the UN after eighteen months of campaigning.

Kamal and Reza fled Iran for Turkey so they could start a life together without the fear of being punished for their sexuality.

Kamal has been told he will be recognised as a refugee while Reza is hopeful he will receive notification soon.

Human rights groups claim up to 4,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed since the 1979 revolution in Iran.

These are usually under the guise of honour killings, says a 2006 report released by LGBT activists OutRage!

In a speech given to Columbia University in New York in September 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”

Kamal and Reza fled Iran and arrived in Turkey in December 2006.

As Turkey does not recognise non-European refugees, anyone seeking asylum must register for refugee status within five days of arriving in the country.

It has taken until now for Kamal to be recognised as a refugee.

A diabetes sufferer, Kamal had been suffering from fits due to lack of medication.

This has caused his partner, Reza, so much worry he has developed depression. Both of them have been living in unsanitary conditions with very little income.

Reza is still waiting to hear back from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) but is optimistic he will receive news of his refugee status in a couple of days.

The Iranian Refugee Queer Organisation, who have backed Kamal and Reza’s campaign, called the news of Kamal’s refugee status “a testament to what the international community can achieve.”

After details of Reza and Kamal’s case were reported by the international news media, the UNCHR received a plethora of emails urging them to act on behalf of these two asylum seekers.

Turkey has a long history of offering safety for refugees. Between 1923 to 1997 1.6 million people fled to Turkey, displaced by WW2, the Cold War and the Gulf conflicts.

Millions have fled Iran since the 1979 revolution and many either have settled in Turkey or claimed refugee status and emigrated to another country.

Amnesty International has reported cases of non-European asylum seekers registering for refugee status and then being forcefully deported by Turkish authorities.

There have been cases where refugees have been handed directly to the authorities of the country they were fleeing.