Gays Flee Iran After Being “Outed” by Military

On Jul 28, 2012, The Daily Beast reports: For at least 15 years, the Islamic Republic has quietly been offering gay Iranians exemptions from mandatory military service. But those exemptions often come with a cost.

Five years ago, while speaking in New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad infamously declared that there are no homosexuals in his country. But for at least 15 years, the regime has quietly been offering gay Iranians exemptions from mandatory military service.

Those exemptions, however, often come with costs, and gay-rights activists say that a considerable number of male homosexuals are fleeing Iran rather than living with the stigma attached to being gay in the Islamic Republic. According to the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR), a Toronto-based human-rights group, 118 Iranian queer asylum seekers requested its help last year—the highest number of cases the organization has ever seen in one year.

Yousef, a gay Iranian who asked to be identified only by his first name out of fear of repercussions, is one such asylum seeker. Ten months ago, he left for neighboring Turkey because his life in Iran became too difficult since he was let out of military service.

“What could I tell my parents?” Yousef told The Daily Beast in a telephone interview. “How could I explain the reason I was released from the military?”

He hadn’t intended to quit his military service, which is compulsory for Iranian men over 18. In 2007, he started his two-year stint in the southeastern Iranian city of Khash, but soon other soldiers began to bully him over the way he carried himself and spoke.

“They teased me to the point where I had to go to the base psychologist,” the 29-year-old said. “He told me, ‘You are different,’ and asked if I was a homosexual.”

Yousef said yes. He felt safe being there with the doctor and worried his harassment could grow worse, as some gay Iranians have reported being beaten and raped during their military experience. The doctor sent Yousef to several hospitals, where he was examined then released from his service.

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