June 21, 2014 – As reported by Washington Blade: Arsham Parsi had just been accepted into an Iranian university to study to become a veterinarian when three of his friends who were either gay or transgender committed suicide.
He had previously worked with a doctor in his hometown of Shiraz in southern Iran who had been conducting research for a study on rates of HIV among gay and bisexual men, but he “decided to do something” after his friends took their own lives.
Parsi launched an online support group in 2001 that later became known as the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization. He formed another website for LGBT Iranians two years later, posting information under two pseudonyms.
“I just thought I have to do something,” Parsi told the Washington Blade during a June 12 interview at the Northwest D.C. offices of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank that focuses on national security and foreign policy, as he discussed his life as a gay man and Iran and his advocacy efforts. “At that time I didn’t know what I had to do.”
Parsi said local authorities in early 2005 began to follow him after they arrested two of his friends. He told the Blade that he decided to flee the country after learning about this surveillance.