Rainbow Refugees make Nova Scotia home

CanadaOn Dec 29, 2013 Daily Xtra reported: RRNS helped relocate Navid, a native Iranian, to the east coast

A tall, handsome man stands at the microphone at the front of The Company House. “Are you nervous?” he asks. “I am.”

He laughs and begins to tell a bar full of people, in a city he had never even heard of until a year ago, about his experience of being a gay Iranian refugee in Halifax.

“Back home, being gay is punishable by death. So I had two options, and one was worse than the other. Death was worse — to die because I’m gay — but to get out of country and see what would happen was also bad. So I chose the bad way, not the worst.”

Navid knew he was gay by his mid-teens. There is no Farsi word for gay, but he heard the word “homosexual” for the first time when the former Iranian president was questioned about the country’s persecution of gay Iranians while visiting California. Navid excitedly searched the Internet and found chat rooms for gay Iranians, and met his first gay friends. He was crushed to discover that being gay was punishable by death in his country. Living in constant fear, Navid attempted to take his own life on four separate occasions, but could never follow through.

It was the arrest of several gay friends that lead Navid to leave Iran for Turkey and seek refugee status based on sexual orientation. He told his family he was a political refugee.

In Turkey, Navid met with a UN psychologist for three hours of questioning to establish that he was, in fact, gay. He met his boyfriend, also a gay Iranian, and they decided to link their applications.

Navid suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his two years living in Turkey, not knowing what would happen to him. As refugees, they weren’t able to work legally and Navid worked under the table at a factory. The day he found out his application was accepted, he was en-route from another factory out of town.

“You cannot believe the feeling,” he says. “It was like flying.”

The pair only knew people who had moved to Toronto, but were told it would be quicker to move to Nova Scotia. “I said, ‘OK, if it is one day faster I will go.’ Our situation was so bad in Turkey,” he says. Navid describes zooming out on Google Maps to locate their new home, Halifax.

Navid and his then boyfriend arrived in Halifax in 2013. They were the first two people sponsored by Rainbow Refugees of Nova Scotia (RRNS).

Since its inception in 2011, RRNS has privately sponsored four gay refugees from Iran — all men. The third refugee arrived in December; his soon-to-be roommate was to arrive in November, but is stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire and likely to arrive in January. RRNS has also assisted Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) with four other gay refugees, most recently a lesbian couple from Somalia via South Africa. RRNS has only once seen a lesbian couple on the list, who were quickly sponsored elsewhere.

Continued at Rainbow Refugees make Nova Scotia home.

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