A young, unschooled Iranian man has fled Iran in search of refuge on Turkish soil. Currently, LGBT passport-holding Iranians flee to Turkey since they require no visa to cross the border. Danial knew his challenges as a gay man from Iran were just beginning as he fled his family when his sexuality was revealed, without a passport.
Danial‘s father fled Afghanistan during war and turmoil in the 1980’s. Over 3 million Afghans transplanted to unwelcoming Iran. Children born there were also not recognized as citizens. So, Danial never had schooling, and had no passport. Still, Danial’s travel to Turkey was his best chance at getting out west, and living his life freely.
Danial hoped to be met in Turkey by his boyfriend Parsa, who lived 6 hours away from him in Iran. They saw each other infrequently, and their nightly texting is what Danial suspected had revealed his homosexuality to his family. When that pivotal day transpired, he left his home by noon that day, with the shirt on his back and the US equivalent of 2 dollars. His only hope to acquire the $1,000 payment that smugglers required to sneak him across the border, was to trade a kidney for cash. Without an ID, he could not donate. Fate would have it that a needy 8 year old boy’s uncle would overhear him talking. They met, discussed payment in private, and struck an agreement.
Danial could not tell Parsa his plan. The boy’s uncle had agreed to pay him $1,700 for his kidney and Danial told Parsa to meet him at the hospital in Tehran. Parsa panicked, and then was upset with Danial’s intentions. There were no alternatives, it had to be done. He recovered for 6 months.
In a frail condition, with $1,060 left, Danial began his trek to Turkey with a few others and the smuggler. Parsa would meet him there, flying in with a passport. Convinced by Afghans in line at the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM) (who registers refugees) that Afghans are accepted more easily, he stated he was an Afghan and gay. He thought this would get him through the system. He did not get a pre-interview date as do other Iranians since he said he was an Afghan. Per United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Afghan cases were supposedly “on-hold,” allowing for very few entries from Turkey to other safe countries. Ultimately, the Toronto-based Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) finally got involved with Danial and Parsa’s cases, to help them navigate their resettlement possibilities limited by quotas set by each country.
After a year of intermittent homelessness and heavy lifting in a sweatshop, The UN office did nothing to advance his case, and Danial was worried Parsa would not leave when given the chance. Danial tried to take his life with an overdose of anxiety medication, as he had stated, “I want him to go and live free.”
Critical for three days, Danial still survived. Saghi Ghahraman, director of IRQO, got involved in their case. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was unable to make any strides for Danial, but Ghahraman got him his pre-interview January. Parsa was on the fast-track, but Danial’s pre-interview was almost 6 months later, and Canadian resettlement wasn’t a consideration until this past October. It will take another year to get his flight arranged, and sometime thereafter, they can join each other, and be free, together, in Canada.