Refugee Stories


As of February 2017, IRQR was able to help process more than 1500 refugee applications since 2005. Approximately 83% of refugees who approached IRQR were successfully granted refugee status. Here are some of their stories.


Amirhossein Zolghadri

Amirhossein is an 18 years-old Iranian gay. His main problem in Iran was sexism: people thought of him as a feminine person. Consequently he could not live in Iran or have the freedom to do what he wanted. His family was aware about his sexual orientation and knew that he had a boyfriend but they did not want to believe that the relationship was a sexual one. As soon as they found out that he was sexually active, they wanted to change him. They wanted to cure him and took him to a doctor for electroshock therapy. His boyfriend’s family filed a complaint against him, which made life impossible for Amirhossein. He escaped Iran because he did not want to be persecuted for who he is. He does not have his family’s support so living in Turkey is very difficult for him especially as a teenager. He was subjected to abuse and was even raped and he finds no protection. He believes having the support of organizations like IRQR is very important but still IRQR can do more to provide for refugees like him so that he can live in less fear for his safety, even for his life.


Vahid Hajizadeh

Vahid is 26 years old. His main problem in Iran was his family especially his dad who beat him up, terrorized and ridiculed him. He lost the vision in his right eye because of his father’s physical abuse. The family also wanted to force him to marry. His employer found out about his sexual orientation as well and he became a victim of sexual abuse. His mother asked him several times to swear on the Quran, that he is not a homosexual; he did swear, but only to avoid upsetting his mother. Despite this, his father insisted that he leave home because he was dishonouring the family. He escaped Iran to Turkey because he did not want to be forced to marry a girl. He was not safe at home and now in Turkey he has a lot of financial problems. He cannot find a good job because of his blindness in one eye and he has to work as a labour. He has to carry fabrics that are over 60 lbs and as a result he got a lot of back pains as well. He believes the current number of refugees is more than the IRQR can support without more resources and support.


Saye Fazeli

Saye is a 29-year-old male to female transgender. Her main problem was the lack of basic rights and support from her society and even her family. Her family, that she loves dearly, abandoned her. She misses her brother, even though he would beat her to make her change what she knew to be her correct gender identity, not knowing that it was not her choice. She could not continue her education in Iran and be true to her gender identity. She could not work because everyone expected her to act like a “man”. Everyone looked at her as someone with a disease. She had a difficult life as a refugee in Turkey. There were a lot of days that she had no food. There were a lot of days that she was sick, but she could not go to the doctor because she did not have the money. She wishes her family a happy and healthy life, despite their being unkind to her.. IRQR was a beacon of hope for Saye because she did not have anyone to listen to her worries or to help her live freely.


Saeed Borji

Saeed is a 39-year-old Iranian gay man. He fled to Turkey because he did not have basic rights as a human being in Iran. His personal life was a subject of harassment by his society. He knew if his neighbours found out about his relationship with another man, he would be reported to police and face persecution and potentially execution for who he is. His family abandoned him when they found out about his sexual orientation. He escaped Iran because he did not want to be arrested and killed. Nor did he want to become suicidal when there was no way to survive. He cannot go back to Iran because he does not want to be executed. He lives in small Turkish cities where he cannot get employment because he is a foreigner. He wants to live somewhere safe where there is no discrimination. He just wants to have a job and a roof above his head; he does not expect a lot. IRQR helped him to expedite his process and he expects IRQR to raise awareness, not only among people but also governments because they have no support.


Hassan Yazdanpanah

Hassan is 40 years-old Iranian gay. His main problem in Iran was lack of safety and security. He was physically and mentally abused. He had tolerated a lot of anxiety in Iran because of its homophobic society. He described his relationship with his family very cold and painful. He escaped Iran to Turkey where raped and abused by two drunk Turkish guys and the authorities did not give him any support. He finally made it here to Canada and currently is a student and works in a gay business. He believes that the IRQR was the biggest support leave out when he was in Turkey.


Ali Shahi

Ali is a 39-year-old gay man and when he was 26 his father forced him to get married. He didn’t want to do this but he couldn’t come out because there was no way his family could understand or accept him being gay. After one miserable year of being married he decided to get divorced. It took two long years because he could not provide a valid reason to the court for wanting to get divorced. If he told them the truth, he could be killed. His wife was very suspicious and her brother severely beat him because he had “dishonored” the family. His family-in-law told the police he had harassed his wife, which was not true, and he was thrown in prison for two months. Finally he was released, because there was no evidence, and his divorce finalized. He was so happy that this miserable part of his life was over but it did not last long. His father began to pressure him to marry again. He told him there was no way he was going to do this and they had a huge fight. His ex-wife told his family “your son is a faggot” and his world collapsed. He was kicked out of his home, lost his job and his family told him he was no longer their son. He lost everything and was homeless until he escaped to Turkey as a refugee. Sometimes he wishes he could change himself but he is who he is.


Mehdi Zaghiyan

Mehdi is a 37-year-old Iranian gay man who escaped to Sweden. The Swedish Migration Board rejected his asylum claim. In Iran, he was forced to get married and had to pretend to be a heterosexual person. When his wife found out about his sexual orientation and relationship with another man, everything fell apart. He lost his family, his kids, everything that he had. Still, his family is trying to work with Swedish police in order to get him deported to Iran. His father wants him dead because he believes that Mehdi is dishonoring him. He does not have the support of Iranians in Sweden and truly misses his son. He is an activist in Sweden and wants to stop hate in Iran. Through IRQR, he was able to find other groups to get involved with and fight for his rights. He considers himself and all of those who had no option but to get married, a victim of the ignorance of others.


Javad Madani

Javad is a 37-year-old Iranian gay man. He lived in fear for all of his life. His family found out about his sexual orientation, which led to a lot of serious problems with them. He escaped Iran with his partner because they did not feel safe being who they are. He still lives in fear in Turkey because homosexuality is not considered acceptable among Turkish people. He dreams of living somewhere without the fear of being mocked. He was one of IRQR’s refugees and thinks IRQR was very helpful during his journey to achieve his freedom.


Parisa and Mehran

Parisa is a married trans woman. Parisa and her husband Mehran are both engineers. They had to escape Iran and seek refuge in Turkey because her husband’s family found out about her sexual reassignment surgery and they were very angry. They believed she seduced their son, somehow made him gay, which they think is a great sin and brought shame on their family. They have been married for several years and they love each other deeply. After their escape they were granted refugee status by the UNHCR who then they referred them to the United States for resettlement. They were scheduled to have their resettlement interview with the US immigration officer on February 28th 2017 but President Trump’s travel ban dashed their hopes and the interview was indefinitely cancelled. Mehran has to work so believably hard to even meet their basic needs. He only gets 8 USD per day for 12 hours work. It is a picture of him at work where he grinds down metal parts, a job that no one in Turkey is willing to do because it is so dangerous for the lungs and breathing. For this he works for slavery pay without safety tools. Every extra day they are denied their resettlement interview puts his life in danger at work and both their lives in danger because of the terrible homophobia in Turkey.


Raha M.

The word Raha in Persian language means Freedom but Freedom is something he has never experienced. Most of his life has been spent in an outdoor prison named Iran. He escaped Iran because he is gay. The government pressured him to have sexual reassignment surgery, telling him that if he is gay he must want to be a woman, so he needs to become transgendered. He was so shocked and afraid. He never decided to be gay, but it’s who he is and he likes who he is. So he escaped. He left all his belongings and all the people he loved behind. He could no longer stand living in fear of being mocked, discriminated and punished for who he is. But life in Turkey as a gay refugee is very difficult. His family abandoned him and he does not have their support. He works so hard as a manual labourer, just to be able to survive, that he got a lung infection and is barely able to walk. The stress has been so unbearable that now I have dangerously high blood pressure. He was granted refugee status by the UNHCR and was referred to Canada for resettlement. He was waiting several months to be interviewed at the Canadian embassy in Turkey but since there were a huge increase in number Syrian refugees, his interview were pushed back. Finally, the UNHCR decided to change his country of resettlement from Canada to the USA but now due to President Trump’s travel ban, he is in limbo and without hope. He has to take a lot of medication and he does not have any insurance or money to cover these expenses. He lives in a terrible place, you can see this in his pictures. His situation is desperate and only IRQR has helped him survive. He asks you to please support them in order to help LGBT refugees like him. You are so lucky to be born in a free country, to be experience Freedom, to be Raha. He hopes one day to live in the United States so He too can be a good citizen and pay back all those who have helped him, the way he hopes you can help him today.


Elham O.

Elham is a refugee from Iran. She was nearly forced into having sexual reassignment surgery as a “cure” for being a lesbian. When she didn’t go through with the surgery, her uncle threatened to kill her, so she fled to Turkey. Turkey was supposed to be a temporary stop, while she was resettled to a country that is actually safe for LGBT people like her. That was over three years ago. The United States was her last hope. But President Trump’s ban has left countless queer refugees like her stuck in Turkey, with very little help. Even though you can be put to death for being gay in Iran, life has hardly been easier for her here in Turkey. She has been fired and kicked out of her apartment because she was a lesbian. But as a refugee, there’s little she can do to defend herself legally. She lives in fear of the violence and discrimination queer refugees like her face. Their future is so uncertain – they can’t go back to the countries they came from, but life is miserable here. Most of them won’t know anything about their applications for asylum for at least another four months. With your help,She will have a place to stay, food on her plate, and the comfort of knowing she is not alone in her search for safety.