Hidden Iran by Ura Iturralde

Arvinadnadi puts on make up when she goes out.

In The Islamic Republic of Iran, transsexuality is legal. After Thailand, it is the country with the most number of sex change operations in the world.

By contrast, homosexuality can sometimes be punished by the death penalty. This is the sad and hard story of several people who belong to the LGBT community in the country. They are brave people, who want to share their stories, while dreaming of a better future. While we were working in this report, our friend Mehdi committed suicide. He was gay. The last image is a tribute to him and to all the people of the Iranian LGBT community who are fighting for their rights.

About Ura Iturralde

Ura was born in Tolosa (Basque Country) in 1979. She studied photography in Madrid. Specialized in documentary and travel photography, her work has been published in various magazines like Vice U.K, Al Jazeera… Apart from that, she organized a successful exhibition with her work “LA HIGUERA DEL CHE, murió el hombre, nació el mito” in Aranburu Palace of Tolosa (Gipuzkoa). Nowadays, she is a freelance photographer in the area of documentary photography.(Ready for assigments in Latin America, Europe and Asia) [Official Website]

Arvinadnadi was born in a man’s body but she’s a woman. In order to act according to the policies of her country’s government, she should visit a psychologist, admit that she’s sick and then have surgery. For that, she would even get financial help. Nevertheless, she doesn’t want to have surgery, she wants to be accepted as she is and not be obliged to change sex by the sex reassignment surgery. Her family doesn’t understand her.

Amirali was born in a woman’s body but he’s a man. He doesn’t want to have surgery but has started to visit a psychologist in order to please his family.

Arvinadnadi is 18 and Amirali is 21. They’re friends and they both study Arts in University. They meet each other very often and paint together in Arvinadnadi’s home.

Arvinadnadi puts on make up when she goes out.

How different is life inside and outside the home in Iran; you’d often feel more free inside than outside.

Family lunch at Avinadnadi’s home.

In Iran, and even more frequently in Tehran, a ‘taxi – system’ called Snapp is used in order to commute within the city. It’s very cheap and much more comfortable than the metro for instance, as in here, men and women travel separately.

Ayda is friends with Arvinadnadi and Amiraly. She studies Arts too and is lesbian. The LGBT community in Iran would be very close-minded if their homosexuality was known and they could even get permanently suspended from University; they have to keep it a secret.

In the Islamic Republic of Tehran, alcohol is strictly forbidden. Nightlife does not exist, so parties are organised in private houses. At the weekends or when their classes are finished, youngsters meet at some of the gorgeous cafés in the city where they just hang out.

The Azadi tower’s image is used in the most typical post cards of Tehran. The Persian word Azadi means freedom, and as clearly stated by the LGBT community “it is that same freedom we don’t have”.

Ari is 19, he studies Arts too and he’s an English teacher. He’s gay and his family accepts it without any problem. He is very proud of his country but he admits that there are things that have to be changed: he’d love to hear that homosexuality was legal. He hides his true identity out of fear.

Ari has the colours of the LGBT flag stitched onto his shoes.

Saman is 25 and she’s bisexual. Her family doesn’t know anything about her sexuality because they would never consent it. Nowadays she lives in Thailand, where according to her, she’s free and can be herself without giving further explanations and without any fear. She’s an English teacher and studies Web Design. Her family live 20 kilometres away from Tehran, and in order to get to the city, she takes the metro which takes about 2 hours.

In the metro of Tehran, there are specific coaches for women; there are mixed ones too, but in the most common coaches men and women travel separately.

Daneshjoo Park is one of the many contradictions that can be found in this country. Even if it’s not official, this is the park where all gay people gather and everyone knows about it. It is controlled by the police 24/7, which makes it clear that one can be gay as long as it’s not said nor shown.

The world-widely known app called Hornet is used by gay Iranians to meet other people.

Sadeq and his partner met through this app (Hornet).

Sadeq is 20. He is gay and his family doesn’t know about it. He’s fed up with hiding it and he would like to live in a country where he could be completely free and not be treated like a criminal. He hides his true self out of fear.

Private LGBT party on Halloween. Sometimes, youngsters buy alcohol in the black market, even though it’s prohibited. This alcohol is not always in good condition, so people have died intoxicated by it.

In memory of Medhi.

 

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