) - Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees
Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees
|Arsham Parsi |
|Advocacy work for LGBT rights in Iran |
|Networking, Campaigning, Advocacy, Outreach, Community Media, TV and Radio |
|Arsham Parsi (head), Gilles Marchildon, Johanne Gaudreault, Paul Durber, A. Irani, Javan-e Irani, Panteha Y., Joni Serio |
|"We are humans- human rights are our rights" |
Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR) is an advocacy group founded and headed by Executive Director Arsham Parsi on behalf of Iranian LGBTs seeking safe havens both within and without Iran. It is currently the only active Iranian NGO in the world that works on behalf of the Iranian LGBT around the globe.
Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, where the organisation is registered as a NGO according to Canadian law IRQR provides assistance with asylum applications, provides housing and financial assistance to those in desperate need, and petitions Western and other governments of behalf of Iranian LGBTs facing deportation back to Iran, where homosexuality is a criminal action punishable by death. For example, IRQR has written an open letter to Foreign Minister of Germany Guido Westerwelle in November 2009.
IRQR is documenting and reporting cases of torture, persecution, execution and other human rights violations that occur in Iran on a regular basis, it has helped remove any international doubt about the dismal situation of queers in Iran.
On September 24, 2007, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was asked about the situation of homosexuals in Iran and in response President Ahmadinejad replied: "In our country we don''t have homosexuals like in your country. This does not exist in our country. I don''t know who has told you that we have this." This response elicited laughter and booing from the crowd in attendance. IRQR also has the aim to educate people who are opposed to homosexuality due to a lack of correct information and sexual education and also to "end the current lack of self-recognition and self-confidence among queer people and to prevent frequent tragedies, such as suicide."
The Organization''s name is inspired by the Underground Railroad that existed more than a century ago. The Underground Railroad was an informal network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th century Black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and mainly to Canada with the aid of abolitionists who were sympathetic to their cause. In Canada, they found freedom.
The homepage of IRQR says: "When Iranian queer people flee persecution in Iran, they generally go to Turkey. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees interviews these refugees and decides whether their case for asylum is valid. If they are granted asylum status, the UNHCR finds a new country for each person on base of their profile. IRQR helps these refugees through the process and, whenever possible, provides funds for safe houses from donations, since Turkey is also a homophobic and transphobic society and queer people are not physically safe there either." In August 2008, Arsham Parsi had a meeting with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Canadian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, regarding Iranian queer asylum seekers. After that meeting, a number of asylum seekers had been granted refugee status or had been referred to the Canadian Embassy for their resettlement process. Furthermore, the UNHCR changed their legal interviews to an earlier date.
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