Mercedes Allen

Iranian Trans Woman Hoping to Seek Shelter in Canada

Filed By Mercedes Allen | November 09, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
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Mahtab Mirghaderi and her partner, Saleh Shahsavar, are seeking asylum. turkey.gifMahtab is trans, and the couple hails from Iran. Currently, they are in Turkey and in danger of being deported. The Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees and EveryOne Group are trying to raise what funding and support they can to bring the couple to Canada, where IRQR will help them seek asylum.

People sometimes point to the fact that Iran funds gender reassignment surgery as proof that the country is accepting and tolerant of trans people. While the nation does fund GRS (sometimes also creating a situation where cisgender gay and lesbian Iranians seek gender transition to avoid death), Iranian transsexuals still face incredible persecution. Violence is commonplace, services and resources become off-limits, and Iranian society does not allow transsexuals to live with romantic partners. Mahtab's family and others have threatened their lives. Mahtab has written an open letter about her situation:

... I was born in a conservative and very radical family. I experienced pain on daily basis and had many difficulties. My family did not accept my girlish behaviors. I was punished in many different ways; humiliating, beating, swearing, insulting, or giving me no food. When I remember those days that I was suffering from my family members, I still feel the impact of their cruel behaviors.

When I became an adult, I learned that killing someone like me regarded as a duty in that conservative and radical society. I lived in that society and I was exposed to torture, oppression and violence everyday. I was beaten many times, despised always and tortured couple of times. I was considered against the Islamic doctrines thus regarded as immoral and dishonor in the Islamic society.

I thought if have an operation to change my gender then my life could be easier in a female body. But it did not happen as I was thinking. Especially, my family threatened me to kill. They could not tolerate their son to be a female. What I am telling you here is not a joke or exaggeration. A friend of mine, who is also transsexual, was poisoned by her family. They did not accept their son to be a female. I had to leave my family in order not to be killed. I had a surgical operation in a place that there were no the hygiene and with the minimum operational equipment. I had to have that operation because I had not good financial situation and I had no other support.

There was no one that I could stay with. I became a female after struggling for years and changed my gender into female on my identity card. I was in the middle of no where; I had neither family nor a shelter to stay. I spent all my days about what to do: my family wanted to kill me if they knew where I was staying, fundamental radical society was not better than my family, actually worse then them, they were ready to beat me, torture me and kill me and I had no shelter to stay. I was a victim as a transsexual and I even accepted some immoral proposals in order to eat some food and spent the night under a roof. When irregular armed forces and policemen saw me alone they also abused me. Neither my family nor any institution protected me. Despite all these problems a man liked me and I liked him too. After his family learned that I am a transsexual they threatened to kill me. They wanted me to leave their son alone. But, we wanted to be together. Since we were not able to live under those conditions in Iran, we left from Iran and came to Turkey. We did not have any other choice.

My life was in great danger because of; my husband's family, my family, policemen, the conservative and radical society, the civil militias, and the irregular armed forces.

The couple married in Turkey and had hoped that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would allow them to stay, even though violence in Turkey is not much better. The request, however, was denied. The IRQR reports:

We are very concerned about their lives, their future, psychological and emotional well being. Most people in their current city of asylum found out about Mahtab's previous life as a transsexual and they always point them out in the streets when they are in public. They are in a very bad situation in Turkey and we request all of your support.

IRQR is hoping to find 560 people to donate $1.16/day for a month so they can bring them here in a month or to find 280 people to donate two installments of $35.00 so that they would be able to sponsor them after two months. See IRQR for more information.

Crossposted to DentedBlueMercedes


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Thank you for writing this. Time and again in the queer media, we see stories about how transsexuals are accepted in Iran while queer men are executed and it's all made to seem like if transsexuals seek this gender-normative identity, all is okay. But it's clearly not, and the situation of, especially trans women, in Iran is being re-written and sanitized to fill a queer-positive agenda (and I'm not minimizing how horrifically non-binary people can be treated in that country).

There are a lot of trans women trying to get out of Iran. Few are accepted by their families and even fewer have any ability to live as women much less get employment in Iran. I wish Matab and Saleh well and hope we can find enough people to bring them to Canada.

I've donated to similar cases such as this one in the past, and, even now, I am very close to a gal who fled Iran as a teenager and has just become a permanent resident of the US.

This is a good cause, and will make a difference in the lives of two individuals who have spent their lives ins situations which make what most people in the US and Canada go through seem downright pleasant in comparison.

Absolutely. This is the first time I'd heard of IRQR, but hopefully we'll see more support for the queer railroads develop -- they're badly needed.

Let's keep our fingers crossed for her. At least she chose Canada instead of the US; it seems like she'd have a better chance there.

I wish it were true. In some ways, it seems like we're much further behind. You had UnitedENDA, we had... well... a slow evolution where those who remain in activism have been wonderfully supportive, but the majority slipped into suburbia and are often different or still don't like teh tranneez. I was floored by the number of Edmonton Pride attendees who blatantly declared their refusal to support trans human rights when I was passing around info. And Edmonton is the liberal oasis here.

I don't know of anywhere that the grass is greener. But an immigration policy that explicitly provides refuge for LGB and T people in danger would be a positive step....