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Iran: “The Internet is a gift to us”

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Iran, Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, LGBTQIA+, Women & Gender

Arsham ParsiArsham Parsi [1] is the founder and director of the Iranian Queer Organization [2] based in Toronto, Canada. He talked to us about the presence of Iranian homosexuals in cyberspace, their challenges and projects. Homosexuality is banned in Iran, and punishable by prison or death.

How do you evaluate the presence of homosexual blogs in the Iranian blogosphere? Are there many bloggers that talk about their homosexuality?

Yes, we have many Iranian LGBTIQ [3] bloggers, and most of them live inside Iran. They have nicknames and write anonymously, which is safest for their security, but sometimes the government finds them through their IP addresses. But they do exist and are very active.

How do you use the Internet, including blogs and video films, to talk about Iranian homosexuality?

The Internet is one of our most important communication tools. Without the internet our organization could not do many things. We don't have representatives in Iran because we fear for their safety; we don't want to make problems for them. We monitor their weblogs, and it is one of our resources. The Internet is a gift to us.

IRQO [2]What about Iranian reactions to your website/blog? Is there any dialogue there between people who are homosexual or defend homosexual rights, and people who consider homosexuality a “sin” or “an immoral act”?

There are different reactions. We receive many hate messages, and also many messages of support. In the Iranian queer weblogs, they have dialogues with other people, and sometimes bloggers address these issues. But in general, people have changed their views in the last few years.

Is there any online forum where Iranian homosexuals exchange their ideas or leave comments?

We have a magazine, Cheraq [4]. And we have a forum for Iranian homosexuals too. It started a few months ago. But weblogs are more common.

How you see the situation of homosexuals in Iran? Are they involved in cyberspace in order to express themselves?

As I said, a lot has changed. I remember a few years ago, nobody talked about our rights, but now you can find thousands of pages online. According to them, they cannot have physical relations freely, but they exist and they try to be active. I think now, Iranian queer issues have become a human rights issue.

When you look at Iranian gay and lesbian blogs. Do they face different kinds of difficulties?

Of course yes, it is totally different. They have different situations. Lesbians are more invisible, and it is because of Iran's general lack of women's rights. We don't have many lesbian blogs, and those that I know, are active in trying to say lesbians exist too. We have an online magazine for lesbians, Hamjens-e man [5]. It is the first magazine for Iranian lesbians.

Do you have any project, comment or idea to share with us?

We exist, but we cannot speak out. We should support each other. It is our freedom tax.