Words and photography by Annabelle Fadat
Text by Yasaman Pormosa
Featured picture by Olivier Donnars

Since coming to France, I understood the meaning of life and freedom that I never knew. Now, I am both sad and angry when I see what’s happening in my country, and there is nothing I can do for the people there except on social media. I can post or share a story or participate in protests, but this is dangerous for me and my family in Iran. Nevertheless, I do this for the people in my country; the authorities are killing young women and girls who just want freedom. 

When I was in Iran, I told myself that I hated being a woman. I still remember the hell I lived in and how I wished I would constantly wish I would die. In the end, I say that Iranians in Iran are just breathing rather than living, because they have not known the joy of real life for 43 years despite the existence of this Islamic government. 

In hope of victory and freedom for Iran and Iranians.

Yasaman by Annabelle Fadat

Now in France, Yasaman, a young 31-year-old Iranian woman, testifies openly. She tells her story and those of other queer people in Iran and exile. In 2019, while still in her native country, the morality police discovered and condemned her relationship with a woman, as did her own father. She fled to France but never heard from her girlfriend in Iran who was imprisoned. Once in France, she quickly found Ardis (Association for the Defense and Rights of LGBTQI+ people to Immigration and Residence), and her application for political refugee status is pending at OFPRA (Office Française de Protection des Réfugiés et Apatrides). 

Yasaman cannot return to Iran due to the danger of death and she frequently receives threats on her Instagram, even from family members. She explained that many queer people in Iran are kidnapped and locked up; they just disappear and no one can get news of them. Violence against and murder of queer people goes unpunished.

Yasaman by Annabelle Fadat

And yet, Yasaman insists on the importance of testifying openly, when possible, for her sake, for those imprisoned, and for those rendered invisible. She doesn’t want to hide anymore. But even outside the country, demonstrations and open testimony can expose one to huge dangers. She names the example of Esra and Emal, two young lesbian girls who left Saudi Arabic and were found dead in Sydney after being killed in their homes. A month earlier, they had filed for asylum with the Australian authorities. But they had participated in gay demonstrations in the streets of the city. Homosexuality is also forbidden in Saudi Arabic and punishable by death, even if one thinks they have escaped.

Yasaman is aware that if she were in Iran right now, she would not be able to speak openly as she does in France. That’s why it’s important for her to make the situation in Iran known from France and to highlight certain people and stories: Raha Ajudani, a trans activist living in Iran who has been missing for several months; Mehsa Hassanzadeh, an Iranian trans woman imprisoned in a detention camp in the province of Aydin in Turkey who is facing deportation back to Iran; and Zahra Siddique Hamedani, who was arrested last year for promoting homosexuality.