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A Rare Show Of Public Support For Gay Rights In Iran

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

On May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, a small group of Iranians publicly displayed support for gay rights despite the Islamic republic's tough laws against homosexuality and the associated social stigma.

Here are very rare, if not unprecedented, pictures that were reportedly taken in Tehran. Note that the individuals were sure to hide their faces to avoid being identified and harassed. The activists displayed signs and rainbow flags, although many Iranians may not know that the rainbow flag is the symbol of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights movement.

One sign apparently displayed on public transport says, "No to homophobia."

Growing up and living in Iran as a homosexual is not easy, as one Iranian activist told me.

"I grew up with religious and Islamic ideas. 'Well,' I thought, 'I'm a sinner.' I was trying to become a good person by practicing religious rites, including by praying a lot and fasting," Arsham Parsi said.

"Becoming good was one of my main concerns, and because of that, I entered a very difficult period. I decided to get to know myself. Now I'm glad that I know myself. I have my beliefs, I believe in my God, and I have my sexual orientation."

To read more about Iran's LGBT community and the challenges they face, read this new report by the London-based Small Media research group.

Copyright (c) 2012 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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