Monday, September 22, 2014

IranWire's blogger perpetuates false notions of homosexuality & gay asylum seekers among Iranians

A so-called satirical piece in Persian published Saturday, September 20, 2014, on the IranWire website -- a news and commentary website in both English and Persian languages run by the prominent Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari, which some of its English articles are also featured on The Daily Beast website – as part of an ongoing satirical series on the issue of seeking asylum by Iranians in Turkey is the reason for this outburst.
Homepage of the English version of Picture of Maziar Bahari is between pictures of Iran's FM Javad Zarif and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani. 
The latest installment of this series tries to poke fun at those asylum-seeking Iranians, who fake homosexual tendencies as the primary reason for asking to be granted asylum by the United Nations. The author, Sharagim Zand – who happens to be currently residing in Turkey seeking asylum at this moment, probably, on the basis of his work as a journalist in Iran – opens this piece promising he is as ignorant about the Iranian lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* (LGBT) refugees as the society he is trying too hard to criticize:
[Claiming] homosexuality is the most convenient, most straightforward and the quickest method of achieving the asylum status in Turkey [granted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)]. It is the proverbial piece of cake. Convenient and direct as it does not require attending any church [service] or getting baptized and receiving a letter of recommendation [from pastors – basically, things that those claiming to be Christian converts need to provide as evidence of their convictions].Similarly, it also needs no standing warrant [issued by the Islamic Republic of Iran], a past stint in jail, traces of lashes [on your body], and torture and political activity. These types of cases are quick and homosexual people, in case of passing the interview, will be heading to European and North American countries ahead of other asylum applicants. The reason for this matter per the UN is that homosexuality is not a choice but an immutable birth trait, also, homosexual people have already experienced oppression in Iran and the Turkish society is not fully accepting of them, therefore, they [homosexuals] are given special passage to the West sans any waiting period and [any regard] for the queue [of other applicants waiting to be processed.]

With the above alarming, misleading and entirely unfunny opening, even in Persian, out of the way, the author goes on to refer to gay asylum cases as "The Golden Case" in the lingo of the asylum seekers -- meaning, these types of cases are sure to be successfulSubsequently, Mr.Zand tries to shed some light that the UN does not ask people who claim to be homosexual to perform any same-sex sexual act. Afterwards, Mr.Zand goes on to write a more disturbing passage, which can be considered humorous if you are into gross generalization of the patriarchal mind
The number of [asylum request] cases [involving fake claims of] homosexuality [is so much that makes] it the 2nd most popular form of fake asylum cases after the cases of [fraudulent] apostasy [claims]...
[Translators's note: Both apostasy and homosexuality in Iran have a documented history of death punishments.] 

The only reason fake homosexual [asylum] cases are not ranked number one yet is because homosexuality is not acceptable in the [Iranian] society and, in particular, in male groups -- a surely undeserving status, but due to reasons, which are not fully clear to the author, this type of fake cases is becoming more and more popular among the ladies, and it can be predicted [with a fair amount of certainty] that in the near future a new wave of lesbian refugees will head to the UN offices, and, consequently, elevate this [type of fraudulent] case to its deserved standing [of number one] among the various fake cases [and asylum claims].

Fortunately, since a few years ago, homosexuality has been considered a classy and stylish deed among the ladies, indicative of their special social, and even artistic, persona ...
 Regardless of the telltale signs that the author, Mr.Sharagim Zand –– is into lesbian porn flicks, a common trait of porn-watching heterosexual male species of our times, it is Mr.Zand's casual repetition of an unfortunately popular, but deeply flawed thought among the Iranians – on-line or off-line, old or young – that homosexual behavior is of people who seek undeserved attention or that it is a proclamation of one's intellectual, contrarian standing, which makes this passage to stand out.  

(How is this repetition is funny is beyond my comprehension. Please let me know why it is funny if you can laugh at it.)

Mr.Zand's mindless regurgitation of a foul cliché of the Iranian mind, which has been ceaselessly causing pain and hardship for the Iranian LGBT for decades, undermines the preemptive, introductory note of his post. He writes:
Comment: Oppression of the homosexual people in Iran is an undeniable fact. The [asylum seeking] cases of many homosexual refugees in real. This satirical piece is only about those who abuse the hardship of the homosexual, Iranian refugees to achieve asylum status [via the UN] in Turkey. 
A second comment, explaining the already clear: With apologies to the majority of the good readers of the website, let me repeat for the minority who are not aware:  These pieces are satire [Mr. Zand has written so far 13 satirical pieces for IranWire on the subject of asylum seeking in Turkey], and are not ho-to manuals [of asylum seeking]. IranWire has no responsibility in the case of [those] following this series [to attain asylum status], let us repeat again, this series is written in the form of satire and are not manuals [to achieve asylum]. We hope that we have stressed enough on the word satire! 

Obviously, Mr. Sharagim Zand is fully aware that writing about Iranian LGBT issues is touching a controversial subject for the Iranian audience. Obviously, he has a good sense of the his audience. But, does he think that writing in ignorance is going to be funny? Is satire that which is perpetuating the widely-held flawed notions of sexuality? Is satire supposed to maintain glorifying the male gaze? Is satire supposed to be about a subject the author is seemingly as ignorant about it as the society he tries to criticize?

Furthermore, why is IranWire, a promising young publication, giving voice to this rubbish? Is this what passes as satire these days among news and commentary outlets based out of Iran? (Another case is what I wrote about Iranian satirist Mahmud Farjami in 2013.)

Mr.Zand further goes on to provide advice to the male Iranian applicants of the fake homosexuality claim on the difference between trans and gay. Needless to say I have no idea what Mr.Zand means when he writes Trans, does he mean transgender, transvestite, transsexual or transqueer or any other derivative?! or, does he mean trans*?  For the sake of this post, I am assuming he means transgender. He writes:
My advice to the brothers who are to submit a gay claim is to be as normal as possible on the day of the interview [with the UN case office for refugees] and be themselves. Most of the times, a homosexual person is no different than a normal person. Combing your hair like a doll, tattoing the eyebrows, applying eyeliner, and wearing a earrings and wearing tight leather pants, spike-stud, fishnet clothing and high-heels, are common behavior among trans people. Swearing on God, trans  is different from homosexual. Why are you doing this??

Even more frightening than the prospect of Mr.Sharagim Zand’s future efforts to write about trans* people is his casual use of homophobic rhetoric and sheer ignorance regarding transgender people.  
  • Example 1: Mr.Sharagim Zand does not know, or ignores that transgender people can in fact be homosexual. There are differences between gender and sexual orientation which need to be explained to Mr.Sharagim Zand before he goes on to provide funny advice to others. 
  • Example 2: “Most of the times, a homosexual person is no different than a normal [emphasis added] person.”  

Per IranWire's blogger, homosexual people are not normal, but most often they act like normal people, who are probably Mr.Zand, his readers and editors at IranWire. We -- the gays -- should be probably thanking Mr.Zand for his wisdom in understanding that most of us, most of the times, act normal. Thank you, Mr.Zand.  

I know you will find it disappointing, but I am not going to translate any more passage of this rubbish that IranWire has published claiming it is satire. Instead I want to draw your attention to the aftermath of publishing this garbage which is unfolding in the social network website Facebook, the most popular social network tool among Iranians.

I start by Mr.Zand’s comment on his Facebook page after it is published and shared on the IranWire Facebook page. 
Screenshot of the Sharagim Zand's Facebook page and the status in question. 
He writes:
The comments left in IranWire Facebook page under my article are full of insulting and humiliating comments toward the homosexuals. This is really shameful. Some internet users and reader of IranWire hold a deeply inhumane and primitive view of homosexuality that I am sorry I referred to fake cases in satire in my writing!
I, on behalf of myself, apologize from all the people who are homosexual and are being insulted in the comment section of Facebook by some idiot fellow citizens of mine.
What is sad is Mr.Zand's lack of comprehension that his writing is homophobic, transphobic and idiotic. I can try to appreciate that Mr.Zand is not trying to hurt homosexual people or queer people in general, but what makes it difficult is his willful negligence of his own problematic language and message.

Did anyone force Mr.Zand to perpetuate false notions held widely in Iran regarding homosexual people, homosexuality and trans* people?

Did Mr.Zand, as a blogger, who is published on IranWire try to reach out to any Iranian gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans* before publishing this garbage?

Or, maybe, because Mr.Zand has a couple of very good gay friends, he’s an all-knowing entity on the gays? And, we have to submit to his eminence?

I am speaking as an Iranian queer human here: Mr. Sharagim Zand, your recent writing is deeply offensive, disturbing and perpetuates dangerous false notions. You and IranWire need to acknowledge this matter and fix it. 

 Here hoping IranWire reaches out to me, or published my post on their website. I give IranWire full permission to do what it likes with my response. So, maybe some of their readers get to see another slice of the Iranian society which is not into perpetuating false notions of homosexuality and gender.

NOTE: Yesterday, I reached out to IranWire's Maziar Bahari and Azadeh Moaveni on twitter, radio silence is what I got so far. 

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