Human Rights

Israel Approves Visit of Iranian Poet Exiled for Sexuality and Political Views

Israel’s Interior Minister Silvan Shalom has issued an entry visa to the exiled and openly gay Iranian poet Payam Feili, The Times of Israel reported Tuesday.

Feili, who was persecuted in Iran for his sexuality as well as his professed admiration for Israel, has been living in Turkey for the past year. The entry permit will allow Feili to attend the Tel Aviv premier of the play “Three Reasons,” which is partially based on his poetry.

Feili’s final arrest before his departure from Iran consisted of him being forced to sit in a shipping container for 44 days, according to the PEN American Center, a group working to advance free expression and defend writers.

The poet has been known for his support of Israel’s people and society, including the country’s relative openness to homosexuality in a region where gays are frequently persecuted.

This year, Feili published a Hebrew translation of his book, “I Will Grow and Bear Fruit … Figs,” in the work’s first non-Persian release.

Only one of Feili’s works, a heavily censored version of his book The Sun’s Platform, has been officially published in Iran.

Earlier this month, the novelist Elif Shafak wrote of Feili’s persecution while examining the threat Islamic fundamentalism poses to artists.

The Iranian poet Payam Feili has been censored and ostracised for being dissident and gay. In an interview with Index on Censorship he said: “I’ve got used to life being full of tension, horror, disruption and crisis.” The Algerian novelist Kamel Daoud, the writer of the highly-acclaimed The Meursault Investigation, had a fatwa issued against him by a Salafist imam. The imam and his followers claimed the writer deserved to be murdered as he was an “atheist infidel”. The Algerian film-maker Lyès Salem was the target of a fatwa issued by a TV preacher who accused him of making a “satanic film”.

In October, Feili shared a video asking Israelis to help him visit their country. “Shalom, this is Payam,” the poet said in Hebrew. “You must have heard, I am coming soon to Israel. I am asking all of you to support my campaign for me to come to Israel.” The video is embedded below.

[Photo: עידוא דגן / YouTube ]