Human Rights

Gay Iranian Poet Seeks Asylum in Israel

A gay Iranian poet who was granted a visa to visit Israel in December has now applied for asylum in the Jewish state, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Payam Feili, who escaped persecution in his native Iran and has been living in Turkey since 2014, traveled to Israel in order to attend the premier of a play based on his work. After three months in the country, he says he regards it with something “more than love” and wishes to stay.

Though it isn’t clear if Israel will grant him asylum, Feili’s attorney believes that his client’s request could be accepted because of its unusual nature.

Feili was repeatedly imprisoned for his sexuality in Iran, at one time being held in a shipping container for 44 days.

“He was at home alone when three bearded men forced their way into his house, wrapped him in tape, blindfolded him, and brought him to a garden where he was kept in a shipping container,” The Daily Beast wrote of his detainment. “‘What is your connection with Israel?’ they demanded during interrogations. ‘How much are they paying you?’ He was fed twice a day, but says he was subjected to psychological torture. They would strip him naked, take pictures, and insult him, calling him a faggot. These were the last days of his life, they said, and he believed them.”

According to the Post, Feili is currently residing in Tel Aviv, which is home to a thriving LGBT community and hosts the Middle East’s largest gay pride parade every year.

Feili predicted in 2013 that the election of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran would not increase freedoms in the Islamic Republic. Benjamin Weinthal, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, observed last August that Feili’s prediction had been borne out, noting that “Nothing essential has changed.”

[Photo: עידוא דגן / YouTube ]