The couple came to the U. They want Iran to change so that people like them can be accepted as gay couples. They want the U. Haghjoo, 31, grew up in a relatively supportive family in Tehran, but he still struggled. He came out at age 19 to a nurse, who urged him to tell his family. Haghjoo was exempted from the military service mandated for all Iranian men because of his sexual orientation, which the Iranian military considers a mental problem.
Homosexuality is against the law, and sex between two men can be punishable by death.
Other acts, such as kissing or even just confessing to homosexuality, can lead to punishment. While there are secret networks for LGBTQ people, many of them online, members live under the constant threat of being exposed. But Haghjoo also wanted to be honest about who he was and to avoid military service, because it can be dangerous even for closeted gay men. He was at risk for other reasons as well. The man turned his gun on Haghjoo instead and shot him.
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The bullet ripped through the right side of his abdomen. He had surgery to remove nearly a foot of intestines and was in the hospital for almost a week.
This Gay Couple Left Iran For A Better Life. Now They Wonder If It Can Last In America.
Haghjoo spoke about the experience of being shot to a documentary crew and later found out the filmmakers planned to focus on his story. The documentary aired one week after he left Iran. Nia, 29, began receiving text messages from an unknown phone number back in He replied to the texts at first, thinking they were from someone in a LGBTQ chatroom, but eventually he stopped. When he arrived in Isfahan, he received another: Nia repeatedly declined to confirm that he was gay or to identify anyone else, but the man kept calling. At his college, a security guard told Nia that a man had been there and asked for his schedule.
Nia thought he saw someone following him on the street.
Nia could hear a siren both through the phone and through his door. He was frightened. After months of harassment, Nia met another man who worked as a security guard at a bank and told him what was happening. The security guard contacted the man who had been threatening Nia, and the phone calls finally stopped. But when Nia and the security guard began dating, he faced new problems.
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The security guard became hostile, threatening both Nia and his parents. Nia escaped that situation when he left for mandatory military service in Abadeh, Iran. He chose not to tell authorities about his sexual orientation. He went back to college to study art.
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He fled to Turkey, leaving his life and art behind. Haghjoo arrived in Turkey first, in He and Nia had been friends back in Iran, but they only began dating after Nia left their homeland as well. For eight months, Haghjoo waited to find out whether he would be allowed to enter the United States as a refugee based on the persecution he faced for his sexual orientation, political beliefs and religion. He is a Sufi, and people like him who practice a more mystical brand of Islam have been targeted by the Iranian government. Nia, meanwhile, applied for refugee status in the U.
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Being in Turkey was difficult, too. They had hardly any money and at times went days with no food while waiting for money transfers to come through. At least they were together. Not until , when Haghjoo learned his application for refugee status had been accepted and he prepared to leave for the U. He joined his partner in Philadelphia in November It was hard coming to the United States, even if they believed it was their best option.
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