Living on the streets in Mashad, 21-year-old trans man pleads for help
The latest testimony from a victim of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s lethal anti-gay pogrom comes from inside Mashad, the ultra-conservative city under strict religious control where two teenage gay boys were hanged for their homosexuality in July of last year.
Mekabiz is a 21-year-old, self-described “transsexual man,” from a middle-class family. His father is a retired senior army officer. Rejected by his family for his sexuality and gender identity, arrested, tortured, and thrown into prison—where he was repeatedly gang-raped with the complicity of his jailers—Mekabiz is today homeless and living on the streets of Mashad, but has contact with the city’s underground gay community. In the following interview via Internet—translated from the Persian by Ava of the exiled Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization—Mekabiz tells his tragic story:
“I’ve always been attracted to people of my own gender, even as a child,” Mekabiz related. “I was five years old when I had my first sexual experience, with my neighbor’s son. Even in elementary school, I always befriended the good-looking boys among my classmates, although in that period the only person I was intimate with was my older cousin. I‘ve always had a big body build—when I was four I looked like I was eight.
“My mother discovered I was having relations with my neighbor’s son when I was six years old. She beat me with a garden hose—she hit me so hard I couldn’t get out of bed for a month. She begged my father to change our house and move to another neighborhood, but she didn’t tell him anything about my sexuality, because my father was strict career military man, and if he had known he would probably have killed me.
“The second time my mother found me having sexual relations, it was with my 18-year-old cousin, and I was in the fifth grade in elementary school. She had a violent argument with my cousin, threw him out of our house, and never spoke to him again. And she punished me by burning my feet, hands, and behind.
“After that, I was under strict surveillance by Mother, who no longer trusted anyone of my acquaintance, until high school, so I had few opportunities for sex. After enrolling in high school, I started having sex with my classmates, or older boys who were available. Sometimes I would get into a taxi that had a young driver and offer sex, I satisfied myself this way. But my mother’s and sister’s constant berating tortured me.”
Mekabiz was first arrested last year. He was on a motorcycle with an acquaintance, a student named Ali, who was taking him home for sex.
“On the way, a traffic policeman stopped us to see if Ali had the authorization papers to be in the city and to check his driver’s license,” Mekabiz continued. “I was wearing women’s clothing (manto roosari), which was very tight and hugged my body—and sadly, my manhood was causing a visible lump. That made the traffic officer suspicious that I might be smuggling drugs or something. A woman officer was called from headquarters. She touched my legs, lifted up my clothing, and screamed, ‘He’s a man!’ The male officer hit me in the mouth so hard that two of my teeth broke.”
Both Mekabiz and Ali were taken to police headquarters under arrest.
“Ali denied knowing me at all. He lied, telling them, ‘I thought he was a girl and I wanted to take him home with me, but thank God you guys stopped us and now I know that this piece of garbage (he meant me) is a guy.’ In the end, Ali was punished with only 15 lashes and set free. I was locked up.
“In the three weeks in jail before my trial, police officers would come and beat me up because of the way I was, every single day, as well as making fun of me in a very insulting way and playing very nasty pranks on me. When I finally got to court, I tried to claim that I was wearing women’s clothing to joke around with my friend Ali. But Ali’s confession had ruined everything, he sold me out so he wouldn’t get into trouble.
“The judge treated me like a dirty animal. Once I asked him, ‘Your honor, why do you treat me as if I’m an animal?’ The judge snarled, ‘You are dirtier and lower than a pig,’ and sentenced me to three months in Vakil Abad Prison and 60 lashes.
“When my lashing came, the officer in charge said, ‘Get yourself ready for a good beating, our masseurs are famous!’ I was taken to a big room, stripped naked, and held in a standing position with my hands tied. They began reading from the Koran, then the beating started. They hit me so hard that after 13 lashes I passed out. They brought me back to consciousness and started to lash me again.
“In prison, I had never suffered so much in my life. They put me in section one, which was the special place for drug dealers and lifers. Those bastards put me in a place where the youngest inmate was 39 years old. When I asked the guards why they wouldn’t put me in the special section reserved for young people, they simply sneered at me, saying, ‘You’ve been with so many young people, now you can service your fellow inmates—they’re people too, they’ll never have real sex again, and you know that masturbation is no fun!’ Every single prisoner in section one raped me—all of them. They even tattooed graffiti on my backside with knives—on one side they wrote, ‘Souvenir from Vaki Abad Prison.’
“You can’t imagine what kind of hell I went through. I always prayed for God to kill me. I even attempted suicide. I asked one of the guys who raped me frequently to give me some opium. He gave me some, and I ate it all hoping to die. But instead of dying I became a drug addict. Initially I was unconscious for three days—but after that, the guys would force me to do drugs and rape me more, they destroyed me. When I once tried to complain to the prison authorities about my being raped, they laughed and said, ‘We know you’ve already had a lot of sex, you like it, so just take it, enjoy it, and shut up.’ The guards bullied me, saying, ‘Hey, sister, how are your husbands?’ Whenever the boss saw me, he acted as if he had seen the devil, cursing me in Arabic.”
Mekabiz said that when he was finally released from prison, “I rented a car to go home—but when I got home, my father declared I wasn’t his child anymore and kicked me out. My family—who all have university degrees, I’m the only one with just a high school diploma—doesn’t care about me and won’t pay any attention to me. Since I came out of prison I have no one. Right now I sleep in cartons on the streets in Mashad. Sometimes I sleep at some rotten people’s houses whom I’ve befriended just so I can have a place to sleep. They demand that I smuggle drugs because I require money for my living expenses. This is not living! Please help me!
“All I want is to get a job with a steady paycheck so I can have a place to live and get out of the horrible situation I’m in. My only goal is to achieve peace with another man, I mean I want to marry a guy who loves me and have a peaceful life—but unfortunately this is impossible in Iran.
“My biggest fear is being arrested again, because I had sworn in front of the judge that I wouldn’t be who I am any more and act the way I do. But that, too, is impossible.”
For gay people, today’s Iran has become the world’s largest religious prison. If you would like to help fight the inhuman anti-gay campaign in Iran—which daily threatens gay people and the transgendered with arrest, torture, prison, and execution for how and whom they love — and help the victims of the regime like Mekabiz, and the Iranian gay refugees from torture like Amir, Mojtaba, and Javad, whose stories were earlier told in these pages, contact the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization through the English-language page on their website at pglo.org.
Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at http://direland.typepad.com/direland/.