On Tuesday, May 4, a young ethnic Arab man in Ahvaz was murdered because of his sexual orientation. Shortly afterwards, the Iranian lesbian and transgender network 6Rang (Six Colours) named the victim as 20-year-old Ali Fazeli Monfared, known as Alireza. The young native of Khuzestan’s provincial capital was reportedly taken by members of his own family to the nearby village of Borumi, and killed there in the dead of night. His body was found a day later.
“At 7pm on Tuesday, Alireza had a phone conversation with his mother for the last time,” Aghil Abyat, Alireza’s closest friend, told IranWire. “Then his half-brother came to him and on the pretext that their father wanted to see him, got him into the car and drove him outside the city.
“There was no news of him until Wednesday, when Alireza’s stepbrother called his mother and told her: ‘We have finished him off.’ In other words, he confessed to murdering Alireza. They found his body under some palm trees. It’s now with the medical examiner and his mother has been hospitalized because of the shock.”
Alireza was the only child from his father’s first marriage. His half-brother, born of his father’s second wife, is understood to have discovered his sexual orientation from his military service exemption card, which had arrived a few days earlier.
Even before that, however, the half-brother had repeatedly complained to their father about Alireza’s appearance and the way he dressed, saying he “dishonored” and “shamed” the family.
Alireza was not at home when the exemption card had arrived. According to Aghil, before his death he had been planning to sell his mobile phone and travel to Turkey. Gay men are exempted from military service in Iran under to Paragraph 7 of Section 5 of the military’s Draft Bylaws, and as such any reference to this paragraph on an exemption card indicates the holder is homosexual.
6Rang’s report states that after Alireza’s body was found under the trees, three suspects were arrested and a case against them was opened in court. Two of the three were said to have been Alireza’s cousins. The fact that his sexual orientation could be inferred from his exemption card, the organization said, should serve as a stark warning that it can endanger any and all gay men who apply for draft exemption.
In a previous report published in May 2016, 6Rang had also warned that the new exemption cards made it too easy for police, employers and educational institutions to find out that a person is gay. The group’s predictions have now seemingly become a reality.
A Passion for Life, Extinguished Forever
Audio messages that Aghil received from Alireza in the last days of his life were, he says, filled with hope. They betrayed both a passion for life and expectations that he would soon be free to live the way he wanted to. He had been exempted from military service and was planning to move to Turkey, forge a new path and find a romantic relationship of the type that – in all likelihood –had eluded him at home.
News of his murder sparked widespread reactions on social media, especially on Twitter and Instagram, from LGBTQ activists, civil activists, journalists and many others.
“Nothing is more difficult than to expect to see somebody you love in a few days, and suddenly you hear he is dead,” says Aghil. “Nothing is more difficult than to never be able to see him, or hear his voice, forever. This is an excruciating pain that will remain in my heart to the end of time.”
Addressing his lost friend, he added: “The soil where the palm trees stand will hold the aroma of your blood forever. As long as the palms soar to the sky they will stand as witnesses to your murder. And if a flower grows there, it will be in appreciation of your blood, that was so unjustly shed.”
Comparatively little is said or written about horrific events like these, which might well have happened even in our own neighborhoods in Iran. The victim’s only offence is a different sexual orientation or sexual identity to the supposed norm, in a society that strives to annihilate whatever does not conform to its shabby ideals. This is how a young man of 20 has been drowned in his own blood, and all his hopes and dreams with him. There are many more like Alireza whose stories are never told at all.
According to 6Rang, the new bylaws for medical exemptions have enabled the police and the Military Conscription Agency to record the most intimate information about would-be conscripts’ sexual orientations. There are no guarantees about could be used in the future. This poses a serious threat to not only gay men, but lesbians and transsexuals in Iran as well.