Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees

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Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees
Logo of Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees
Founded 2008
Founder Arsham Parsi
Focus Advocacy work for LGBT rights in Iran
Method Networking, Campaigning, Advocacy, Outreach, Community Media, TV and Radio
Key people
Arsham Parsi (head), Stuart Bustard, Jamie Ellerton, Paul Durber, Sarah French, Mo Riazi
Slogan "Giving Queer Refugees a New Chance at Life"

Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR) is an advocacy group founded and headed by Executive Director Arsham Parsi on behalf of Iranian LGBTs seeking safe havens both within and outside of Iran. It is currently the first and only pro-active Iranian NGO in the world that works on behalf of the Iranian LGBT around the globe.[1]

Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where the organisation is registered as a NGO according to Canadian law [2] IRQR provides assistance with asylum applications, provides housing and financial assistance to those in desperate need, and petitions Western and other governments of behalf of Iranian LGBTs facing deportation back to Iran, where homosexuality is a criminal action punishable by death.

IRQR is documenting and reporting cases of torture, persecution, execution and other human rights violations that occur in Iran on a regular basis, it has helped remove any international doubt about the dismal situation of queers in Iran.[3][4][5]

On September 24, 2007, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was asked about the situation of homosexuals in Iran and in response President Ahmadinejad replied: "In our country we don't have homosexuals like in your country. This does not exist in our country. I don't know who has told you that we have this." This response elicited laughter and booing from the crowd in attendance. IRQR also has the aim to educate people who are opposed to homosexuality due to a lack of correct information and sexual education and also to "end the current lack of self-recognition and self-confidence among queer people and to prevent frequent tragedies, such as suicide."[6]

The Organization's name is inspired by the Underground Railroad that existed more than a century ago. The Underground Railroad was an informal network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th century Black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and mainly to Canada with the aid of abolitionists who were sympathetic to their cause. In Canada, they found freedom.[7]

The homepage of IRQR says: "When Iranian queer people flee persecution in Iran, they generally go to Turkey. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees interviews these refugees and decides whether their case for asylum is valid. If they are granted asylum status, the UNHCR finds a new country for each person on base of their profile. IRQR helps these refugees through the process and, whenever possible, provides funds for safe houses from donations, since Turkey is also a homophobic and transphobic society and queer people are not physically safe there either." [8] In August 2008, Arsham Parsi had a meeting with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Canadian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, regarding Iranian queer asylum seekers. After that meeting, a number of asylum seekers had been granted refugee status or had been referred to the Canadian Embassy for their resettlement process. Furthermore, the UNHCR changed their legal interviews to an earlier date.[9]

As of December 2015, IRQR have worked directly with 1262 LGBT refugees from Iran, Afghanistan and Syria, helping them through their application process at the UNHCR, and transition and settlement into Canada, the United States or other countries. The majority are from Iran; however, in the past year, IRQR offered its services to help Afghani and Syrian LGBT refugees who contacted the IRQR. Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, has been working with refugees for almost a decade now.

IRQR Applicant chart

During that time IRQR has built a wealth of expertise helping refugees document their particular experiences of persecution, and successfully resettled in a safe country. IRQR help them in Turkey while they are going through the stages of becoming a Convention Refugee, and meeting with the UNHCR to advocate on their behalf. Without this, countless refugees who would have been forced to return to Iran, and see their lives become even worse than before.[10]

IRQR has maintained above 80% success rate – helping refugees through the process and to start a new life. As you know, this process is a long and arduous road. With help of many supporters IRQR can continue making a lasting difference in the lives of these LGBT refuges – again and again.

IRQR Successes Rate Chart

In 2015, Arsham Parsi, the IRQR's Executive Director, travelled to Turkey in February and September. He met with LGBT refugees to document their situation and provided services on the ground. He met with officials at the UNHCR office in Ankara to advocate for the most vulnerable and urgent cases in order to be granted for an expedited process. Because of IRQR work, and the UNHCR many LGBT refugees were granted an earlier interview and the determination result was successful – they received status as a refugee, and could begin their journey to a new home and being free to be LGBT.[11]

IRQR held five workshops in Denizli and Eskisehir, Turkey in 2015 to help Iranian LGBT refugees whose cases were in process with the UNHCR. Many LGBT Iranian refugees participated in the discussions and shared their experiences on the challenges that they face in Iran as well as on their refugee lives in Turkey.

Maintaining success rate above 80% annually is challenging with the significant increase since 2014, including that the process time has changed from 2 to 3 years. But IRQR still predict the same success rate for 2014 and 2015.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "About IRQR". Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  2. ^ "Corporation Document". Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  3. ^ "Support IRQR.". Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  4. ^ Johnny Simpson, Digital Journal. "Interview: Arsham Parsi of Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees". Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  5. ^ "Islamic Republic of Iran's punishment code on Homosexuality - Complete Text of the Iranian Law on Homosexuality". Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  6. ^ "IRQR Fieldwork in Turkey.". Retrieved 2015-11-17. 
  7. ^ "IRQR frontpage". Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  8. ^ "about Iranian Queer Railroad". Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  9. ^ "IRQR Fieldwork in Turkey.". Retrieved 2015-11-17. 
  10. ^ "Our Christmas Gift if Our Good News". Retrieved 2015-12-24. 
  11. ^ "Our Christmas Gift if Our Good News". Retrieved 2015-12-24.