By: NOLAN PAGE
On Tuesday May 4, Alireza Fazeli-Monfared, a 20 year old gay man, was killed reportedly by his own family near his hometwon of Ahvaz, Iran after they found out about his sexual orientation. Before his death, he was hoping to leave the country in order to escape the strict laws and societal attitudes, that make being gay in Iran so dangerous.
He had a partner, Aghil Abiat, who he met online in 2019 and eventually they planned for Fazeli-Monfared to leave Iran for Turkey and meet up with Abiat who was also a gay refugee from Iran. Abiat told CNN that when they were both in Turkey, Fazeli-Monfared wanted to become a makeup artist or a model and described him as “beautiful, handsome. He was kind and determined.”
Abiat says that it is possible that he was outed by a military exemption card that came in the mail. In Iran, men must complete military service before the age of 18, but gay men and trans women are excepted from this and are banned from joining. Instead, they are classified as having a mental disorder and receive cards that state they are exempted from. According to Abiat, the card came at a time when Fazeli-Monfared was not at the home, and when he opened it, he suspected that it had been opened and resealed. This alarmed the couple, but eventually they decided that they were being paranoid, with Abiat saying, “We talked about it but we didn’t do anything about it, we thought it was just in our heads.”
Fazeli-Monfared needed the card in order to obtain a passport and leave the country, but according to Abiat’s account, it may have been what ultimately led to his death. According to activists, this kind of danger caused by a military exemption card is far from an isolated incident and not just in terms of family but many other aspects of life. Shadi Amin, an Iranian activist living in Germany spoke to ABC News about the cards, saying, “The specific reason mentioned on their card can cause systematic discrimination against them. Like, they cannot get employed at state and even private organizations, or in extreme cases, it may lead to life threatening risks like what happened to Alireza.”
Even before his military exemption card became an issue, Fazeli-Monfared was greatly impacted by the stressful and potentially dangerous situation of having to hide his sexual orientation in Iran. Though being gay itself is not technically a crime in Iran, it is immensely taboo and gay relationships can be punishable by death. Abiat described that this stress got to him, saying,”He bit his nails so there were never any left.”
Even before finding out his sexual orientation, his family disapproved of the way Fazeli-Monfared dressed, calling it “dishonorable” according to 6Rang, the Iranian LGBT network. According to audio recordings of Fazeli-Monfared provided by Abiat, his step brother had threatened to kill him multiple times.
Abiat and Fazeli-Monfared last spoke on May 2 when they were finalizing plans for him leaving Iran within the next few days. He was going to sell his phone at a store and buy a train ticket to Tehran to get a COVID-19 test, so that he could be authorized to get on a flight to Turkey. Abiat said that he got in contact with Fazeli-Monfared’s mother and aunt after seeing reports of his death. The two women told him that they went to the phone store after he did not come home, and the shopkeeper said that Fazeli-Monfared’s step brother had come to the store and told him that their father needed to see them and forced them into a car.
The step brother and other men in the family later called Fazeli-Monfared’s aunt and told her that they killed him. Reportedly, they took him to an outskirt and beheaded him, with Saednews reporting that local authorities cited “bleeding from the neck area” as the cause of death.
Being gay still remains a very dangerous existence in some parts of the world. Many more killings likely happen for the sake of honor that don’t reach media attention like Alirezi Fazeli-Monfared’s did, because they don’t have people like Aghil Abiat to tell the world their stories. Even with the attention that the murder has gotten, it is still unknown whether Fazeli-Monfared’s killers will be charged. Abiat expressed desire for this to happen, saying, “I want the killers to have a fair trial in which Alireza’s sexual orientation is not a consideration.”