A gay Iranian poet is seeking asylum in Israel

Published February 23rd, 2016 - 11:20 GMT
Payam Feili visited Israel after fleeing persecution in Iran, and now wants to stay there.
Payam Feili visited Israel after fleeing persecution in Iran, and now wants to stay there.

Iran—like many other countries in the region— is not known for being friendly towards its LGBT+ community. Homosexuality is very much illegal in the Islamic Republic, and those prosecuted for the “crime” can face severe punishment, including the death penalty.

For this reason, Payam Feili, a gay Iranian poet, had every reason to flee his homeland. He writes about a number of issues, including freedom, equality, memories of his childhood, and his dreams for his nation—common topics for a poet. What might seem surprising about Feili is his choice of refuge: Israel.

Living in exile in Turkey, he traveled to Israel at the end of 2015 in order to participate in a poetry festival. His latest book was banned in Iran, but after being translated was published in Israel.

In an interview with Israeli Channel 10, he expressed his love for the country, saying, “I believe that Israel is the best and most beautiful place in the world.”

He has a very visible Star of David tattoo on his neck, which he argues is nothing to do with religion.

“I love this tattoo. And I know that this will rouse the curiosity of people and seem strange, but I love the shape. And I know that it's an Israeli and Jewish symbol, but from my view, there is no relation between this tattoo and religion,” he said in the interview.

His three month visa to Israel is coming to an end, and now he is asking Israeli authorities for asylum. At risk of receiving a death sentence if he was ever sent back to Iran, he believes it is one of his only options.

Authorities are reportedly upset that he entered as a visitor and now wants permanent residence, however given his situation it is speculated they will approve his request.

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