Kiana Firouz, a young up-and-coming lesbian actress, filmmaker and gay activist from Iran now living in the UK as a refugee, was recently denied asylum there. If she is forced to return, she will face the most brutal of punishments, perhaps even death.
For those of you not in the know, life for free-spirited filmmakers can be a most hazardous existence in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 2001 Tahmineh Milani, a very popular female director in Iran, faced a death sentence for her film The Hidden Half. French-Iranian documentarian Mehrnoushe Solouki was thrown into the nightmare of Evin prison for the crime of stumbling across a mass grave.
In 2008, Esha Momeni was arrested and imprisoned in Evin for the crime of filming a women's rights documentary on the streets of Tehran for her masters thesis (most ironic, given the regime's recent lofty appointment to the UN Women's Rights Council). And today, internationally renowned film director Jafar Panahi lies entombed in a cramped solitary confinement cell in Evin prison's notorious Section 209 for the crimes of supporting Mousavi, wearing green at the Montreal Film Fest last September, and of planning to make an anti-regime film that has not yet been made.
Yet well-known filmmakers have it easy in Iran. All of the above, except for Jafar Panahi, were released after intense international and even domestic outrage. And international outrage is intensifying for Jafar Panahi as we speak from the Cannes Film Festival, major Hollywood filmmakers and the French and German governments. His release may yet be forthcoming. But for the thousands within prison walls and outside of the public eye in Iran, life more resembles the Ninth Circle of Hell. White torture. The rapes of men and women. Coerced confessions, some of which were broadcast on Iran state TV. And now, the rolling executions of protesters, Kurds and even Afghan refugees, which thousands of Afghans are protesting now. Yet for no one in Iran is life more tortured and short than it is for LGBTs.
So think of how much worse it will be for the brazen 27-year-old up-and-coming Iranian actress, filmmaker and lesbian gay activist Kiana Firouz, who dared put her forbidden love up on the big screen for all to see, and in most unashamed and defiant fashion in the very face of the Islamist regime in Iran. Here is how the weblog Coilhouse, which just posted an in-depth report on Ms. Firouz's life story and asylum denial, describes the punishment for lesbians in Iran, which falls under the purview of the harsh anti-gay Islamic legal code of Lavat:
In Iran, the punishment for lesbianism involving mature consenting women consists of 100 lashes. This punishment can be applied up to three times. After a fourth violation of Iranian law, a woman convicted of “unrepentant homosexuality” is finally executed by hanging, often publicly, in front of a howling mob.
In most blackly ironic fashion, Ms. Firouz's big screen debut in the documentary Cul de Sac will premiere in London in a few days. Cul de Sac is based in great part on Ms. Firouz's own life story as a lesbian in Iran, and of all the difficulties she faced. The trailer for Cul de Sac on YouTube has already attracted a great deal of media attention, given Ms. Firouz's precarious situation. It also appears to have attracted the attention of the Islamist authorities in Iran as well, who will now be keeping a very keen eye out for Ms. Firouz's homecoming in Tehran as her plane lands at Khomeini Airport. I think we can all picture how that story would end.
If not, consider this. In today's Iran, as in most fascist dictatorships throughout history, the law could not be more arbitrarily and capriciously applied. Even the innocent are consumed in the regime's senseless violence perpetrated against the least of its ideological foes. You don't have to be an Islamist to see the example the regime could set with Ms. Firouz's highly public forced confession, kangaroo court trial based on same and likely execution, especially given President Ahmadinejad's post-election claim that the Green movement consisted of "thieves, homosexuals and scumbags." It would certainly make Ahmadinejad's infamous claim of there being no gays in Iran accurate by one more LGBT extermination, in addition to the estimated 6000 executed since homosexuality became a capital crime in Iran in 1979.
You can read a lot more of Ms. Firouz's dire situation at the Street Journalist, TruthDig and Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees websites. Coilhouse has perhaps the most in-depth coverage of all, with links to petitions for Ms. Firouz's granting of asylum in the West. Until Ms. Firouz actually boards a plane back to Tehran, there is still hope the UK government will reverse their decision. If they do not, Ms. Firouz will no doubt become yet another tragedy of far too many occurring in Iran today. Worst of all, it will have been a totally preventable one.
UPDATE: Lady Gaga recently posted her own plea for the life of Kiana Firouz.
CORRECTION: I just received this message from the Lady Gaga Save Kiana blog poster:
I am writing in regards to your article. Lady GaGa is not yet involved in anything. Some fans and I have been trying to get a hold of her in regards to this, hoping she'll get involved. The Save Kiana blog post is actually a thread I posted on her official Forum on LadyGaGa.com. I just wanted to make sure that was clear. Thank you.