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Witness Statement: Saye Sky

Escape from Iran


39. Around November 2009, I noticed my telephone made a strange beeping noise whenever I picked it up to call my girlfriend living abroad. I did not take it seriously. My girlfriend and I talked about everything over the telephone. We talked about the difficulties of being a homosexual in Iran and we talked about my rap career. We talked about the subjects I could not talk about with anyone else. I assumed the beeping noise was associated with the difficulties of calling internationally from Iran and thought nothing of it.

40. In October 2009, I had an anonymous phone interview with a homosexual magazine, Neda, in Canada and Radio Zaman in Holland about my rap music. Before that I had noticed two beeping sounds whenever I made a call. One was right at the beginning of the call and the second after I was connected to my destination. I noticed that these two beeps occurred at the beginning of the interview. I called my telephone company to see if they could find a way to fix the problem. (My internet service was disconnected but my phone line was active.) After transferring me to three different technicians, I realized that this might be something more than a simple technical problem and decided to ask a friend of mine who had expertise in the field.

41. After looking at the telephone line, my normally stoic friend came out of my bedroom crying. He told me that the government had been taping my telephone conversations for months. Immediately, my mind raced to the conversations I had with my girlfriend. The Islamic Republic knew I was a lesbian, they knew I was a rap artist, they knew about my interviews with foreign media outlets and what I had said to them, they knew about my participation in the election protests. The Islamic Republic knew everything that I had strived so hard to keep from them. They knew my most dangerous secrets. At that moment, I knew it was no longer safe to live in Iran and I wanted to leave immediately.

42. I told my family I had to leave Tehran for the countryside. When they asked me why, I told them it was because of my participation in the protests. They beat me severely after learning of my participation but eventually let me go. I packed my belongings into a backpack and left for the countryside. The countryside was generally safer than Tehran because it was less regulated, because the government would not be looking for me there, and because if the Islamic Republic wanted to find me in the countryside, they would have to broaden their search considerably, making it much more expensive to find me.

43. My plan was to find someone who could smuggle me out of the country quickly and quietly. After some time, I found a man who was willing to help but required that I pay him and that somewhere along the road I might have to allow a number of men to use me sexually. I didn’t want to risk such a fate, so I decided to wait until I could get out of Iran legally.

44. In the meantime, I was forced to wait. I knew nobody in the countryside and had no money of my own. Each day was a struggle to find food, water and shelter. What money I had was transferred to my bank card from friends’ accounts. When I found places to stay, it was because friends of mine in Tehran had telephoned their distant relatives in the countryside and begged them to let me stay with them for a night or two. Usually, strangers would be hesitant to help me. After all, when you see a young girl in the countryside with nothing but a backpack it is very likely that she is running from the Islamic Republic. People didn’t want to get involved because they were scared of the consequences. Sometimes there was no food or shelter and I was forced to sleep under a car or in the woods. This period of 3-4 weeks was very difficult for me.

45. While in the countryside, I caught wind of the fact that the government had issued a warrant for my arrest and was looking for me. First, my friend from home (the one who had informed me of the wiretapping) had a friend inside in the police force who informed him that my name had come up on a wanted list. Second, my neighbors in Iran called me to inform me that a bearded man had knocked on their door claiming to be someone who was looking to marry me and wanted to know more information about where I was and who my friends were. It is likely that the Islamic Republic sent that man to my house in order to determine where I might be hiding and who might be assisting me. Although I never saw the arrest warrant itself, I am 100% certain that it existed and that the Islamic Republic was actively searching for me just before I left.

46. After three weeks in the countryside, I returned to Tehran in order to finish my second song. I was extremely worried about my return to the city and that I would be caught before I could leave again for the countryside. Still, the studio was in Tehran and I wanted to record my song before I left the country. While in Tehran, I could not find a moment of tranquility. With every sound and every movement, I thought the agents of the Islamic Republic had found me and that my life was over. The stress was absolutely unbearable. Thankfully, I recorded the song and left for the countryside undetected.

47. In late February (2010), my contact told me he was getting closer to a solution and that I should be ready to leave at any moment. I told him I was ready but I still had one last problem to tackle: my passport was still at my home with my family in Tehran. Getting my passport from my family would be tricky because they would not be likely to give it up willingly. They would probably be suspicious of the fact I had been in the countryside for so long and my sudden need for my passport. If they found out I was a lesbian, they would be just as likely to kill me as the Islamic Republic. My only option was to take it from them without their knowing.

48. I returned home to Tehran and sustained heavy beatings from my family for my time spent in the countryside. My mother held me down as my brother beat me with his belt. The entire time, they yelled obscenities at me; “We don’t know what you’re doing!” “You’re broken!” “There’s something wrong with you!” “We don’t know anything about your comings and goings!” “We don’t want you in the house anymore!” They yelled at me and beat me for spending three weeks in the countryside.

49. During my short but painful stint at home, I was able to recover my passport and left home pretending I was going to my sister’s home but I left again for the countryside. Shortly thereafter, my contact called me and told me that my paperwork was ready and I could leave the country. I bought a ticket from Turkish Airlines and left Iran by plane. I was unable to take any personal belongings because authorities checked my bags at the gate and I didn’t want to give them any reason to stop me from traveling. All I brought with me were the clothes in my backpack, $100 in cash, my passport and my government issued ID card. Thankfully, I was able to pass through security and find refuge in Turkey.

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Tagged as:

LGBT, Personal Liberty, Arbitrary Detention, Illegal Search and Seizure, Free Speech, Right to Protest, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination