Welcome to the Evolving Man Project’s “Evolved Man of the Week” profile. Each week we will highlight an individual that embodies what it means to be an evolved person, famous and non-famous individual alike. The world needs to know their stories and deeds. This week’s honor goes to the human rights activist, author, international LGBTQ advocate, and the founder of Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, Arsham Parsi.
Arsham Parsi is a gay man who first began secretly working to support members of the LGBTQ community in his native Iran. But in 2005, the queer activist was forced to flee his country, where homosexual activity remains illegal. Parsi was the executive director of the Iranian Queer Organization and director of the organization’s online magazine, Cheraq, for several years. In October 2008, he launched the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees. Parsi has been working on Iranian queer asylum cases.
He is an Iranian member of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), based in Brussels, Belgium, and ambassador of Iran in the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network (ILGCN), based in Stockholm, Sweden. Director of the cultural committee at the Iranian Association of University of Toronto (IAUT) in 2007, Parsi is also a founding member of the Rainbow Railroad group based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the Advisory.
In April 2008, the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), which was his former organization name awarded Felipa de Souza Award in 2008 by the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). Two months later, Parsi’s work was recognized with the Pride Toronto Award for Excellence in Human Rights. In June 2015, Parsi was awarded by Logo TV for the International Trailblazer. Parsi is being featured in two galleries of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Parsi and Marina Nemat are the only two Iranians that were selected for the museum.
On each of my trips overseas, I have been able to secure international refugee protection status for an increasing number of Iranian queer asylum seekers. I have spent many hours listening to the desperate, tragic, and heartbreaking stories of Iranian queers, all of which makes me very concerned for their situations and futures. My dedication to these refugees is fueled by my own experience as a queer Iranian exile in Turkey. It was the most difficult experience of my life, to suddenly find myself in an unexpected situation in a hostile country with no money and no personal safety or security for over a year.
Arsham continues to do great work while still recognizing our LGBTQ community across the globe still faces grave danger in many parts of the world. Just for existing, they can risk assault, rape, homelessness, and being murdered. Arsham dreams of a world where all LBGTQ people can be fully recognized as human in his nation of birth, Iran, and all across the globe. We at the Evolving Man Project stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ family across the globe. Today we honor Arsham Parsi as our Evolved Man of the Week.