• Taha has fled to Istanbul after receiving death threats from other Iranian mullahs. (BBC)Source: BBC
Taha is a gay Iranian mullah who fled the country after performing secret same-sex marriages in one of the world's most dangerous places for LGBT+ people.
Stephanie Marie Anderson

9 Jun 2016 - 3:16 PM  UPDATED 9 Jun 2016 - 4:52 PM

The BBC has released a new feature on a man named Taha, a gay Iranian mullah (cleric) who has been forced to flee Iran after his fellow mullahs became suspicious of his sexuality and the fact that he has been performing same-sex marriages in secret.

BBC journalist Ali Hamedani, visiting Taha in Istanbul, Turkey, explains that while he's covered some stories like this before, this one is different because "Taha is from the hierarchy of the Islamic regime, which enforces the regime's very harsh approach when it comes to the LGBT community".

Iran is one of the nine countries where homosexuality is punishable by death, and Taha fled the country when other mullahs began questioning him and the gay men he was associating with. 

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"The authorities questioned me several times about my choice of friends," Taha tells Hamedani. "They were saying I am a cleric and I shouldn't be meeting gay men. The other mullahs were suspicious of my sexual orientation and threatened me with death."

Taha says that he knew from a very young age that he was "not interested in girls" and when he gained access to the internet, he learned more about being a gay man and "cried for days".

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Life as a gay Iranian refugee is certainly not easy, with Taha being unable to work and receiving ongoing pressure and threats from the mullahs he fled in Iran. But Istanbul does have a far more tolerant attitude toward homosexuality, with gay bars and clubs in the city. 

At one of the gay bars, Taha and Hamedani meet with two gay Iranian refugees who plan to marry. Ramtin Zigorat is very excited by the reality of a gay mullah, saying: "It is very big, I am very happy about this. Before this we knew mullahs as people who wanted to punish us. They prayed at our execution ceremonies. But now we know someone who prays at our wedding ceremonies."

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