Payam Feili, 30, proudly defies his theocratic regime back home, hopes to move permanently to gay-friendly Tel Aviv
Payam Feili fled his native Iran last year because of the persecution he faced over his sexuality. Now, the gay poet has made a years-long dream come true — he is visiting Israel, Iran’s archenemy and a country known for its tolerance toward gays.
But the 30-year-old Feili stands out not only because of his arrival in a country so at odds with his own, but because of his professed adoration for the state some Iranian leaders have dubbed a cancer and have called to be wiped off the map.
“I still can’t believe I am here,” the soft-spoken Feili said in Farsi, speaking through his translator and the friend who brought him to Israel, Adi Liberman.
“All the stupid and ridiculous threats the regime issues against Israel have never influenced me and will never influence me,” he said.
HOT TOPIC: MEDIA COVERS PAYAM’S VIEW ON ISRAEL
ABC NEWS: Gay Iranian poet flees persecution, finds himself in Israel: “I grew closer and closer to Israel and I fell in love with it.” Read
Haaretz: After months of bureaucracy, Payam Feili, 30, was granted a three-month visa to Israel; he hopes to stay in the country permanently on humanitarian grounds. Read
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
In August, Payam gave the first interview to an Israeli media to mark the release of his book, “I Will Grow, I Will Bear Fruit…Figs?”: “When I look at my life, I see that I’m still the secluded and quiet boy who got lost in the sounds and letters of the world. In fact, I’m rooted in the sounds and letters of that world in order to get to where I am right now, where I can present my world using these same words and sounds. If I had not grown up in the environment and atmosphere of the Iranian society, the situation would have been different now.” Read the interview
Then in November, it was announced that Israel has responded to Payam’s request to visit the country, and gave him a special visa, trusting him mainly because he’s gay: “a supporter of Jewish state who is persecuted in home nation for his sexuality and views” Read the story