It’s been a long, daunting journey but love has finally prevailed.
Alireza, who is from Iran, and his partner Kiran, who is from India, arrived in Canada last week, greeted at the airport by members of the Vancouver Rainbow Refugee group who sponsored them.
The couple were forced to flee their home countries so they could be together, Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) reported.
Alireza first left Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, in 2011. He fled to India to be with Kiran, but that country also forbids “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” under an 1860s law first imposed by the British and usually used to punish gay men.
So the couple travelled to Turkey in hope of claiming asylum in a Western country. But — like many refugees — they ended up stuck in limbo for years, legally unable to work while they awaited resettlement.
Then, in early June this year, Turkish immigration authorities moved Kiran from the small town they had been settled in to the city of Istanbul to receive mental health treatment for his severe anxiety.
Alireza was not allowed to join his partner because Turkey did not recognise them as a family. To stay together, they were told they must have a marriage certificate — an impossibility in a country that does not allow same-sex marriage.
“It was really very difficult. I didn’t know what’s going to happen. I had anxiety and panic attacks,” Kiran told CBC.
“It was a terrible time we faced.”
That’s when Vancouver Rainbow Refugee joined forces with three Vancouver lawmakers — NDP MP Jenny Kwan, NDP MP Peter Julian and Liberal MP Joyce Murray — to urge the federal government to expedite the pair’s resettlement process.
The couple got a lifeline call in June from the consulate in Ankara to schedule an interview and start the process of moving to Canada.
“After we disconnected the call I was, like, standing in the same place and … I couldn’t control my feelings for like more than half an hour,” Alireza said.
“I was just speechless and I didn’t know what to say or how or how to react because I really didn’t expect that to happen.
“And it was the greatest thing that happened for us, and it kind of washed off all our bad feelings.”
Soon after, they received word their refugee status has been approved.
“Before the flight took off, we were not sure it’s really happening,” Alizera told CBC.
“The flight took off, so we kind of had a sigh of relief that we are leaving Turkey and we are going to the beautiful country of Canada to be with their beautiful people — the kind people who have us this opportunity to be safe and together.”
Kiran said they were given a “warm welcome” when they landed in Vancouver, which he described as “a beautiful city”.
Alireza said their next step will be to get married.
“We are going to start making our life here and experiencing how it is to be free and together.”
One of their sponsors, Guy Dubé, said: “They turned out to be extremely sweet and nice guys and it’s been a pleasure getting to know them.
“We look forward to seeing them grow and shine now they can finally live life without the fear of oppression.”
Picture courtesy of Guy Dubé