(JNS.org) At a time when Iran is known for its hostile attitude towards Israel, openly gay Iranian poet and novelist Payam Feili this week described how he found himself living in the Jewish state.
“The more I gained a reputation outside Iran, the harder it became for me to live in Iran,” Feili said during a Jerusalem press conference regarding his native country, which executes LGBT individuals, the New York Times reported. “Long before I left Iran, I thought that the only other place in the world I could live was Israel.”
Feili said that when he was still in Iran, he began working with an Israeli to translate his latest novella into Hebrew. This caused Iranian government loyalists to write articles accusing him of immorality and collaborating with the enemy. He escaped to Turkey in 2014 after being detained several times, and was able to enter Israel on a temporary visa as a visiting artist three months ago.
“The regime was pressing me to leave the country,” Feili said. “I got afraid. People warned me that the articles could be a harbinger of worse things to come.”
Before fleeing Iran, Feili already had an existing interest in the Jewish state after he watched movies about the Holocaust and read the Torah as a young man. Modern Israel “is exactly as I expected and even better and more beautiful,” he said.
Feili is living in Tel Aviv, which is home to a vibrant LGBT community. He is seeking asylum in Israel and has tattooed a Star of David on his neck.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Iran’s nuclear chief denied Israel’s legitimacy as a country in the latest anti-Zionist rhetoric emanating from the Islamic Republic.