Gay Lesbian Travellers

Despite what President Ahmadinejad might like to say, Iranian gays and lesbians do exist. Unlike most other places, however, in Iran homosexuality is not only illegal but punishable by hundreds of lashes and even death. In 2005 two men were hanged in Gorgan for the 'crime' of having consensual sex. Barbaric laws aside, there is no reason why gay and lesbian travellers shouldn't visit Iran. There are no questions of sexuality on visa application forms, and we have not heard of any homosexual travellers being treated badly as long as they refrained from overt signs of affection.

Arranging meetings with Iranian gays and lesbians will, however, be tough. With so many cultural and legal constraints, it's no surprise that the nearest thing to a gay 'scene' are a few nervous-looking men sitting alone in Daneshgu and Laleh parks in Tehran. For lesbians it's even more difficult; most Iranians would probably deny the existence of women who prefer women.

The best way to contact the gay and lesbian communities, such as they are, is through the internet, which can open up all sorts of doors more safely than chancing it in the park. The website of the Iran Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Organisation (www.homanla.org) has interesting articles on homosexual life in Iran plus plenty of links.

Of course, it makes sense not to advertise that you're part of a same-sex couple. Most hoteliers will accept that you're 'just good friends', though you might find in some places that discretion is the better part of valour when seeking a double bed. In Yazd there is one smooth hotel in the old town noted for being more gay-friendly than others.

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