Ed note: We first stumbled into Laurence Rasti's sad and beautiful images about half a year ago. The photos of gay men who'd fled Iran, show how simple things we take for granted—going to a party, enjoying nature, walking through streets, or just following our hearts—are all acts imbued with fear and shame. For these men, all of their little pleasures have to be experienced in secrecy. And as a result, these images of young people in love, which should be so joyous, instead come across as lonely and heartbreaking. Laurence was kind enough to let us run them here. ***
"In Iran, we do not have homosexuals like in your country."—Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at Columbia University, September 24, 2007.
In Iran, homosexuality is still punishable by death. This sanction prohibits people from living out their sexuality openly. Their only legal options are to leave the country, hide, or choose transsexuality, a practice tolerated by law but also considered pathological. These photos are from Denizli, a small town in Turkey, where hundreds of Iranian gay refugees have put their lives on pause while waiting to join a country where they can freely live in the open. In this uncertainty, where anonymity is the best protection, this series questions the fragile nature of identity and gender and tries to give back to these people a face that their country has temporarily stolen.