Quote of the Day : Arsham Parsi & How A Dream Was Built

“Every LGBTQ+ refugee has a unique situation—but the fear and pain they endured before coming to Canada is universal.”

Arsham Parsi, Personal blog : June 20th, 2019

Origins of the Quote

Arsham Parsi, an Iranian refugee living in Canada in exile. His own experiences have propelled him to make it his mission to help LGBTQ people living in Iran. As a nation, acts of homosexuality are punishable by flogging or even death. In the above quotation, from his personal blog, Parsi seeks the assistance of LGBTQ people living in Western nations. He provides a powerful reminder that while things are slowly improving in the west, there are still queer people all over the world who live every day afraid for their very lives.

It was only after he had safely moved to Canada, was Parsi able to live and breathe peacefully. The experiences that he had suffered altered him. It left an indelible impact on him. Parsi didn’t just want to escape himself. While he wanted a better life – he was preoccupied with those who were still suffering.

His words actually compound what he and many other social workers would have felt. He felt bound by an unseeable pact – by a sense of responsibility towards others from his community. He was not dealing with shame or lack of self-acceptance, he was ready to roar. And he worked with a diligent focus towards the end that he wanted.

The Person Behind the Words

Arsham Parsi was born in Iran in 1981. He was born in a country that would in no way accept his individual choice and his sexual orientation. It was not until he was 18 that he fully embraced his own sexuality. Though in his blog he claims that he knew from the time that he was a child about his preferences. And it was not a joyful homecoming. He was well aware of the consequence of his choices – they included violent deaths, honour killings, humiliation, abuse, and severe punishment.

At 17 he decided to open up and speak to an Iranian transgender woman. It was the first time that he had a sympathetic ear, in fact, the first time that he was able to speak freely. After she committed suicide swallowing arsenic, Parsi through his grief and loss made up his mind to do something concrete to help.

Gradually he worked at making efforts to advance Queer rights. But his advocacy work attracted the attention of the Islamic authorities. He was one of the very lucky few who was able to escape before being found. Usually, in these cases, Pasri claims that the family too out the individual. One wonders if they are really homophobic or are overwhelmed by the stigma. There is a lot of misinformation and a lot of ignorance. Coupled with a religious view, there is no way that Parsi was going to remain home, alive, and the harbinger of change.

On the Run to Survive

Fearing for his life, Parsi fled to Turkey in 2005. Which is a common route to escape. It wasn’t really any better because the thirteen months he spent in unliveable conditions nearly had him dead. It was an uneasy haven was what it was at best. Crammed in a room and always fearing the authorities, always scared. He knew he was on the right path.

Walking out on the streets one day he was assaulted and left with a dislocated shoulder. No police protection, no medical assistance. Parsi simply had to wait for nature to heal his injury. But what remained was the awful memory of apathetic violence and the rage against his community.

Once he immigrated to Canada he consolidated his life and used his skills to set up the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees. His organisation offers counseling, legal advice, and support. The work he does he wants it to be an investment for a freer and brighter future for all Iranians in his now-troubled country. 

Some Final Thoughts

Parsi has studied UN and Lobbying Structure, ILGA and ARC International, United Nations Human Rights Commission, 2006, Geneva, Switzerland. He is also proficient in Web Design which he studied at the Toronto College in 2007. He has successfully used his legal knowledge and his training in software to reach a maximum number of people. An organized way of truly creating a supportive base, one that will grow with time. 

Parsi is a fan of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and often reads and quotes the great reformer. While Parsi speaks about having his own dream and seeing it fulfilled. But today we bring a Lutheran quote that we love- “the arch of the moral universe is long and bends toward justice”. To remind him and the hundred others who are trying to create a world that is not hostile towards anybody. Least of all towards anyone for the way they love and the way they have been born. 

What Parsi has built, now supports many people who can now thrive and not just exist.


Check out our Quote of the Day archive where we bring you quotes hand picked by me, Divvya Nirula. Sharing the stories, people, moments behind the inspiration and thought provoking words.