A card exempted a gay man from serving in Iran’s military. It may have cost him his life

Alireza Fazeli-Monfared’s future was brutally cut short last week when members of his family allegedly murdered him due to his sexual orientation, according to his partner and a LGBTQ rights group. The 20-year-old Iranian had hoped to escape the country, where he felt stifled by the Iranian regime’s restrictions on homosexuality, and had dreams of modeling or becoming a make-up artist, his partner Aghil Abiat told CNN. In long phone calls and video messages with Abiat — who is a refugee in Turkey after being outed in Iran — Fazeli-Monfared would describe the experiences he longed to have and the life he wanted to build. But on May 4, Fazeli-Monfared was killed, possibly after his extended family discovered that he was gay through a military service exemption card that arrived in the mail, according to Abiat and the Iranian LGBTQ organization 6Rang. Abiat said Fazeli-Monfared’s mother confirmed his death to him, but she did not respond to CNN’s calls or messages to a phone number provided by Abiat. The couple met on a public social media channel for members of the Iranian LGBTQ community looking for support in 2019, according to Abiat. They began chatting, and sending video messages back and forth. “Our communication was wonderful. We were honest with each other … Alireza had so much he wanted to experience and he was honest about that as well,” Abiat said. Always seething in the background, however, was building family pressure and Iran’s draconian laws against homosexuality that make same-sex relations a potential capital offense. “He was always stressed. He bit his nails so there were never any left,” Abiat recalled. Iran is one of 68 countries where same-sex relations between consenting adults is criminalized, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). “(The) LGBTQ community is one of the most marginalized in Iran, they face various levels of discrimination and hate. The most obvious one is by law but there is also a lot of homophobia in society depending on where you are and which demographic you belong to … the family can sometimes be the most dangerous place,” Tara Sepehri Far, Iran researcher at HRW. Just days before the alleged killing, Fazeli-Monfared told Abiat about the arrival of his military service card. Fazeli-Monfared also told his partner that he thought the envelope had been opened and resealed. The couple shrugged it off at the time — chalking it up to paranoia. “We talked about it but we didn’t do anything about it, we thought it was just in our heads,” Abiat said. But the document exempted Fazeli-Monfared from military service on the grounds of his sexuality, and it may have led to his wider family finding out his sexual identity.