The Construction of Narratives of Sexual Orientation in Persian-Speaking Communities in the Context of Seeking Asylum in Turkey

  • Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Various studies show that bi asylum seekers’ claims are far fewer than lesbian and gay ones. In this research, as the first substantial empirical study on bi asylum seekers in any country and also the first substantial empirical study on bisexuality in Iran, I demonstrate how the dominant homonormative narrative of sexual orientation is constructed in interactions among asylum seekers, activists, aid providers and asylum authorities. Based on interviews with sixteen Iranian non-monosexual and monosexual SOGI-based asylum seekers, one Iranian activist and five Turkish activists and aid providers in Turkey, analysis of Persian Twitter debates and reviews of the previous studies, I show how the narratives of (in)stability, (in)authenticity, (un)belonging and, consequently, (un)deservingness result in bi invisibility and bi negativity and form a vicious cycle of bi erasure in the asylum processes. As discussions around asylum have been central in the Persian debates on SOGI after the criminalisation of same sex sexual conduct following the revolution of 1979, bi negativity in the asylum process has contributed to reproducing the dichotomy of hamjinsgaraa, or the real homosexual, and hamjinsbaaz, or the pseudo-homosexual, as the key concepts of sexual orientation in the Persian language. I also discuss how, due to globalisation, English media and social media play an important role in shaping the contemporary Persian understanding of sexual orientation. I argue that in such a context, not only Persian bi asylum stories but also Persian bi stories, in general, become less tellable and, even if they are told, are often not heard, understood and recognised. However, I also show while sometimes Iranian LGBTQ asylum seekers may feel pressured to perform according to the acceptable norms, in other circumstances, they may not only feel safe enough to tell stories closer to how they define their SOGIs but also question the dominant narrative and advocate for their rights.
Date of Award4 Mar 2024
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKate Smith (Main Supervisor)

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