Gay Iranian poet who fled to Israel says he is confident he’ll be allowed to remain

Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Payam Feili, a gay Iranian poet seeking asylum in Israel, said his visa to stay there has been extended until October.

Feili announced the visa extension in Jerusalem on Monday, according to the Times of Israel.

Feili said he has not met yet with any Israeli government officials, but is confident he will be allowed to remain in the Jewish state.

“I’m planning my life as if I will stay here long term,” he said at the office of the advocacy group The Israel Project. “With the help of my friends I can establish a simple life here. I don’t need any help from any government, be it Israeli or not.”

The Iranian government, which is a longtime supporter of Hezbollah and last week announced new financial support for Palestinian terrorists, is vehemently anti-Israel and anti-gay. Iranians can be imprisoned for homosexual behavior, and leaders on numerous occasions have vowed to destroy Israel.

Israel is widely considered the most gay-friendly country in the Middle East.

Feili fled Iran in 2014 for Turkey before coming to Israel last year, where his novella, “I Will Grow, I Will Bear Fruit … Figs,” was being adapted as a play in Hebrew.

Feili, has written nine books, but none has been published in Iran.

“The main problem with the Islamic Republic of Iran is that they don’t even want you to talk about your personal identity,” said Feili, who has a Star of David tattooed on his neck. “The Islamic Republic of Iran grants you an identity as a Shia person, a person who hates the whole world, and they want you to adopt that as your identity and nothing else.”

Feili said he does not regret his decision to move to Israel.

“From the beginning, I wasn’t looking for a place where I can have an easy life,” he said. “I do understand that this is a liberal country where minorities are supported and endorsed.”

Feili said his family has been mostly supportive of leaving Iran but that they have come under pressure due to his move to Israel.

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