Via NY Times:
In his native Iran, leaders openly wish for Israel to be wiped off the map. Yet Payam Feili, a poet and novelist, developed what he called a “special relationship” with the place, imagining it in his stories, which are replete with gay themes and Jewish symbols.
Now Mr. Feili, who is 30 and openly gay, is living in Tel Aviv as he seeks asylum in Israel. He has tattooed a Star of David on his neck.
“The more I gained a reputation outside Iran, the harder it became for me to live in Iran,” Mr. Feili said of the Islamic republic, where gay people have been executed. “Long before I left Iran,” he added, “I thought that the only other place in the world I could live was Israel.”
His is certainly an unusual path. Iran does not allow its nationals to visit Israel, which it has condemned as a “Little Satan.” Israel does not permit its citizens to travel to Iran, whose nuclear program Israeli leaders have deemed a potentially existential threat to the Jewish state. The two countries once had close ties, but that ended with the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 — before Mr. Feili was born.
Speaking at a news conference this week in Jerusalem, Mr. Feili recounted how he got from there to here.
In recent years, he was unable to publish anything in Iran and even his friends hesitated to contact him. He said that when he began working with an Israeli who was translating his latest novella into Hebrew, government loyalists wrote articles accusing him of immorality and collaborating with the enemy.
He fled to Turkey in 2014 after being blacklisted and detained several times. Israel granted him entry on a temporary visa as a visiting artist about three months ago.
“The regime was pressing me to leave the country,” Mr. Feili said, speaking in Persian through a translator. “I got afraid,” he added. “People warned me that the articles could be a harbinger of worse things to come.”
A slender, delicate figure sporting a ring with a large turquoise stone, blue nail polish and ripped skinny jeans, Mr. Feili grew up in a Muslim family in Karaj, Iran’s fourth largest city with about 2 million people.