Arsham Parsi is an Iranian queer rights activist who was born in Shiraz, the largest city in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
He is the founder and head of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees an international non-profit organization based in Toronto, Canada that is helping Iranian queers and those who escaped Iran on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
He is currently living in exile in Canada, but whilst still living in Iran in 2001 he started Rangin Kamin (Rainbow Group), a group for LGBTQ Iranians which he later renamed Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization, and then again as the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO). Because homosexuality is illegal in Iran and can be punished with death, Parsi registered the organization in Norway and kept most of his LGBTQ activism to online spaces, where he operated a chatroom for queer Iranians.
Parsi himself fled to Turkey in 2005, claimed refugee status, and was eventually resettled in Toronto, where he founded a new organization, the International Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR).
The organization assists LGBTQ refugees who have fled their home countries because of their identities and are currently living in Turkey. The organization provides food, shelter, guidance, and education until they are eventually resettled.
His work has earned him several human rights awards including the 2008 Felipa de Souza Award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the 2008 Pride Toronto Award.
His 2015 book, Exiled for Love: The Journer of an Iranian Queer Activist, chronicles Parsi’s incredible journey from his first understanding of his sexual orientation to his eventual exile. It explores the reality for LGBT people in Iran through his personal experiences.