Payam Feili, a gay Iranian poet seeking asylum in Israel, told journalists Monday in Jerusalem that his visa has been extended until October after his current one was set to expire.
“I’m planning my life as if I will stay here long term,” he said, speaking through a translator 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.”
He said he has not met with any officials, but is confident that he will be allowed to remain in Israel.
Faced with persecution over his sexuality and censorship, Feili fled his native Iran in 2014 for Turkey before coming to Israel. He came to Israel late last year to see his latest novella, “I Will Grow, I Will Bear Fruit … Figs,” staged as a play in Hebrew in Tel Aviv.
Feili, who has written nine books, has not been able to publish his work in Iran.
Feili blamed both the Iranian government and society in general for his persecution, but said the regime is responsible for teaching intolerance.
“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 sports 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.”
He said he does not expect the recent elections to change the situation in his home country.
“It’s not going to result in a reform that is going to change the direction of society,” he said. “I have no intention of returning to Iran following the election.”
Feili said he recognizes the hardships of living in Israel, but does not regret the move.
“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. He added that he didn’t think the regime is a danger to them.