Zamaneh Media that in the past 10 years has published stories about the Iranian LGBTQI people, is is together with JoopeA Foundation, organizing a boat to represent this community in the Amsterdam Gay Pride Canal Parade 2017 – for the very first time. Rieneke Van Santen, the Executive Director of Zamaneh, writes the story of how Zamaneh proposed and got approved for a Persian themed boat with a fierce statement: “Loose the Noose!” against the death penalty for sexual minorities.

Photo by: Alf van Beem

Rieneke Van Santen – We’re welcomed by the “Brothers Grimm”, a gay duo in their 50s wearing pink glitter outfits, huge pride color balloons and a singing drag queen, the famous “Niki Today” in a small, dark club in the center of Amsterdam. The kick-off event for the Amsterdam Gay Pride breathes festivities, excitement and a warm atmosphere. Everyone present is ready to party, but anxious to find out which boats are selected to sail during the largest event of the city: the world famous Amsterdam Pride Canal Parade.

The Amsterdam Gay Pride is a citywide festival held annually during the first week of August to celebrate freedom and diversity, with its peak being the Canal Parade attracting hundred of thousands of people from all over the world.

No less than eighty boats join the parade through the Amsterdam canals, decorated in different themes making statements to stand up for LGBTQI rights. Since the first canal pride in 1996, the event hosted a Jewish boat, Moroccan boat, Refugee boat, Turkish boat, but never an Iran boat. At Zamaneh Media we believe that needs to change and so we are also anxiously waiting to hear the result of the boat competition.

Why is an Iran Boat at this Event so Important?

The theme of this year’s event is “This is my pride” with the aim of going back to why it all started: the gay-emancipation movement – the historical and continuing movement though which sexual minorities fight against legal and social discrimination and demand equal rights and freedom.

As Frits Huffnagel, the chair person of the Pride Amsterdam organization says in his speech at the kick-off event: “Also in Holland we’re not there yet. Tolerance is not enough. We should not be ‘tolerated,’ we should be accepted. We are fighting for acceptance.”

While there is still a lot more to gain for the LGBTQI community here in the Netherlands, it is way ahead of Iran, where LGBTQI people face notorious legal and social discriminations.

Same sex relations are punishable by imprisonment and corporal punishment for women and men. In case of male homosexual sex, Iran is one of the five countries in the world where certain types of male same sex relations are punishable by execution.

Many LGBTQI Iranians therefore flee the country in search of a better life but face many new challenges; including encountering the harsh realities of complex immigration systems and the difficulties of being a sexual minority in a new country. In addition, there is still very little social acceptance within Iranian society, often also within families.

Zamaneh Media therefore submitted an Iran Persian themed boat into the competition with a fierce statement: “Loose the Noose!” against the death penalty for sexual minorities together with JoopeA Foundation.

We believe everyone should be able to live a secure, free life regardless of their sexual orientations or gender identities. With a record number of visitors of last year’s Amsterdam canal pride (560,000 people were watching the parade in the city) we want to use this momentum to not only raise awareness on the dire situation of LGBTQI people living in Iran, but also to ask for acceptance within the Iranian diaspora communities.

And the Winners are …

And so here we are, in a dark club in the city surrounded by a diverse, colorful group of people waiting for the list of boats to be called. With a total number of 140 registrations and only 80 places we were so very happy when they called out Zamaneh Media. We’re in! History will be written; the first Iran boat at one of the largest Gay Pride events.

A radio interview and numerous news articles covering our participation follow immediately and the organization team tells me they won’t be the last. This is good news, because we need to keep on spreading the word: everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. We are looking forward to sail on a Persian carpet through the canals of Amsterdam, together with the Dutch-Iranian LGBTIQ community.

To learn more about the journeys of Iranian LGBTIQ individuals as they flee Iran and travel to the West, watch the award-winning film documentary by Zamaneh Media “Out of Iran”:

Rieneke Van Santen
Executive Director Zamaneh Media

* Zamaneh Media is planning a crowd-funding campaign to cover the fees involved in the canal pride event, the decoration of the boat, as well as LGBTQI multi-media productions. More information about the campaign will follow on this website.