A gay Iranian refugee is suing the CBC, former host Evan Solomon, and producer Farid Haerinejad, claiming he was outed against his will as a homosexual in the 2007 documentary, Out in Iran: Inside Iran’s Secret Gay World.
Farzam Dadashzadeh filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court on August 15, and his notice of civil claim describes the alleged aftermath of the film going viral in Iran after its original airing on CBC’s Sunday Night on Feb. 18, 2007. Dadashzadeh claims he was studying English and working as a hairstylist in Tehran at the time of filming, hoping to one day open an English-language school in the city. Other than an aunt living outside the Islamic republic, nobody in his family knew of his sexual orientation, according to the lawsuit.
“Because of the perilous and inhumane circumstances of homosexuals in Iran, Farzam did not intend to disclose his homosexuality publicly or privately, including to members of his immediate family, who did not accept homosexuality and homosexuals,” the claim says.
The documentary contains hidden camera footage from the Jam-a-Jam restaurant, where Iranian gay and transgender people are known to gather. Dadashzadeh, who was 19 at the time, claims he was present at the food court when the CBC’s cameras captured images and close-ups of his face without his knowledge. He claims that because the recording was with a hidden camera, he was unable to cover his face or leave the area to avoid being identified.
In the documentary, Solomon says everyone shown consented to being filmed and “were aware of the consequences.” But in the filing, Dadashzadeh says he did not give the CBC permission to film him and there weren’t any efforts made to protect his identity.
After the film aired, the documents say it went “viral” in Iran, spreading on the internet and distributed on DVDs. He claims he found out about the film in March 2007 from a relative living abroad, and also in a “threatening and abusive telephone call from [sic] cousin in Iran, who called him a ‘faggot’ and threatened physical harm to him.”
That same month, Dadashzadeh claims he was beaten at the Jam-a-Jam restaurant and arrested while his assailant allegedly went free. He was held in prison for two weeks where police interrogated him about his sexual orientation and the documentary, and he claims he was beaten and raped by other prisoners at the behest of the police.
After leaving his university, Dadashzadeh says he was called up for the country’s mandatory military service, but disallowed due to having a “sexual disorder,” the lawsuit says.
In June 2011, Dadashzadeh fled Iran for Turkey, where he was recognized by the United Nations as a refugee on account of his homosexuality. In February 2014, the Canadian government approved his immigration as a refugee under the sponsorship of the United Church of Canada in Calgary.
Dadashzadeh claims he now suffers from depression, insomnia, anxiety and “suicidal ideations.” According to the lawsuit, he never intended to leave Iran, foregoing employment and business opportunities when he was forced to abandon his plans to open a private English school.
The allegations have not been proven or tested in court, and the defendants have not yet filed responses to the claim. Solomon did not respond to CANADALAND’s emailed request for comment.
CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson told CANADALAND in an email that, “We just became aware of the lawsuit and are taking some time to consider our options.” He said the CBC would comment “whenever we determine how we’re going to proceed.”
Dadashzadeh’s lawyer, Ib Petersen, refused to comment when reached by phone.
“We will not comment on it at this time. There will be an opportunity later on, but right now we’re not going to make any comments or make ourselves available for any interviews,” he said.
Dadashzadeh seeks unspecified special, aggravated, and punitive damages for negligence and breach of privacy.