Rebecca Treacy on Sepideh Jodeyri

Sepideh Jodeyri

When Sepideh Jodeyri attended a Q&A before a screening of Blue is the Warmest Colour, the conversation was dominated by discussion of her life and works in her home country of Iran. It also centred around her feelings about being exiled in Prague because of her professional life. A poet, translator, literary critic and journalist, among other things, Jodeyri has faced many problems since she decided to translate Julie Maroh’s graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Colour into Persian. She made the decision to do so in an attempt to educate Iranian people about LGBT people and show them how to behave in reaction to those “who are unlike” the dominant culture sanctioned by the Iranian government.

It is clear that living in exile is painful for Jodeyri. She told the audience that she dreams of Iran every night and wakes up each morning saddened to find that she is not at home. This life has been made necessary for her as she’s viewed as a supporter of homosexuality and someone who promotes it, a fact she finds amusing since it’s ‘impossible to promote homosexuality’. The reason for this smearing of Jodeyri’s name is because of her choice to translate Blue is the Warmest Colour. It has led to what she describes as her ‘pen being banned’, with the Ministry of Intelligence banning not only her own poetry and writing but also banning her name. This means that anything mentioning Jodeyri such as interviews or articles tend to be banned alongside her work.

The film version of Blue is the Warmest Colour has had worldwide acclaim, winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2012 and performing well internationally. Jodeyri’s love remains with the original graphic novel and she proclaims herself as a fan of Julie Maroh’s work, declaring her enthusiasm for Maroh having sent her the newest edition to her repertoire of work. This remains her view despite the impact it’s had on her life. Jodeyri cannot go back to Iran after leaving of her own decision to keep her son safe and protect her family. Her friends have been interrogated for being connected to her and all have warned her to stay away from Iran as her leaving drew attention to her as a target. That means she hasn’t been able to see her family or friends since she left Iran a little over four years ago.

Before she left, it was clear that her translation of Blue is the Warmest Colour made life for herself and those she interacted with unsafe. She has said previously “I’ve been declared persona non grata in my own country”. Her publisher was threatened with having his license revoked for publishing her poetry, although he is still working as a publisher now and publishing other banned authors. Each text published in Iran needs to be licensed by the Minister for Culture and it took only two weeks after Jodeyri’s licensed book of poetry was banned. Additionally, the man who rented out a hall in Tehran for the launch of her poetry book And Etc was fired from his job and the event was cancelled. It’s clear that interacting with banned authors can cause many problems for those who take the risk.

Sepideh Jodeyri is trying to combat all of this. She has released a new book of poetry called And Emptiness is Flowing Under My Skin this year, all of which was written while in exile. It is banned in Iran as all of her poetry is seen to promote homosexuality, despite the fact that Jodeyri is a married heterosexual woman who doesn’t write about same-sex relationship in her own work. She has made the book free as an eBook to an Iranian citizen living inside Iran and dedicated the collection to all of the Iranian people living in exile around the world.

Sepideh Jodeyri’s life is a harsh reminder that in many places around the world freedom of expression is limited and the rights of LGBT are essentially non-existent. The Q&A was left with the idea that we’re lucky to live in Ireland where there is an upcoming referendum, and for the most part LGBT people are safe to live in this country, not having to fear that they will have to flee the country simply because of their existence as a person who is not heterosexual.

By Rebecca Treacy
rebecca treacy