Since 2008, IRQR’s provisions of support and counseling have become a reliable source of help for people who are seeking to move on from past persecution. Through IRQR clients will gain confidence, and develop lasting support networks, as well as increasing their chance of being successfully resettled and accepted in their new home.

We provide support and counseling to Iranian queers worldwide.This support includes but is not subject to; financial aid for shelter, food and healthcare. IRQR follows up with their Iranian queer refugee cases from when leave until they arrive in a safe country and are supportive during the entire refugee process.

Our goal is to eliminate Iranian queer issues as part of mainstream human rights discourse. This will be completed though media presence, contributions to high profile events. IRQR regularly visits to Turkey to meet refugees, document their situation and collect their feedback on IRQR activities. We have witnessed significant changes among the Iranian society in that last ten years, which confirms that it is achievable.

As of December 2015, IRQR was able to help process more than 1200 refugee applications since 2005. Approximately 80% of refugees who approached IRQR were successfully granted refugee status. We provide consultations to about 90 clients per week;this includes working with queer people who currently live in Iran, Iran’s neighboring countries such as Turkey and in Canada. IRQR has worked closely with UNHCR office, NGOs and the government to assist refugees.

Whenever possible IRQR extends financial and educational support to those currently in transit countries through donations. We connect asylum seekers and refugees with UNHCR offices around the world. IRQR has a commitment to help refugees resettle in safe countries though referrals for housing, employment, legal aid; as well as supporting clients through emotional and health related issues.

In the last few years, we were able to build a simple structure and focus upon enabling Iranian queer asylum seekers to be safe on their journey and arrive in a new country to live and be free.


Our Mission, Vision and Values



Assist persecuted LGBT Iranians seeking asylum to find refuge to live free and equal in dignity and rights.

Provide education, guidance, and support to Iranian LGBT individuals making asylum claims during their resettlement process.

Compassion – We provide exceptional services to our clients with empathy, sensitivity and understanding.

Integrity – We act in a professional and ethical manner to provide exceptional services.

Continuous Improvement – We have the desire to develop and incorporate ways to improve services.

Dedication – We strive to realize positive results to ensure Iranian LGBT individuals achieve asylum.

Trust – We foster trust and community among LGBT Iranians to bolster the pillars of the Iranian queer railroad.



The board is composed of five individuals who are elected by the organization membership and sit for a term of two years. The day-to-day operations of IRQR, and the face of the organization is the executive director, Arsham Parsi, a passionate and respected LGBT activist based in Toronto, Canada.


Arsham Parsi

Executive Director

The IRQR’s founder, Arsham Parsi, is a well-known Iranian gay activist who has dedicated himself to help LGBT/queer Iranians who has fled their country because of the government’s violent homophobic and transphobic policies.

In 2004, while still living in Iran, Arsham founded the first Iranian gay group that later called the IRanian Queer Organization – IRQO (formerly Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization – PGLO). Having been pursued by the police on his trail because of his gay activism, Arsham fled to Turkey in 2005, where he continued his work to publicize the plight of LGBT Iranians.

He was eventually granted asylum in Canada and he pursued his work for the cause while being interviewed extensively by media and featured in two documentary films, the CBC’s (Out in Iran); and Parvez Sharma’s (A Jihad for Love).

In 2008, Arsham was twice honoured, first by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)’s Felipa Sousa Award for pioneering gay activism and then by Toronto Pride with its award for Excellence in Human Rights.


Stuart Bustard

President—Board of Directors

Stuart has extensive management experience in both non-profit and corporate sectors. His experience includes managing a program for financial professionals that are new to Canada with employment in their field. He is also an active volunteer in the Toronto LGBT community particularly through his ongoing work with the SOY program at the Sherbourne Health Centre.


Paul Durber

Secretary—Board Of Director

As a member and leader within a welcoming and encouraging faith community in Ottawa, Paul has actively fought discrimination based on sexual orientation including supporting Canadians for Equal Marriage and lobbying federal members of Parliament. This work echoes his push for women to receive equal pay when he was Director of Pay Equity for the federal Canadian Human Rights Commission. Now retired from the public service, he has a consulting business. He continues working within his faith community, advocating for the right of free speech and association as well as greater social concern at the municipal level.


Jamie Ellerton

Treasurer—Board of Directors

Jamie is a public relations and strategic communications consultant at Conaptus Ltd. in Toronto and a passionate activist for LGBT causes. He has consulted for companies, both public and private, and has significant experience advising senior political figures in Canada. He worked for the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Ontario’s Leader of the Opposition, and was also the Executive Director of a national NGO that advocates for Canada’s petroleum industry.

In 2012, he was asked to testify before the House of Commons Finance Committee on the 2012-2013 Federal Budget. His work has been featured in the Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, New York Times, and Huffington Post Canada. He has appeared as a commentator on CTV, CBC, and Sun News Network.

mo headshot

Mo Riazi

Board of Director

Mo is a Certified Human Resources Professional with experience in strategic and diversity planning, training, and recruitment. He has also been volunteering for IRQR during Pride Toronto festivities to provide educational information and fundraising activities to promote IRQR. Mo has work in the public and non-profit sector regarding LGBT rights. While attending university he had been the Events Coordinator for an LGBT student equity group where education, activism, and fundraising events were the focus.


Sarah French

Board of Director

Sarah started her career in human rights with a B.A (Honours) in Human Rights and Political Science at Carleton University. Since then she has worked on indigenous rights and land right issues, disability rights and on gender equality with human rights and international development organizations in Canada, the United Kingdom, Hungary, India and Guyana. As a passionate human rights advocate, her focus has been on the intersection of gender issues and the rights of marginalized populations, specifically indigenous peoples and people with disabilities. In 2011, Sarah completed a LLM in International Human Rights Law at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom.

IRQR’s Success

Since its founding, IRQR has helped more than 1200 refugee with an average of 153 applications per year. We provide consultations to 90 clients per week; including work with LGBT clients in Turkey and recently arrived in Canada. IRQR has established close working relationships with the UNHCR, the Canadian Embassy in Turkey, and other NGOs to assist refugees throughout the asylum process.

IRQR Applicants

As of December 2015
As of December 2015


IRQR’s Success Rate

As of December 2015
As of December 2015