A play centred on Ayaz Marhouni and Mahmoud Asgari, the two Iranian teenagers executed in Iran three years ago – who were widely thought to have been gay – is set to have its world premiere in Chicago this week.

Haram Iran, written by Chicago lawyer Jay Paul Deratany and directed by David Zak, is based on the true story about the trial of two Iranian teenagers in Mashad, Iran in 2005.

The play tells the story of two boys coming of age, and struggling with their identities as Arab Iranians, and as typical teenagers longing to discover their place in the world.

Marhouni and Asgari, the two fifteen year old boys, who may have been gay or may have been experimenting with their sexuality, get caught in a compromising position, are publicly humiliated and tried in the Iranian legal system.

The story follows the boys’ passions – one for literature and the other for sports – and both for each other. It takes the audience into the complexity of their relationship, and then the horrifying ordeal of being tried by an unforgiving Iranian legal system which misinterprets the Muslim law of Sharia.

“The dates, names and many of the facts are true, however the trial scenes and much of the side story of the boys is fictional since it is not known exactly what occurred during the trial,” playwright Jay Paul Deratany explains.

“What is known is that they were adolescents, who were tried and sentenced for the ‘sin’ of homosexuality,” he said.

Following their execution and the outrage in the international media, the charge was altered to the “rape of a younger boy”.

“I spent several months researching the boys’ story, and there were a lot of conflicts,” he explained. “However, sources such as UK Gay News, and other news publications provided a rich source of information, and a common consensus developed.

“The bottom line is that two young boys were killed for the ‘crime’ of being gay,” he said.

In Iran thousands of people, including children, are jailed or killed each year, some because they are women who have had pre-marital sex, and others because they are considered to be homosexual.

The play involves some nudity, and violence, and a criticism of Iranian politics together with its very flawed legal system. However, it does not critique or criticise Muslims, or the Muslim faith, which is a loving and peaceful religion, Mr. Deratany pointed out.

“In fact, to the contrary … it draws the distinction between a loving faith and some of its misguided extremist followers.

“This play is about exposing the human rights violations being committed on a daily basis, therefore I will be donating a significant portion of the of the profits from this play to Amnesty International for the aid and assistance to Iranians who suffer from torture and injustice,” he added.

Haram Iran opens at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago on Saturday November 8.

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