Winnipeg Pride Parade marshal risked death in Iran
Leading this weekend's Pride Parade in Winnipeg is a refugee from Iran who had risked losing his life if people there found out he was gay.
Hamed will be the grand marshal at the 27th annual parade, taking place Sunday at noon in downtown Winnipeg.
The theme of this year's Pride Winnipeg festival is Without Borders, and organizers say Hamed's story fits the theme perfectly.
"It shows how he's being courageous and how he's willing to push the boundaries of his own, how he's willing to go without borders to help other people," said festival spokesperson Jeff Myall.
Hamed, who has been living in Winnipeg for two years, is using only his first name so he can protect family members still living in Iran.
He said in Iran, he would have been either stoned or hanged if people learned of his sexual orientation.
"They're going to kill you and you have no value in that country. You are nothing…. I had no hope," he told CBC News on Friday.
"You can't focus on your life, you can't focus on your future, you can't study, you can't love yourself."
Hamed said he was 20 years old when he discovered he was gay, and he kept it hidden. However, his boyfriend's family learned of their relationship and he was close to being arrested.
"I had this fear if someone finds out I am gay, what's going to happen to me? What's going to happen to my family?" he said.
While parade organizers are praising Hamed's courage, he said he hopes his story can make a difference.
"There's a better life waiting for you. You just need to have that … will," he said.
The parade begins at noon Sunday after a rally at the Manitoba Legislature at 11 a.m.. The parade will travel north on Memorial Blvd, east down York Ave., south on Garry St. and then west down Broadway, returning to the legislative grounds.