Out In The Open

She might be blacklisted from Iran, but not knowing for certain is what causes the most pain

Ava Homa is an Iranian exile living in Canada. For her, there are definite signs it isn’t safe for her to return to her homeland, but she says her exile might be easier if there were a list she could actually see.

Ava Homa is an Iranian exile living in Canada.

Ava Homa is an Iranian exile living in Canada. (Courtesy of Ava Homa)

"I don't know if there is a list. I don't know what would happen to me. But anything can happen to me."

Journalist and writer Ava Homa identifies as an Iranian exile living in Canada. She arrived in Canada 10 years ago.

"I mean asking for a blacklist from a brutal regime like an Iranian government would be ironical because you are asking them for a level of transparency. But when there is a list, then in these moments of weakness, when there are people out there who need you and you can't go and reach out to them, you're thinking, 'What if I am not on that blacklist?'

"But if there were a list [you could see] you wouldn't have to deal with the guilt and anxiety," says Ava.

Ava says she was born on the government's radar as a Kurdish woman who grew up to become vocal about human rights.

In November of 2016, she gave a talk at the UN General Assembly on the high rates of self-immolation among Kurdish women in Iran.

As soon as she stepped out, Ava says she was followed.

"[A]t that moment, I had a sense of pride...I thought, 'Huh, you wish you could execute me, don't you? But guess what? I can talk and you cannot touch me.'"

Ava says the only way of finding out if she is on a list in Iran is to go back.

"Anything...can happen to me that has happened to other Iranian Canadians. Like Zahra Kazemi, I could be killed. Like Mostafa Azizi, I could be put in prison for two years."

But there are moments of pain and longing for Ava when she seriously considers going back, like when she missed her brother's wedding to her close friend.

"I was so happy but I just could not stop crying. Not for hours and hours. Because, why should I miss my brother's wedding? Why?

"And that's the moment when you say, what if this list does not exist or I'm not on it. What if this is fictional? What if I have created a wall between myself and my loved ones for no real reason?"

Ava says she often asks herself, with all of the "enemies the Iranian government has," would she really be on their radar?

"But then I look at people who have done nothing but post things on Facebook and they have been jailed...Even my family tells me, 'Don't you dare think about coming back.'

"There is enough reason for me to know that I would be taking a huge, huge risk"

This story originally aired on September 10, 2017. It appears in the Out in the Open episode "Blacklisted".