“In Iran, we do not have homosexuals like in your country.”

—Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at Columbia University, September 24, 2007.

While today some Occidental countries accept marriage for gays and lesbians, in Iran, homosexuality is still punishable by death. This sanction prohibits homosexuals from living out their sexuality openly. Their only legal options are to leave the country, hide their sexuality, or choose transsexuality, a practice tolerated by law but also considered pathological.

In Denizli, a small town in Turkey, hundreds of Iranian gay refugees have put their lives on pause while waiting to join a host country where they can freely live their sexualities. In this context of uncertainty, where anonymity is the best protection, this series of photographs questions the fragile nature of identity and gender concepts. It tries to give back to these people a face that their country has temporarily stolen.

—Laurence Rasti

Editors’ note: This project was singled out for distinction among the submissions to Magnum Photography Awards 2016 by juror Amy Pereira. Each juror selected one photographer to be awarded a special $1,000 grant—discover why this one stood out.