Ashkan Shabani

photographer, visual storyteller, and LGBTQ+ activist
Right to Breathe
Location: Istanbul
Nationality: Turkey
Biography: I'm a self-educated photographer, visual storyteller, and LGBTQ+ activist based in Turkey. I worked with many national and international agencies as a photojournalist. Over the years, my focus shifted away from journalistic photography to... read on
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Queer (“LGBTQ”) citizens across much of the Middle East and North Africa (“MENA region”) are not free: under Islamic Sharia law, same-sex activity is illegal in 10 of the 18 countries in the region, punishable by death in six. State-sponsored repression is reinforced by the social stigma that is strongly influenced by the cultural traditions and religious mores of Muslim communities. A 2013 Pew Research Centre survey found that most people in the region believe homosexuality should be rejected: 97% in Jordan, 95% in Egypt, and 80% in Lebanon. Despite these grave legal and social hurdles, LGBTQ people in the MENA region are finding ways to speak out. They are telling their stories to combat homophobia and transphobia and to exercise their rights.

"Right to breath", uses anonymous portraits and interviews with LGBTQ community members living across the region to invite viewers into the hopes, fears, and lives of everyday people who are fighting just to be who they are. Photographing remotely over Zoom, collaborated with LGBTQ people to make portraits in which their identities are protected. Each portrait is then projected onto a white cloth on which have printed quotations from sharia law, Hadiths, Verses of the Quran that are criminalizing homosexuality, homosexual acts are forbidden in traditional Islamic jurisprudence and are liable to different punishments, including stoning and the death penalty. The Muslim community as a whole, worldwide, consider homosexuality a grave sin.


Also by Ashkan Shabani —


Love, Fear, Freedom

By Ashkan Shabani / Iran — The existence of gay men is undeniable in Iran but for over 40 years the Islamic Republic of Iran has..

"Eshgh, Tars, Azadi" (Love, Fear, Freedom)

By Ashkan Shabani — Iranians face many obstacles. Some come from the regime imposing ideological restrictions and political..


By Ashkan Shabani — The earth is one of the marvels of creation, and the way man dominates his long-held dream, that is dominant..


By Ashkan Shabani — The first day I heard about Corona's arrival in Iran, I decided to cover this international crisis in..

People down there

By Ashkan Shabani — Unlike Iran's government statement, as the number of infected and deaths increases nationwide,..

Caspian Sea pollution

By Ashkan Shabani / anzali — The Khazar or the Caspian Sea is a water area bound to Iran from the south and to Russia from the north. The..

A Fading Culture

By Ashkan Shabani — Periodic markets and especially weekly markets are one of peasant communities' features in the less..

Kermanshah Earthquake

By Ashkan Shabani / Kermanshah — The Iran-Iraq earthquake of 7.3 magnitudes happened on the evening of Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, near Azgaleh,..

The Second Sex

By Ashkan Shabani / Iran — Iran is a country where half of its population is deprived of their rights, while being unable to follow..
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