Vafa Mehraeen

Journalist & scholar
Journalist Vafa Mehraeen speaking at the 2023 ICORN Network Meeting in Brussels. Credits: Caroline Lessire.

Vafa Mehraeen is a journalist, human rights activist, and scholar of cognitive linguistics, moral philosophy, and ethics from Iran. Both his academic and journalistic work has largely focused on LGBTQ+ issues, sexism in school textbooks, and criticism of the Iranian regime. Mehraeen has a varied academic background with a solid basis in Islamic studies and philosophy. He was awarded an MA in Moral Philosophy in 2012.

More recently, Vafa’s academic research has predominantly centred on cognitive linguistics, especially the use of sexual metaphors in suppressing LGBTQ+ rights in the Muslim world, as well as the theory of conceptual metaphors. Due to the nature of his research and its focus on theological and political issues related to the LGBTQ+ community, Mehraeen was forced to flee to Turkey in 2014.

During his time in Turkey, Vafa was able to explore research topics such as gender issues, homosexuality, human rights, and criticism of the politics in the Islamic world more freely. He published essays and translations on the website of Radio Zamaneh, a Netherlands-based online news provider serving the Iranian diaspora. While in Turkey, Mehraeen became the editor-in-chief of the Iranian Queen Organisation (IRQO), based in Toronto, Canada, contributing with articles on homosexuality and homophobia, and providing advice to Iranian LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum. Currently, he is editor-in-chief of research and educational content production for the Zamimeh project, the first social media campaign against sexism in Iranian school textbooks.            

In September 2022, Vafa arrived in Brussels and took up the city's ICORN residency, thanks to a collaboration between ICORN, Passa Porta, VUB and the City of Brussels. Since arriving in the Belgian capital, he has continued his interdisciplinary research, combining approaches and knowledge from linguistics, social sciences, and philosophy. Mehraeen’s current area of research is focused on assessing and providing material for gender-related topics for primary school students.

In the media:

Iranian human rights activist Vafa Mehraeen: 'I now expect repression' (In Dutch)