Chicago: “Haram Iran”, New Play Based on the True Story of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni

Chicago – Haram Iran, written by Jay Paul Deratany and directed by David Zak, is based on the true story about the trial of two Iranian teenagers in Mashad, Iran in 2005.

“Haram Iran tells the story of two boys coming of age, and struggling with their identities as Arab Iranians, and as typical teenagers longing to discover their place in the world. Ayaz Marhouni and Mahmoud Asgari, two fifteen year old boys who may have been gay or may have been experimenting with their sexuality — like many teenagers do, however, they get caught in a compromised position, publicly humiliated and tried in the Iranian legal system. The story follows the boys’ passions — one for literature and the other for sports — and both for each other. The play takes the audience into the complexity of their relationship, and then the horrifying ordeal of being tried by an unforgiving Iranian legal system which misinterprets the Muslim law of Sharia.

The dates, names and many of the facts are true, however the trial scenes and much of the side story of the boys is fictional since it is not known exactly what occurred during the trial. What is known is that they were adolescents, who were tried and sentenced for the “sin” of homosexuality. Then, after the international press became outraged. the judge increased the charges to “rape of a younger man.”

In Iran thousands of people, including children, are jailed or killed each year, some because they are women who have had pre-maritial sex, and others because they are considered to be homosexual.

Haram Iran involves some nudity, and violence, and a criticism of Iranian politics and their very flawed legal system. This play does not, however critique or criticize Muslims, or the Muslim faith, which is a loving and peaceful religion. In fact, to the contrary, the writer draws the distinction between a loving faith and some of its misguided extremist followers.

Producer/Writer Jay Paul Deratany has said “this play is about exposing the human rights violations being committed on a daily basis, therefore I will be donating a significant portion of the of the profits from this play to Amnesty International for the aid and assistance to Iranians who suffer from torture and injustice.” So when you buy your ticket, remember that some of your ticket price will go to help those who are in desperate need of our care and love.

Below are some links to articles which will help the reader understand the tragedy that befell Ayaz and Mahmoud… may they not have died in vain.”

Jay Paul Deratany

You can purchase tickets at
The Athenaeum Theatre
2936 N. Southport
Chicago, IL 60657

The show runs Nov 8 through December 7.

Cast: Anand Bhatia, Matios Simonian, Nawaf Gasem, Anita Chandwaney, Ayman Samman, Benjamin D. Zavala, Jeremy Cohn.


  1. JC Vaughan

    My only hope is beyond “not having died in vain”. My hope is in existence after death: that they in fact survive and are well in the Muslim paradise, no different from the paradise of any others.

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