After the flotilla affair renderred the Israeli GLBT community unwanted in Madrid, a million and a half participants painted the streets of Cologne in the colors of the rainbow flag during a gay pride parade considered one of the largest in Europe.
Maybe precisely because of the recent political storm, there was an unexpected spectacle – members of the Iranian community in exile marched side by side with Israelis, openly embracing before the crowds and cameras of the international media which rushed to document the unusual event.
The Israeli delegation arrived by special invitation from the city of Cologne. As they marched carrying Israeli flags alongside the rainbow flags, Iranians joined them carrying Iranian flags from the Shah period, before the Islamic Revolution.
Iranian-Israeli partnership in Cologne (Photo: Mandy Michaeli)
One Iranian said he was forced to flee Iran just a month ago after he was identified by the authorities as a gay activist and persecuted.
The Israeli delegation marched at the front of the parade along with Cologne's mayor Jurgen Rutters.
"Even Turks joined us together with representatives from Russia, Ukraine and other states where it is hard to be gay," Adir Steiner said to Ynet.
Steiner, who coordinates gay pride events in Tel Aviv, said that "one of them asked me why Israel can't be a refuge for Iranian gays who are persecuted by the regime. I told him the situation is not black-and-white, and that Iran is a hostile state and it's forbidden for its citizens to enter Israel."
Yaniv Weizman from Tel Aviv municipality said, "The participation of Tel Aviv representatives is an excellent opportunity to show tens of thousands of participants the beautiful face of Israel, tolerant and open, and Tel Aviv as one of the most fascinating cities in the world today for gay tourists."