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Kolestani, in tears, gets 18 years to life.


A tearful Iranian refugee was sentenced Friday to 18 years to life in prison for fatally shooting a long-time partner in the face in Idaho.

Majid Kolestani, a 42-year-old transgender male who identifies as a woman, pleaded guilty in June to first-degree murder, in an agreement that laid out the sentence handed down Friday by Judge Randy Stoker of the Idaho state court in Twin Falls.

Kolestani was convicted of shooting housemate and fellow Iranian refugee Ehsan Velayati Kababian, 29, last August 25.

Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs told the court Kababian was in a car when Kolestani approached the window, knocked on it with a gun, and then shot Kababian in an attack witnessed by a neighbor. "She pointed the gun at his face and fired," Loebs said.

Kolestani's public defender, Marilyn Paul, told the court her client is very alone without Kababian. She said Kolestani feels sorrow and remorse over the death. "She had been in a longstanding relationship with Mr. Kababian," said Paul.

"They had come to this country together as refugees. Prior to that, they had been together for many years in Iran."

Kolestani wiped away tears with a tissue throughout much of Friday's hearing. "Ehsan, not only was he a great friend to me, but he was also sharing my life with me," Kolestani said in Farsi through a translator. "In my life, Ehsan became more dear to me than my parents? I don't know how to go on with my life."

A Persian language professor from the University of Utah, Nayereh Fallahi, told the court cultural factors played a role in Kolestani's actions.

"I believe she was dehumanized all her life," Fallahi told the court, adding that Kolestani was isolated and alone growing up in Iran due to gender issues.

"She had no friends," said Fallahi, adding that male classmates teased Kolestani and her family shunned her.

Kolestani could not wear woman's clothes in Iran "because she was male," said Fallahi, adding that to do so is punishable by death according to Islamic law.

A psychologist in Iran had recommended Kolestani have surgery for gender reassignment, but Kolestani's family refused to allow it, said Fallahi. The Islamic Republic has no philosophical problem with sex change operations for those born with mixed genders and will even subsidize he surgery.

Fallahi said Kababian gave Kolestani love that had been lacking in Kolestani's life, and then the pair came to America together as refugees.

"The only person she could rely on was Ehsan," said Fallahi, adding that Kolestani underwent some "culture shock" after arriving in the United States.

But Kababian's plans to leave Kolestani and join a woman in Iran set Kolestani into a murderous rage, said a friend of Kababian and Kolestani, Shemshat Muhammedberdiyena in an interview last year with the Times-News of Twin Falls.

Kolestani was ordered Friday to pay about $8,000 in restitution linked to the costs to the state of sending Kababian's body back to Iran.

Judge Stoker told Kolestani at Friday's hearing, "I hope that you can move forward and deal with the issues that are of such conflict in your life."
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Title Annotation:Diaspora: Around the globe
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Jul 17, 2009
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