July 12, 2009 in City

Transgender woman gets life term

Defendant, victim were friends, refugees from Iran
Associated Press

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – An Iranian refugee has been sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of her male roommate.

Majid Kolestani, 42, must serve at least 18 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

Kolestani, a transgender woman who was born male, was sentenced Friday in 5th District Court.

She pleaded guilty in June to first-degree murder in the August 2008 killing of 29-year-old Ehsan Velayati Kababian, also an Iranian refugee.

“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, the Times-News reported. “In my life, Ehsan became more dear to me than my parents. I don’t know how to go on with my life.”

Shemshat Muhammedberdiyena, a friend of Kolestani and Kababian, told the newspaper that Kababian’s plans to leave to be with a woman in Iran sent Kolestani into a murderous rage.

Police say Kababian was in a parked vehicle when Kolestani banged on the window and then shot Kababian when he opened the driver’s door.

Cultural factors played a role in Kolestani’s actions, Nayereh Fallahi, a Persian language professor from the University of Utah, told the court Friday.

Fallahi said Kolestani grew up isolated and alone due to gender issues, and was shunned by family and teased by male classmates.

“I believe she was dehumanized all her life,” Fallahi told the court. “She had no friends.”

Fallahi said a psychologist in Iran recommended Kolestani have surgery for gender reassignment, but her family refused.

Fallahi said Kababian gave Kolestani love that had been absent in Kolestani’s life, and that the two came to the United States as refugees.

“The only person she could rely on was Ehsan,” said Fallahi, adding that Kolestani experienced “culture shock” after arriving in the U.S.

Marilyn Paul, Kolestani’s public defender, said her client feels sorrow and remorse over Kababian’s death and is very alone without him.

“She had been in a long-standing relationship with Mr. Kababian,” Paul said. “They had come to this country together as refugees. Prior to that, they had been together for many years in Iran.”

“I hope that you can move forward and deal with the issues that are of such conflict in your life,” Judge Randy Stoker told Kolestani during the sentencing hearing.

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