Seeking home: The lives of gay and transgender asylum seekers of the Middle East

Beginning in Damascus, Syria, in 2010, photojournalist Bradley Secker began to document the lives of gay Iraqi refugees that had fled Iraq to escape homophobic violence. Shortly after chronicling their stories, Secker crossed borders and traveled to Turkey, following Iranians, Turkish Kurds, Syrians and more Iraqis who were claiming asylum abroad or fighting for their rights in their home country.

Hundreds of individuals from the Middle East apply for resettlement overseas every year because of increased discrimination against their sexuality or gender identity. They wait for their cases to be processed by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) so they can move to a third country. Iranian LGBT refugees in central Anatolia in Turkey wait an average of two years for their cases to be processed before being resettled in Europe or North America. Over time, Secker’s intimate portraits of the lives of 11 gay Iraqi men in Syria seeking asylum became the stunning body of work “Kütmaan,” taken from the Arabic word for hiding or concealing.

The images in this series were taken in the cities of Kayseri, Isparta, Nevsehir and Diyarbakir in Turkey’s southeastern Kurdish area, where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Kurds have sought refuge and are fighting for legal equality and acceptance and to live without discrimination or fear. Caught between the LGBT and Kurdish political movements, individuals are looking for freedom in a notoriously conservative area of the country.

In “Kütmaan,” Secker attempts to portray the waiting, the ambiguity, and the highs and lows of the resettlement experience in Turkey and Syria. Placing names — sometimes faces — and stories to the number of men and women who seek asylum, Secker hopes to lift the veil of the often faceless or nameless refugees and amplify their voices. The individuals shown here have agreed to take part in “Kütmaan” and share their stories in hopes of raising further awareness about a deeply stigmatized group.

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by Nicole Crowder
Source – The Washington Post