Being gay in Syria

When Syrian rebels took Racca last March, one would have thought that the capture of this northern city that was previously controlled by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad would suffice them. They do not get involved in the private lives of citizens by Amir, a Syrian from the city.

This quiet period did not last unfortunately. When Islamic groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the Frente al-Nosra, both related to al-Qaeda, began to rise in power, they imposed their interpretation of Islamic justice the population.

“Little by little, they began to cleanse the city of its non-Islamic elements, says Amir. Elsewhere, there are courts, trial … But with them in a day or two, they may decide to behead you. ”

Racca life quickly became impossible for Amir, who is gay. He managed to flee to Beirut. It is safe and sure to be sought by the jihadists.

“Before, with the Syrian government, we could get away with pots of wine, he explains. But some people are so religious that they resist pots of wine. ”

While the violence in Syria continues, many people fled to their ethnic or religious communities to find protection. But unlike other minority groups such as Christians, Kurds and Alawites, sexual minorities, particularly homosexuals, enjoy no protection from political, ethnic or religious institutions. Syrian homosexuals are nowhere safe: across the country, they were both attacked militant regimes and pro-Islamist militia. Sometimes because of their sexual orientation, but also because they are seen as an easy to strip the midst of a chaotic war prey.

Violence that can lead to death
As program manager project support to Iraqi refugees ( IRAP ), I had the opportunity to interview dozens of gay Syrian refugees who fled to Lebanon to escape persecution. The IRAP provides legal assistance to refugees of all nationalities to help them resettle. Many gay Syrians agreed to testify to help me write this article without it being linked to the assistance they received from IRAP. During our conversations, these men have described a culture of truly shocking violence, even when taking into account the innumerable and unbelievable violations of human rights committed by Syria.

Homosexuals who are still in Syria must not only avoid detection, since the capture of their knowledge may also be a mortal threat. Amir remembers one of his gay friends, Badr, who was kidnapped last summer by the Frente al-Nosra before being tortured for information on other gay and executed:

“A few days later, al-Front Nosra people gathered in the square and denounced another type saying he was gay, says Amir. They cut off his head with a sword. ”

Yet all this violence seems not only related to Islamic beliefs. She might also be caused by a simple desire to manifest his power and authority. Some homosexuals have themselves participated in acts of violence against their peers in all conscience that they risked being unmasked.

Imad and tells the story of a homosexual acquaintance who is currently fighting alongside Islamist group:
“He slept with one of my gay friends for money, and then he disappeared for a few months. In fact, he was taking military training abroad. He came back with a long beard. It is surely motivated by money and the protection they can provide. ”

Refugees fleeing the violence in Syria can usually just avoid the areas controlled by the group to which they object, but in the case of homosexuals areas, violence is not confined to one geographical area. A resident of Damascus, Najib, fled her home after her brother found out he was gay. His work led him to join a suburb of the capital controlled by the rebels, where he began a relationship with an Islamist fighter. The head of the brigade, a conservative Muslim, began to have suspicions about their relationship, forcing Najib to flee again to take refuge in a suburb closer to the city.
State opposition, everyone is attacking gays

One morning, pro-regime militia arrested at a checkpoint. Najib has recognized one of the men, Kheder: he had seen in a park that served as a place of rendezvous for unofficial gay before the revolution. The men were blindfolded and led inside a building before him claim $ 15,000 if he would not be delivered to the authorities of the State.

“After that, they told me to undress. They took my phone and photographed me, he says. Another guy made ??me a kick in the head and called me a prostitute. After that, they raped me. ”

Najib has made money the next day, and promised that he would lead the rest of the money in the coming days. Instead, he fled to Lebanon.

“A homosexual person in Syria is caught between two fires: the regime and that of the opposition ., he says the problem is that most people find it normal that would harm the homosexuals. ”

Although acts of violence have become increasingly common in recent years, the persecution of homosexuals in Syria date well before the uprising. The Syrian Penal Code states that “unnatural” sexual act is a crime that can result in a prison sentence of three years. The general lack of acceptance of the Syrian society towards homosexuality has always forced homosexuals to live in hiding and be in secret to avoid arrest or reprisal of a “crime against honor.”

In 2009, the police arrested a group of homosexuals Racca after obtaining a recording of two men trying to make love. The police have used torture to obtain the names of other homosexuals, before arresting them too.

“Many people were tied and severely hit before being interviewed. Most of them have admitted their homosexuality just for us to stop the torture, explains Selim, a young gay man who fled Racca last spring, talking about the situation in the city before the revolution. By cons if you knew someone high up in government, we could get away. Everyone was not arrested. Some just suffered a blackmail while others were paying bribes to the police. ”

Beirut, an asylum which is not paradise
For some gay Syrians, members of their own families could pose the greatest threat of being discovered. Joseph, a native Christian Deir Ez-Zor, a city in the east, fled Syria there a few months after forgetting to turn off his computer in a cafe while he was with his cousins. He was deep in conversation with her boyfriend.

“The next day they came to me and told me to leave Syria because I would dishonor our family. They threatened to kill me if I refused to go. ”

Within 24 hours, Joseph left for Lebanon.

While Beirut is often regarded as the most open and released the Middle East city, many gay refugees find that their situation there is not much more enviable. In the Lebanese capital, some have discovered that they were operated in the same manner as in their country of origin.

Hussein fled northern Syria last spring, after a family member tried to assassinate learned he was gay. He knew no one in Beirut and began sleeping on the beach. He was forced into prostitution to survive.

“Once a guy picked me to lie with me, tells me he. Actually, I was raped by a group of Lebanese men. After the attack, I went back to the beach because I had nowhere to go. ”

During my interviews, when I asked them if they could not find a safer place, most gay Syrian refugees have always told me the same thing: they have nowhere to go. This must change: even if it is difficult to expect more rights for homosexuals in a conservative society in the midst of civil war, refugee assistance organizations can do more to help the forgotten minority. The team should be specifically trained to meet the needs of this population, we should develop support services for male victims of sexual violence, the most vulnerable individuals should benefit from a safer refuge and refugees who have the highest risk should be moved to another country.

Yaman, a gay Syrians who have fled Kameshli, a town north of the country, described his inability to find accommodation in Beirut, and how he was picked up in the street by a man rich in exchange for sexual services. The man in question shut him inside his house when he went to work to keep Yaman prisoner.

“After a while, I could not take it anymore, so I left, he said. I’d rather be hungry and living on the street. ”

by Foreign Policy
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