This article contains details of graphic sexual assault that some readers may find upsetting
A gay Syrian man is hoping to inspire other survivors of domestic abuse by sharing the story of his ‘terrifying’ sexual abuse when he was 13 years old.
Adnan Al Mouselli, now 25, was born in Damascus, Syria but moved to Saudi Arabia when he was two years old.
He moved back to Syria for college, just before the war, then had to flee to South Africa – where he now lives.
It’s illegal to be gay in Syria, with up to three years imprisonment. It’s even worse in Saudi Arabia, where LGBTI people can be sentenced to death.
The gay Syrian, who goes by the nickname Nano, is now telling his life story through a personal online blog entitled Diary of a Gay Arab Man.
In it, he details the shocking account of ongoing sexual abuse, starting at the age of 13.
Featured below are three chapters from his blog, detailing the abuse.
Chapter three: Bitter
Rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse are all topics we avoid talking about. Most of us who went through it have a hard time opening up about it. I struggled for years in coming to terms with what happened to me and I am finally ready to share it. I am sharing this because I need to own my story and destiny.
This happened to me but this is not who I am.
I was 13 years old when I was living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with my family. My circle of friends was very small – I only had two good friends at school.
One day, I asked mama if I could go to the store to buy a chocolate and as I was walking back from the store, I noticed there was this taxi hovering around. I didn’t give it too much thought because, at that age, no one told me to avoid situations like that. So I carried on walking.
The taxi pulled up next to me and the guy inside asked me if I needed a lift. I said ‘No thank you, I live nearby’.
The man in the car (let’s call him X) – insisted on giving me a lift home, saying that ‘It’s too dark for you to be walking alone’. I have always struggled to say no – as most close friends know – and I thought it was an act of kindness, so I accepted the offer.
Let me be clear about something: I already knew that I was gay and this incident in no way ‘defined’ my sexuality, as some people might assume.
I got into X’s car and he started by asking how my day was. The conversation seemed civil. When he pulled up next to my house, he asked if I could take his number to ask my friends if they’d need a taxi driver. I said ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have a phone’ and he answered ‘I was driving behind you and I saw a phone in your hand.’
In that moment, my heart sank because I knew this was not normal. I took his number out of fear and said I would contact him. He did not allow me to leave the car without him having my number too so I gave it to him.
I lied to him and I said my name is Jamal.
He texted me later that night and said: ‘Nice meeting you Adnan’. That message was one of the biggest threats that I feel I could ever receive.
The fact that he had already investigated and found my name within an hour was terrifying.
The Arab community can be very small and neighbours know each other like family. I knew I was in trouble the second I got that message, so I didn’t respond.
The next day, we were getting into my dad’s car to go to school and I saw him parked just next to our house with his window down, smoking a cigarette. He didn’t wave or do anything – he just stared at me until I got into the car and he drove behind us all the way to school.
There was no way and no chance for me to tell my dad about this – I was as scared of my dad as I was X. Now X knew my name, number, where I lived and where I studied.
Social media was not a thing back then (except Blackberry) and he basically knew everything. He texted me multiple times to ask to see me and I kept saying no. One time, he was standing outside our house and he saw my dad and three sisters leave – he came up to our house and he knocked on the door (not knowing that my Mom was there).
Luckily, mama was praying, so I opened the door to see him standing there. He told me that if I don’t go with him, he would tell my parents I’m gay. I shut the door quickly and I texted him saying ‘I’m coming’.
I took a knife from the kitchen, hid it in my pocket, and told mama I was going to the store.
As soon as I left the house, I don’t think anyone ever walked as slow as I did. I was terrified – my legs were shaking, my head was rushing and my heart was beating so fast that my blood was boiling.
I got into his car without saying a word and he said:
‘You look ripe.’
Chapter four: Ripe
I asked him ‘what do you mean?’ and without answering, he smiled at me and started driving. I had no idea where we were going, all I knew was the fear and terror that I was going through.
I felt like I was frozen in time, I felt my spirit slowly leaving my body and drifting away – I could feel my innocence being erased.
Even though he hadn’t touched me yet, I felt dirty. He kept driving and all I did was look out of the window, desperately hoping people passing me by would save me.
I looked into people’s eyes hoping they’d understand what was about to happen. I was watching boys walking down the street and all I wanted was to be them – I wanted to scream so badly but I couldn’t. My voice was lost, as if I had never learned how to speak. I felt numb – I couldn’t feel my legs and I couldn’t move.
Note: The following content contains sexual violence.
He parked somewhere dark and under a tree – it was night time and I remember hearing the mosques calling for prayer.
He looked at me and said ‘What do you want to do?’ I didn’t respond because I couldn’t say a word. He said ‘?????? ????? ?????’, which means ‘silence is a sign of acceptance.’
I kept quiet, even though I wanted to scream. He touched my thigh and felt the knife in my pocket. His reaction was to laugh.
He took the knife out of my pocket and placed it on the dashboard of the car and said ‘Do you want to hurt me?’ I said ‘No, but I don’t want you to hurt me.’
He then answered ‘I’m not going to hurt you, we’re going to have fun and you want this. The knife is right here if you’d like to stab me – but I know you won’t,’ he said.
He put his hand on my thigh again and started feeling me up – I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. I wasn’t looking at him at all which is why I barely remember what his face looks like – I don’t think I ever looked at him straight in the eye.
He got close to me and kissed my neck but all I could smell was that disgusting cigarette. He grabbed my hand and put it on his penis and I felt that he was aroused.
That was my first time ever feeling another man’s penis.
He unzipped his pants and took out his penis, grabbed me by my hair and forced me to go down on him. I started crying and I thought that it would make him stop if he saw how traumatized I was and how badly I wanted him to stop.
Instead, he was aroused even more and said ‘I like it when boys choke’.
He did not stop – he put his hand down my pants and started fingering me. I thought of reaching for the knife but I couldn’t – the fear that was consuming me made me feel like I was an object and no longer a human being.
I was dying.
It felt like these moments were the last moments of my life and I truly did die. There is something that left me in that moment and I don’t know what it was but Nano was gone – I couldn’t see him anymore.
In these moments when his penis was inside my throat, I started thinking of how repulsive it was that as this was happening as I could hear the mosque calling people like him to go and worship Allah.
Adhan is the term used for Muslim Call To Prayer (which is the equivalent to church bells). Part of the prayer translates to ‘God is the greatest. There is no deity but God’ and all I can think of in that moment was where was God to save me? According to Islam, Allah/God can see and hear everything. So why did he not do anything to save me?
I tried to escape these moments by thinking about homework, music, my friends – I did not want to exist in that place so I tried to escape reality by pretending I was not there.
After about five to ten minutes (which felt like years to me), he finally ejaculated.
As disgusted and as appalled I was, I felt so much relief. I was relieved it was over. He cleaned up and said ‘Well done’. He put his underwear and trousers back on, gave me tissues to clean up and without saying anything, turned on the engine and started driving.
On the way back to my place, he stopped at a store and bought a couple of packets of chips and gave them to me saying ‘This is your treat’.
During the drive back home, we did not speak at all. The silence in the car was so loud that I could hear my heart beating. All of my senses were elevated.
He dropped me off close my house and I was so relieved to get out of the car. As I was opening the door, he grabbed my hand and said ‘I’ll see you again tomorrow’. I left the car and started walking back home.
Have you ever started crying without realizing you were? Tears were running down my face as I was walking and I couldn’t stop them. I had to look decent when I got back home so I wiped my tears and went upstairs.
Mama opened the door for me and she hugged me tightly, the pain and agony that were consuming my heart – holding my tears back – was one of the most heart-wrenching moments of my life.
I couldn’t tell her.
I love mama more than anything in the entire world and if I had the power, I would give years away from my life and add them to hers.
No amount of English, Arabic or French words can describe how much I love mama. You know how everyone says I have the best mom? Well, I have the best mama – it’s a fact and not a feeling. I couldn’t tell her. My purpose in life is to make mama happy, so why would I break her heart like that? I decided to deal with it on my own.
I went to my room, got undressed, took a towel, went to the bathroom, grabbed a razor and I knew what I had to do to.
Chapter five: Overripe
I went to my room, got undressed, took a towel, went to the bathroom, grabbed a razor and I knew what I had to do to.
I started running the water on the hottest temperature possible and got into the shower. Over the course of my shower, I shaved every single part of my body, even though I had little body hair. I wanted every part of me that he touched gone and vanished.
I wanted to be clean but I couldn’t – no amount of soap or hot water were able to wash away the shame. Did I think of hurting myself at that time? Yes, of course I did. I knew I was weak and vulnerable but I definitely did not want to be stupid.
The following day, X texted me and said he will be waiting for me outside school when I finished for the day. I did not respond.
X followed me every single day for about 2 weeks, texting me all the time assuring me that he was watching. For example, as I was entering school, he would text me and say ‘Study well today’. He just wanted to constantly remind me that he was watching.
About three weeks after the first incident – and constant stalking – he wanted to see me again. In the same way, he threatened to out me to my family and community if I said no. I went to see him when he asked and this time, I didn’t take a knife, but I did take a voice recorder.
Using my phone, I prepared the voice recorder and started recording before I got into the car. I had the Motorola Razr phone. It was a flip phone so in order to record you had to have the phone open. I tried my best to hide it in my pocket but the screen was also on. I was terrified of him seeing it so I did my best to hide it.
I got into the car with the voice recorder on. He asked how school was and then who my friends were. He just wanted to know everything that I did and everyone that I talked to.
I answered his questions and I waited for him to say or do what I needed him to do so I can have evidence of what was going on. After a couple of minutes of chatting, he drove to the same spot and parked there. This time, things were a little different.
I expected him to undress like last time but instead, he made me pull down my underwear and trousers. My heart sank and I started shaking.
I couldn’t unzip my pants because of how badly I was shaking so he did it for me instead. The phone fell out of my pocket and he saw it was recording. Then, he grabbed the phone and stopped the recording. Without any reaction or words, he launched the camera application and took photos of me in my underwear and my butt.
He then sent it to his phone using Bluetooth and said: ‘If you try to be smart, next time these pictures will be sent to your family’.
I don’t know how to describe how I felt at that moment. I did my best to contain myself and not cry, but I couldn’t. He didn’t care. I did not want him to see that I was weak so I tried my best not to show emotions when I was with him.
Meetings became more frequent with time and he became more demanding.
He also started calling me his wife. He would text me during the day and say ‘I want to see my wife later’. He also addressed me as a female most of the time – in some Arab communities, calling a male using female pronouns is meant to be demeaning and a way of humiliating the male for not being a ‘man’. It’s sexist and extremely problematic.
Different things happened at different meetings. Sometimes he’d just want to see me without doing anything sexual and sometimes he’d want to take me for a drive without necessarily talking or doing anything. Sometimes he’d want me to talk to him about my life and what I do and who I speak to. I think that was his way of creating ‘intimate moments’ between us.
This lasted for about two years.
Yes, two years.
The longer I kept quiet and refrained from saying anything to anyone, the worse it became and the more trapped I felt.
There was a point when I felt dead inside – it became kind of a routine. I meet him, I know what he wants, I give him what he wants, he does not tell anyone that I’m gay.
I just want to emphasize that the dynamic never changed throughout the two years – it was a repetition of the first incident with small changes, depending on what mood he was in each day.
The only person who noticed there was something going on in my life was my best friend (If you’re reading this, you know who you are and I love you). My best friend asked me a couple of times why I always used the same Taxi and not take a lift with my friends to go home after school. I came up with lies and excuses all the time (I’m sorry, friend).
I noticed over time, he became less interested in seeing me. He would still want to see me but not as excited and pushy as he was in the beginning. It made me wonder if he had started abusing someone else.
But on one of our occasional meetings, he told me that he needed to tell me something.
‘Adnan, I have to tell you, I got a job offer overseas and I am going to take it,’ he said.
I did not react. I did not say a word. ‘This will be the last time I see you’. He continued by saying ‘Here’s how this works: you give me your phone, I’ll delete any messages between us, I’ll delete my number and I’ll do the same on my phone along with your pictures’.
I gave him my phone and he did what he wanted to do. I don’t know if he ever deleted those photos that he took of me.
You’re probably thinking – happy ending! Or at least an ending to this part of my story.
Be prepared for what I’m about to say and I ask you to give me the benefit of the doubt in advance.
The truth is that I fell in love with him without realizing it. I cried when he left because I was addicted to the emotional abuse that I was going through and I craved it. I was hooked on the pain, anger, abuse and being the victim. Being the victim became my role and who I am in life.
As outrageous as this might sound – in some way, he cared for me when my father didn’t care. He was there to listen to my stories at school when my father wasn’t. I am not proud of admitting that I wasn’t happy when he left.
My therapist once told me that people get stuck in abusive relationships because the abuser tends to do the following: they treat you terribly for a long time, but always give you just enough to keep you hooked.
After many years of therapy, I can now explain to you why did I feel that but at that time I did not know why and I thought I was sick in the head to feel like that.
In conclusion for this chapter, I want you to know there is light at the end of the tunnel. I did not feel well for a long time – I became codependent and I reflected that in my relationships. I played the victim role for most of my adult life and I believed I was a victim in that story so I allowed it to define me for a long time. By publishing my story, I am releasing it forever.
I picked myself up and I decided to go to therapy. It was a long road to get to where I am now. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick.
Even though no one in my life knew about what happened – I surrounded myself with friends, family and loved ones for support. I reached out to people again for helping me get through my mental health issues that I work on every day to this day.
I’d like to end this chapter with the following:
I don’t think you are reading this but I’d like to believe that you are. I want you to know that I left Saudi Arabia, I graduated high-school by 96% , I studied Interior Design and got a great job at one of the best interior design firms, I got the professional help that I needed to make peace with what you did to me, I am proud of who I became and I am not ashamed of what you did to me. It’s an honor to survive and I am a survivor. As for you, if you’re alive and wherever you are – I’ve got my revenge. I am a successful person and you did not break me. You did not break me.
by James Besanvalle
Source – Gay Star News