This is the story of Maher, who had to escape and migrate from Syria to Lebanon, then to Sudan, and finally to Turkey. A life wrapped in the war in Syria and dual discrimination both as a Syrian and as a gay man in Turkey.
Source: Yıldız Tar, “Suriye’den İstanbul’a eşcinsel bir gencin hikayesi” (“A young gay’s story from Syria to Turkey”). Kaos GL, 24 October 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=17785
Millions of Syrians were forced out of their homeland as a result of the war in Syria and ISIS assaults. Some headed over to Europe; many lost their relatives during as their travels was well as the war.
Maher Daoud, who we interviewed in a coffee shop in Kurtuluş, Istanbul, was among the millions who had to leave their homeland. He had to leave Latakia in the 23rd year of his life which began in the city. Maher tells the story of migration from Latakia [al-Lādhiqīyah] to Lebanon, then to Sudan, and finally to Istanbul. He speaks fast, telling his story at once, as if someone were following us.
“Art is like breathing”
Maher, who is now 24, is a young gay artist. He studied architecture in Syria. However, he was forced to leave before being able to graduate. He also draws aquarelle and acrylic illustrations. Maher says that, in each of his drawings, a gay story is hidden. To Maher, to make art is to breathe. Because Syria does not have a “gay life,” art is the only space within which he can breathe.
I ask about the situation in Latakia. Maher says that life in Latakia is horrible:
“Latakia is Bashar al-Assad’s city. As such, the pressure was always intensive. To speak, to do something was almost impossible. It was so in art too. I had to put a lot of effort to be able to open my second art exhibit. You have to get signatures from a lot of places. I had to deal with almost every police officer in the police station. They examine each and every painting, find some to be “appropriate” and some “inappropriate.” They kept asking why I was making such paintings. They were trying to judge whether I was against Bashar al-Assad.”
Maher dislikes talking about politics. This also has to do with the notion that “it is a sin to speak politics in Syria.” He thinks that politics changes nothing. He desires more art.
Things became even tougher with war. He says that the war between Bashar al-Assad, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) made things much more difficult in Syria. To Maher, the rebellion for “freedom” was initially beautiful. However, everything changed when Assad began the massacres and when those opposing Assad began using the same methods [sic].