Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “İnsan Hakları vs LGBT Hakları,” (“Human Rights vs. LGBT Rights,”) Bianet, 28 December 2013, http://www.bianet.org/biamag/lgbtt/152398-insan-hayati-vs-lgbt-haklari
Among the thousands of Syrians staying in Turkey, there are certainly many LGBTIs.
What they say to Syrian LGBTs in Syria and in the countries where they seek asylum is “Human life is priority, not gay rights.”
Naturally they then ask: “Ours is not “human” life?”
Both the Syrian regime and the opposition are homophobic
Subhi is a 26 year old Syrian. He has been living in the city of Antakya in Turkey for nine months and he is working in a non-governmental organization.
He says that there has never been a strong LGBTI movement in Syria and people have fears and are hesitant. He says, “If there had been such a movement, the situation would have been very different for LGBTIs when the rebellions started.”
Neither the regime nor the Free Syrian Army nor Islamist groups allow the possibility of life for LGBTI people. The government fights ideologically and Islamists use guns against homosexuality. He adds “The situation on both sides is not very good for us.”
“Before the conflicts started, they started to arrest gays just because of their sexual orientation. We made a complaint to Human Rights Watch about this. Around 27 gays were arrested by the militia. I interviewed one of them a month after they were released. He said that they were told to purify themselves, pay money and were severely tortured and raped.”
“After the conflicts intensified, the militia went, the Islamists came. A few days ago we heard that two gays were beheaded in Damascus.”
“These days the government is conducting a strange media campaign. They are saying that all the rebels are gay.”
When the conflicts increased and the air bombardments started, I could not stand it anymore. I first went to Lebanon and then came to Turkey.”
Being both Syrian and LGBT is difficult
Turkey is certainly not a gay friendly country. But for Subhi the situation is a relative improvement. He says, “At least you do not face hourly bombardments over your head and you are not executed.” He states that there is always anxiety about raids at LGBTI parties in Syria and most of the time they end up with armed people breaking in the door.
He says that in the nine months he has lived in Antakya, neither gays nor Syrians are received well.
He knows that there are both Syrian and Turkish gays in Antakya. But none of them live out of the closet.
“Sometimes I go and talk with people; they speak Arabic surprisingly well. We talk about why they are not open and why they hide their sexual orientation. They also avoid communicating about this.”
A shelter for LGBTI refugees
He now aims to carry on LGBTI activism in the region where he lives. “In Syria we did not have such an opportunity but now we can do it from the outside and help our friends here, and the ones who stayed there.”
However, he has complaints about the lack of help from non-governmental organizations. “NGOs take care of asylum seekers but do not pay attention to the LGBT people who have to hide their identities.”
He applied to various institutions for two projects. Both were rejected with a response along the lines of “human life is priority.” But Subhi is insistent on his projects.
First, he wants to establish a shelter for LGBT people who escape wars in their own countries.
Moreover, he has already begun to prepare information booklets in Arabic and English to send to Syria. He wants to raise awareness about sexual orientations, gender identities, sexual transmitted diseases and human rights for the LGBTI people who remain in Syria…