“It is secrecy that keeps most gay people alive in the Middle East.” – Tarek Zeidan, Lebanon
The Arab Spring, a name for the 2011 popular protests for greater democratic representation that occurred across the Middle East, was the beginning of the Syrian Civil War. The sectarian conflicts and brutal fighting, including uses of chemical warfare and a series of massacres, have caused many people to flee their homes. According to statistics kept by the United Nations, over 6.5 million have been displaced, with over 3 million Syrians fleeing the country altogether.
Refugee life is never easy, and often can include unsanitary living conditions, shortages of food and water, and no permanent structures or dwellings to reside in. Additionally, refugees can be viewed by the resident population with mistrust or contempt, and often face discrimination.
Most Syrian refugees arriving in a new country often use familial ties to try to establish a new life, finding shelter and employment.
Gay and lesbian Syrian refugees, however, often cannot utilize the same network of family ties. If their family knows of their sexual orientation, families are often unwilling to help or will even alert the police and have them arrested.
For an unknown number of gay and lesbian Syrian refugees arriving in a new country this will mean that they will need to hide their orientation, or be subject to arrests or humiliating “anal testing,” a crude invasive medical procedure that is said to “prove” homosexuality.
Director Bertho Makso of Proud Lebanon, one of the only LGBT NGOs in the region, explained what it is like to be a gay or lesbian Syrian in Lebanon: “[They] will face double discrimination. First, because [they] are Syrian, and second because [they] are LGBT.”
Some LGBT advocates have hope, however, that the situation may improve for these refugees as activism continues. As the struggle for human rights continues in Syria and its neighboring countries, the author Sherine el Feki reminds international and domestic organizations working on the ground that “gay rights are human rights – you can’t distinguish one from the other.”
Sources: BBC: Gay Community Hit Hard By Middle East Turmoil
Displacement in Syria as of October 2014
BBC: New Massacre Reported in Syria’s Hama Province
Huffington Post: Syrian Refugees and Millions of Iraqis Displaced by Conflict
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Gwen is a writer who has an education degree, a social work background, an extensive knowledge of vegetables, and a devotion to queer revolutionary politics. She lives deep in the woods of Maine with two dogs, a magnificent partner, and an ever-growing collection of plants.