Saturday, July 12, 2008

Being gay in Syria

Three friends, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The BBC reports that French President Sarkozy has received Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Paris and has arranged that Syria and Lebanin will re-open diplomatic ties, this representing Al_Assad;s retrun to the world stage after years in the wilderness after the assassinationation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Good news, better to talk than to isolate.

In the meantime, I traced back my flickr photos to a site called Gays Without Borders which calls itself "An informal network of international GLBT grassroots activists working to make the world a safer place for GLBT people, and for full GLBT equality in all aspects of legal and social life…"

The article in question was about "Syrian Jojo Jako Yakob, Gay Asylum Seeker, Will Be Thrown Out of UK", after the Home Office turned down hsi application for asylium because he is gay and afraid to go back tp Syria. We had Peter Tatchell quoted as saying the refusal was “irrational, ill-informed and insensitive”, which it might well ne.

But! He was found in the country (Scotland) with a false belgian passport and he had not applied for asylum. It turned out that he was arrested in Syria for distributing anti-government propaganda and then was later beaten up by the police/prison guards when they found out that he was gay.

The man in question says that "They believed that I was gay but they said it was not a problem to be gay in Syria if you keep your mouth shut. But how do you live? That is no way to live. I want to live my life and be free, and I could not do that in Syria."

Well, I think this man is beinga bit cheeky playing upon the stereotypes that people have of countries far away, particularly Arab ones, as if they are all like Iran. Yet our experience (albeit that we were not beaten up by the police) is that it is very easy for men to display affection for each other in public in Syria than it is in, say, Scotland.

Not to mention the fact that the British media talk about him being a Christian member of the repressed Kurdich minority in Syria, as if Christians and Kurds all have such a bad time in Syria.

Luckily, we know there is another side to the story...

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