In Syria, “anti-regime gay people” are being “hunted”
Editor’s note: This blogger for Gay Middle East gives a glimpse into the dangers faced by LGBT Syrians during the unrest.
It has been very dangerous to form any kind of gathering in Syria since the spark of the protests last March. Gay Syrians had avoided cruising and gathering for a few weeks before they started to become more aware of the best places and times for such actions.
Until recently, most LGBT people tried to avoid declaring their political opinions until the protests started to become closer to their areas. They became more aware of the facts, and started to express their opinions. Nevertheless, pro-regime LGBT people, as few as they are, have always expressed their opinions. Of course, they have also been trying to force them upon others.
One of [President] Assad’s relatives is a known gay in Damascus. Most people tried to avoid him at the start of the protests, while some tried to become friends with him. Recently, his newfound friends have been threatening anti-regime gay people to expose them to authorities and deliver their names to the secret police.
They have been using online gay dating sites to contact people and threaten them. Some are only trying to blackmail others into having sex with them. Others are making lists of anti-regime people and publishing their handles on those sites.
It is known that extremists used gay sites – mainly ManJam – in Iraq to hunt gay Iraqis, torture them, and kill them. Worries arise now that Syrians might use the same methods to help the regime to hunt gays who oppose it.
ManJam is one of the easiest sites to access and join. Their requirements are minimal, and many users have multiple profiles there. With the difficulties in internet access in Syria at this time, tracking those profiles is nearly impossible. However, when we come across a profile listing anti-regime profiles, we try to report it. Unfortunately, ManJam webmasters don’t do anything about it.
I have reported three profiles listing and threatening others, but they still exist and their lists are expanding. I received a message today from a friend telling me about the troubles he had to face after those people listed him on one of their profiles.
It is hard enough for gay Syrians to have to hide and fear the authorities because of their sexuality in a country where homosexuality is forbidden by law. The danger becomes more threatening with Assad fanatics threatening to expose those who dare to have a different political opinion.
Last June, Syrian media started to use homosexuality as “the moral reason not to follow certain news channels”. Al-Arour, a former Syrian military officer turned into a Muslim brotherhood member, was exposed as a homosexual on Syrian TV channels. Secret military documents were published revealing that the reason behind the military discharging him was because of his homosexuality. Around the same time, the Amina hoaxer was revealed giving the Syrian media more reasons to use homosexuality against some protesters.
It is worrying to think that some anti-regime gay men might be used as the regime’s next scapegoats. It is also horrifying to witness a Syrian version of the Iraqi infamous gay hunt. In Arab homophobic societies, the dangers of such a hunt can be catastrophic. Some gay Iraqis survivors who fled Syria had warned us about this before they left. We didn’t believe it might happen in Syria.
Sami Hamwi is the pseudonym used by the Syria Editor of Gay Middle East. He blogs at Syrian Gay Guy.