Amid brazen, deadly attacks, gay Syrians tell of fear of ISIS persecution and Gay asylum seekers need our help

By Junior Mayema,

Just taking into account the current human rights violation against LGBT people taking place in this 21st century and that include here in the United States of America where people utilize religious beliefs as defense mechanism to justify attacks on LGBT people, i don’t know yet what we can do to put an end to religious extremism, i am still thinking about a new approach to combat religious extremism before we reach crime against humanity here is what is happening in the world and why it is important to help LGBT asylum seekers and Refugees:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/05/middleeast/isis-lgbt-persecution/

ISIS throws gay men off buildings 03:33

Story highlights

  • “LGBT people in Syria need help, and they need to be supported,” says Nour, a Syrian gay rights activist now living in Turkey
  • “We tried to reach out to some groups, international entities, and they said that LGBT people in Syria are not our priority,” he says
  • The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is calling for action to protect LGBT Syrians and Iraqis from ISIS

(CNN)The photographs released by ISIS in its stronghold of Raqqa are dated March 2015. The first ones show a large crowd, mostly men, but also among them a handful of women and children, all looking up.

Three men on top of a building, faces covered in black balaclavas, stand on either side of their victim, while a fourth seems to be taking a photo or video.

Their victim is thrown off the building. In the last photograph, he is seen face down, surrounded by a small crowd of men, most carrying weapons, some with rocks in their hands. The caption reads “stoned to death.”

The victim brutally killed because he was accused of being gay.

There are at least half a dozen documented cases of men being similarly killed by ISIS. What’s even more sickening for Nour, a gay Syrian man, is the onlookers’ reaction.

One gay couple CNN spoke to said they fled Syria after a car tried to run them over.

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“It’s too much to watch, and people are just standing there in these images and watching, and they are not doing anything, and their facial expressions are really scary because they are not even scared of what is going on,” says Nour, who’s also an LGBT rights activist. “They might be a little bit excited or maybe happy to get rid of homosexuals in the city.”

Though in Istanbul, fear of persecution continues to haunt Nour, who asked us to conceal his identity as he waits and hopes for asylum in America and continues to campaign for rights for people who are LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans.

A history of abuse

As a teenager, over a decade ago, Nour suffered because of his sexuality.

“The worst bullying was at school,” he remembers. “I was approached in the street a number of times, verbally abused and sometimes physically abused.”

There was no one to protect him. His family rejected his sexual orientation, his country criminalized it.

Article 520 of the Syrian Penal Code of 1949 states: “Any unnatural sexual intercourse shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of up to three years.”

Nour left Syria in 2012, before ISIS took over huge swaths of the country, after seeing a video of two men being beheaded. According to the voice on the clip, they are accused of being spies. Then toward the end, the voice speaks about “shaking the throne of God.”

“Whenever we hear this in video or audio, we know that this is exactly meant for gay people,” he says. “It was the moment of clarity, the moment of understanding; this place is not safe anymore.”

The pictures released by ISIS and other videos refer to gay men as the tribe of Lot, who, according to readings of the Quran and the hadith, or prophetic traditions, sinned by refusing Prophet Lot’s call to cease their homosexual activity and led to the destruction of Sodom. One hadith states, “When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes.”

Since the revolution turned war in Syria, the situation for the nation’s LGBT community has become even more dire.

“LGBT people in Syria need help, and they need to be supported. We tried to reach out to some groups, international entities, and they said that LGBT people in Syria are not our priority, and that would mean that our lives are not worthy for them to rescue,” Nour says.

This week, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, a nongovernmental organization based in New York, started “Don’t Turn Away,” an awareness-raising campaign calling for action to protect LGBT Syrians and Iraqis from ISIS’ merciless brutality.

On its website, the group states, “What is clear is the Islamic State’s intent — to spread terror among an already persecuted population in the region and to warn against any kind of ‘moral’ transgression.”

The commission is calling on governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to expedite resettlement and refugee applications for LGBTs.

Driven away by threats

Sami and his partner are among those waiting. Dressed in matching outfits, they already consider themselves married, laughing about how they first met online. They too, like Nour, don’t want their identities revealed.

When Sami’s family found out about his relationship, he says, his brother tried to beat him up. He started to receive threatening phone calls from family and strangers.

This past summer, while the couple was walking in the streets in Damascus, a car tried to run them over.

“I was able to pull myself away, but my husband couldn’t,” Sami recalls. “The car hit his leg and he fell to the ground.”

There is no doubt that it was a deliberate attempt to kill them. Two hours after the attack, Sami’s phone rang.

“There was a man who said this time you could have made it, you could have survived, but the next time you will not.”

The couple fled to Turkey a few months ago, but they can’t shake the fear that their relationship could cost them their lives.

They share housing with other Syrian refugees, where they have to continue to pretend that they are straight. When the ISIS photographs emerged, one of their housemates made a sickening comment.

“He made an absurd joke about how he was so amused, had too much fun watching homosexuals. He says now gay men can fly.”

They say they will never return to Syria. And neither will Nour.

“It’s too damaging for my psychological state, because I have been abused too much from my family, friends, school. It’s not safe for me psychologically or physically,” he says.

Opinion: ISIS’s warped take on morality

And here is the second article :

http://www.theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2015/mar/05/gay-asylum-seekers-lesbians-uk

The case of Aderonke Apata, the lesbian and gay rights campaigner who was told this week that she would not be given refugee status in Britain, is just one example of the appalling situation faced by gay asylum seekers escaping persecution. Apata is terrified of being deported back to Nigeria, and for very good reason. Legislation passed last year criminalises same-sex marriages and gay groups and bans displays of same-sex affection in public spaces. Anyone found guilty of having gay sex could face up to 14 years in prison. Added to that, providing services to anyone who is thought to be lesbian or gay is also a criminal offence.

In 2013 I wrote about research, based on interviews with 12 lesbians from countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Uganda and Jamaica, which found that the interviewees were disbelieved about being lesbian in the first instance, and required to provide all manner of “evidence” to back their claims. Judges asked ridiculous questions of the women, such as whether they had been on a Pride procession, used sex toys, read gay-themed books or visited particular gay haunts. Despite the outcry from human rights defenders, this practice is still happening.

Last October, a report carried out by the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration found that Home Office staff asked gay, lesbian and bisexual asylum seekers questions such as “Why did you feel the need to have sex every day when you were on vacation?” and “What do you believe a relationship with a man may provide that is absent from a heterosexual partner?” One lesbian said that she had been questioned about her so-called feminine appearance, because all lesbians are genetically programmed to sport 501s and checked shirts. A gay man was asked whether he had had more or less than 100 lovers, because everyone knows that gay men have zipper trouble.

Another stereotype is that lesbians are unable to have children because we pop out of the womb declaring our disgust for heterosexuality. Apata was told that she could not be a lesbian because she had children. The barrister Andrew Bird, on behalf of the home secretary, said that Apata was not “part of the social group known as lesbians”, but had merely “indulged in same-sex activity”.

“You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race,” he said. These attitudes and beliefs do not only come from ignorant and/or bigoted folk, but also from large sections of the gay community. The notion that we are born gay, and that there is a biological or genetic basis to sexual identity, has been used by gay rights campaigners to provoke sympathy; to assure straight people that we do not recruit; and that we are not responsible for being as we are. This is nonsense. There are many lesbians (and gay men) who come out later in life having been in heterosexual relationships, because they find an opportunity to live happily with another woman.

During the hearing, Apata submitted footage and photographic evidence of her sex life as evidence that she is a lesbian. How awful for her that she felt the need to lay bare such intimate details. This is just one example of many of the sheer desperation women and men in her position feel.

The Home Office trying to deport Apata is also a Stonewall Workplace Equality Star Performer. For lesbians and gay men from Nigeria, deportation means the strong possibility that they will face prison, torture, or even death. We need to prioritise the campaign against Britain’s racist and inhumane laws on asylum, and stop kidding ourselves that the fight for lesbian and gay equality is won. Because lesbians and gay men in the UK have legal parity with heterosexuals does not mean that everyone is treated equally or fairly before the law. The sounds of wedding bells and gurgling babies are being drowned out by the cries of lesbian and gay asylum seekers, desperate for our support. Let’s put this issue at the top of our gay rights agenda.

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