Gay and Syrian: One refugee’s journey to San Francisco

On Feb 10, 2016 KALW reported:  Subhi Nahas remembers the exact day when he knew he’d have to leave Syria. It was the Spring of 2012. He was twenty four, on a bus, going to university take a final exam. It was the last exam he needed to graduate.

He says they came up to a checkpoint, and a group of soldiers stopped the bus. They checked the IDs of all the young men, and then they singled out Subhi.

He described what happened next.

“They take you to a room, and put you in a chair, where you’re all alone. The chairs, and the table, and the ground, they’re full of blood.”

These were Syrian government soldiers. They were cracking down on rebels who opposed the president, Bashar Al Assad.

And although Subhi had nothing to do with the civil war, these soldiers decided to pick on him anyway. They’d noticed that he looked different. He acted effeminate.

He says for thirty minutes they harassed him and called him homophobic names. He was scared for his life.

“And that moment I was like, feeling that – yeah that’s the end of it,” Subhi says.

It wasn’t. They let him go without hurting him.

But after that, Subhi was too afraid to go back to school.

“When I came back home I was saying to myself, ‘What’s the point of staying in Syria, while you cannot complete your studies?’ Without this you cannot do anything.’”

Dangers at home

The soldiers who messed with Subhi were from the Assad regime. But a few months later, rebels opposing Assad took root in Subhi’s city, Maarat al-Numan. They belonged to Al Nusra Front, which is the Syrian branch of Al Queda. For Subhi, they were even worse than the regime. He remembers them announcing that they would “cleanse the city of sodomites.”

“So I cannot go to university, I cannot go out,” Subhi remembers. “So I have to stay home all the time. But, then, staying at home was not safe too.”

“If you’re not safe outside and you’re not safe inside, you better run. Nobody’s going to save you.”

Like many LGBT people who become refugees, Subhi felt threatened by his own family. His parents never accepted the idea of a gay son. Subhi lived at home with them, but his father didn’t speak to him.

“Sometimes we did not even say good morning to each other,” says Subhi. “Even when we speak, he never expressed his emotions or feelings… Except when he’s really angry and he wanted to express how angry he is.”

One day, they were in the kitchen. They had a fight, and his father lost his temper.

“He grabbed my head from the back and he just smashed it into the kitchen counter.”

Subhi still has a scar on his chin.

“If you’re not safe outside and you’re not safe inside, and your family will not protect you from your father because your father has anger management issues, you better run,” Subhi says. “Nobody’s going to save you.”

He immediately made plans to cross the border into Lebanon, where he had a friend he could stay with. This journey was legal, but he had heard horrible stories about gay people who were raped as they tried to get across. So he bribed a taxi driver to deal with all the checkpoints. Subhi sat in the back of the cab and pretended he couldn’t talk.

Continued at Gay and Syrian: One refugee’s journey to San Francisco | KALW.

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