Subhi Nahas first to address UN Security Council on LGBT persecution
On Oct 27, 2016 The Folsom Telegraph reported: When a soft-spoken Syrian refugee told his escape story to a Sierra College classroom on Saturday, it sounded like a taut Hollywood thriller: a young gay man, threatened and harassed by his hometown, family and Al Qaeda, flees Syria to neighboring Lebanon in a taxi. He bribes the driver and plays deaf and mute, knowing the risk that even his speaking voice could betray his sexuality, and passes through army and militia checkpoints until he reaches freedom – alone.
By the time Subhi Nahas was finished with the tale, silence and quiet crying in the audience broke into a standing ovation.
Presented by Prism-Q, a nonprofit resource center for LGBT people in Placer County, and working in partnership with Sierra College, Nahas was asked to speak about his experiences living in Syria as a gay man. Prism-Q President Denise Johnson said Nahas’ compelling story was worth sharing.
“We think it’s important to share the discrimination that people face here or (in) another part of the world. It’s an education event,” she said. “It’s a story that everyone should hear … putting a name and a face to a person who’s experienced such injustice.”
For LGBT people living in the Middle East, as Nahas explained, life was difficult well before Al Qaeda and ISIS emerged.
“Even before that, it was not a life. They don’t call it a life because Syrian law criminalizes homosexuality by imprisonment for up to three years, and we were like outlaws in a way, and people did not recognize us and they didn’t want us in the community. They thought that we were abnormal and unnatural things; we shouldn’t be allowed to live and we should be quarantined,” he said. “One of the people that I heard – he said ‘They should all be quarantined, cured and then introduced again to the society.’ That was even before the war.”
Nahas recounted what he knew of Syrian society’s behavior toward the LGBT community: harassment, assault, violence, even honor killings by one’s own family, which are permissible by law. Nahas said one of his own friends had been violently attacked, brutalized, raped, stabbed and beheaded. Nahas’ own father had threatened him with a knife, and constantly monitored his behavior. The threat of being turned over to Islamic extremists hovered over his life. As videos have shown, this could have ended with him being stoned to death or thrown from a rooftop.