‘Thank God I’m here’: Gay Syrian finds refuge in Winnipeg A secret Facebook group, underground meetings and the fear of being killed

On Jan 5, 2016 CBC News reported: First, his friend was beheaded. Then a transgender woman was raped, burned and mutilated.

Adam knew he had to leave Turkey, the country that took him in after he had fled Syria.

“I think I will be next,” he said when he phoned the United Nations in Istanbul, begging for help.

Adam, a gay Syrian man, recently arrived in Winnipeg.

Because he fears for his safety and reprisal for speaking out, CBC News is not using his real name.

The 26-year-old recalls celebrating when he arrived in Canada.

“It was like my dream happened,” he said.

Adam left Aleppo in 2011 before starting what became a five-year journey in search of freedom that included relocating to Russia and Turkey.

“I’m gay, but this is not acceptable there,” Adam said, speaking about Syria and Turkey.

Riot police use a water cannon to disperse LGBT rights activists before a Gay Pride Parade in central Istanbul, Turkey, on June 28, 2015. (Kemal Aslan/Reuters)
He and more than 500 other queer Syrians used a secret Facebook group and underground locations to communicate in Turkey after fleeing to the country from the war in Syria.

“From the beginning it was so amazing because we shared our problems, we shared everything.”

Turkey has taken in many refugees from Syria, but LGBT people are far from free, Adam said.

Violence against members of the LGBT community is common in Turkey, and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern about attacks on queer people in the country.

Gay man beheaded

Adam said when a person is outed in Syria, it can cause problems and become dangerous for the individual’s family.

“They just will stay in home because they’re afraid of the people … or maybe they hurt them because they will know that their son is gay,” he said.

The violence hit home for Adam when Muhammed Wisam Sankari, a gay Syrian that he knew, was found beheaded and mutilated. Adam said the slaying happened after his friend was kidnapped.

“It was so scary,” he said.

He added of his slain friend, “He was so young, so full of funny.”

The slaying led Adam to apply for refugee status in Australia, based on the grounds that he was in danger because of his gay identity.

The Australian government sent a letter dated June 29, refusing his request.

“There is no right of merits review for this decision,” the letter concludes.

“I was crying a lot,” Adam said while showing CBC News the letter.

Adam said the group stopped meeting after Sankari was killed because they feared for their lives, but eventually they resumed their Sunday meetings.

“It was kind of dangerous, but we don’t care because we had to meet.”

‘Thank God I’m here’

Adam’s search for safety became more serious after Hande Kader, a transgender woman, was found raped and burned in Turkey.

That prompted Adam’s call to the UN. His plea was heard and a plane ticket was eventually booked four months later. After a last-minute change sent Adam from Ottawa to Winnipeg, he arrived on the Prairies.

His first thought when he arrived in Winnipeg was “thank God I’m here,” he said.

Read more at ‘Thank God I’m here’: Gay Syrian finds refuge in Winnipeg – Manitoba – CBC News

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