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A Gay Eye on Syrian Unrest: 5 weeks of protests, 5 weeks of bloodshed

in SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC, 02/05/2011

It was Good Friday, 22nd of April 2011, whilst I was trying to follow the news about the protests following the day Mr. Bashar al Assad announced lifting the 48 years state of emergency, I heard the great loud voice of protesters passing in front of my building “Listen Bashar, Syrian blood is not for sale”. The journalist in me wanted to film and report, but it was the oppressed Syrian, the persecuted gay man, and the freedom craving heart that eventually won.

The sixth week of protests in Syria proved to be the bloodiest; we already have confirmed 115 killings on Friday, two of them were children, 7 and 10 years old, along with a 70 year-old senior citizen. Military forces have been deployed on Thursday to all cities, fully equipped as if the country is under an invasion; it is to the regime, Syrians have been calling for freedom,  the regime’s persistent enemy.

Riding in a taxi on Thursday the 21st, I saw thousands of military personnel being deployed to different parts of Damascus and its surrounding areas. The taxi driver was afraid to comment at first since anyone can be a secret police agent, even though on the radio there was a rerun of the announcement that has been made earlier that day about lifting the emergency law, but when I couldn’t prevent myself from saying: “it’s a shame that the army which is supposed to be protecting Syrian is doing the killings now”, the taxi driver responded with details about what happened in Barzeh and Joubar a week before, and that the so-called “infiltrators” were people he knew; “They are (shabbiha) working for the regime, and they are from Latakia”, he said, “I know three of them in person. They were in a Pakistani outfit to look like they were Islamists.” [shabbiha is a Syrian dialect word used to refer to the regime’s mercenary gangs].

This is the story which the government owned television is trying to provide. The Syrian official and government owned media has gone back to the 60’s, and they are trying to convince minorities that the protests are being organised by Salafists and Islamists. With the authorities banning independent media from covering the events, “eye witnesses” have been the only source of information we can rely on. Any try to film or photograph the events is faced by shooting or at least beating and breaking the device.

The regime’s announced reforms and decrees are only a way to try to have an excuse to arrest or kill. Under the new law for organizing protests, it is impossible to get an approval for any kind of protest, furthermore, it proved to be another way for the authorities to know about people participating in protests; a man from Hasakah applied for an approval for a protest hours after announcing the new set of laws, he was arrested and investigated for two days.

Any kind of gathering has been, and still is, very dangerous. This affected all aspects of LGBT life. Regarding, gay people have managed to “function” before with all the enforced rules against homosexuality. Some expressed their fear of everything lately, since it is getting worse for gay people than it is for others. One said: “it is worse for gay people, but it will be better for others and maybe it will become better for us as well”, while most gay people fear Islamists and Salafists, like all other minorities, only a few of them know that Islamists do not have a strong base here in Syria. As for some lesbians we know, they have suddenly disappeared preferring to remain “in hiding” at this point. “It’s always harder for us girls…as guys you can escape or find a way to escape… for us it will confinement in our homes until they find husbands for us…” one told me the other day.

This situation will lead to more oppression and discrimination against LGBT people as I mentioned in a previous article. The least thing that might happen is that people might attribute “bad events” to “god’s rage” against sinners, i.e. LGBT people. Comments like this have been already made in front of me a few times. Therefore, LGBT people have more worries now than ever before; we all want the best for the country, but we have to emphysise that more rights for Syrians will lead to more rights for LGBT people eventually. We hope that the regime will find a way to dialogue with protesters and exiled opposition to fiTurkey bans internet domain names with the word gay!
 

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