Freedom comes at the cost of love

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05/24/2019

Close on five years into his forced conscription into the Syrian army, bombs smashed into the military base in the city of Deir ez-Zor, where Fadi Salim* was stationed. Injured in the attack, he was sent for medical treatment in the capital, Damascus. It was there where, two weeks into what ended up being a six-month stay, he met Abbad Asfour*. They fell in love. “If we want to be together, we have to leave Syria,” Salim told Asfour. That was 2015. A year earlier, a report by Graeme Reid, director of Human Rights Watch’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights programme, was published in The Washington Post. The report — “The double threat for gay men in Syria” — listed the watchdog’s findings on human rights violations of gay men in that country: forced anal testing, rape, torture and harassment as well as excommunication and “honour killings” by families. Although fully aware of the risks of being gay in the country, Salim says: “I didn’t want to leave Syria. But then, after I met [Abbad], I started feeling something serious towards him … So we started planning to leave Syria.”

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