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Syrian rebels targeting gays

Gays are being targeted by Islamist elements within the Syrian Opposition forces, and refugees have spoken of being blackmailed, robbed and tortured and of friends being taken away and killed by foreign fighters
A Syrian rebel sniper
Photo by Patrick Wells

Islamist elements in the Syrian Uprising are targeting homosexuals in the country, according to a special report in Vice magazine, with foreign Jihadis often blamed by the refugees who spoke to the magazine.

Vice’s Hannah Lucinda Smith spoke to seven Syrian gay men who have fled the country and they told stories of torture, blackmail and of death threats and having gay friends disappear.

The refugees say that once militants find a homosexual they will then torture them to reveal all their gay friends and then round them up too.

‘Ram’ told Vice how he had been lured into a trap by militants.

‘I got a phone call from my friend,’ Ram said, ‘He asked me to come over to his house because he'd lost all his money and he needed my help.’

‘When I entered the house, a big guy was waiting—he had a beard and was holding a cattle prod. He told me to enter, and I was afraid that he would hit me with it, so I did as he told me. That house used to be a place of joy and happiness, but when I entered, it smelt of blood.’

Ram soon learned of the ordeal his friends had been put through before giving him up.

‘One said he had been raped with something and he was bleeding. He was crying because of the pain, but I think also because he was scared that they would do the same to me. Both had been hit on the testicles with the cattle prod.’

Three hours later a vehicle arrived to take them away and Ram knew he had to escape.

‘When they got me out to the entrance, I saw my chance,’ Ram said.

‘They hadn’t tied my hands properly and one of them had come loose. I kicked the man who was holding me in the balls and ran towards the souk. I knew that the [Syrian] army was there and so the kidnappers couldn’t come after me.’

Ram told Vice the men in the vehicle had not been Syrians and he believes they were Chechens.

‘They kept telling me to say that Allah is the only God, and they told me that killing me is halal [allowed] because I am a Druze,’ Ram said.

‘Shadi’ told of a similar ordeal at the hands of the Jabhat al-Nusra Islamist militia after a friend joined the group.

‘It started when one of my gay friends disappeared,’ he said.

‘When he reappeared two weeks later it was obvious that he’d been at a Nusra training camp, and he started blackmailing all of his gay friends, using the photos and videos that he had of us. He told us that he was simply able to kill us by presenting us to Nusra with the proof he has that we’re gay.’

Shadi said two of his friends who had refused to pay had been killed in cold blood.

‘He shot them with one bullet each,’ Shadi.said.

‘After that, rumors started going around the city that they had been shot because they were gay. We covered the rumors up at first by saying that they had been killed, because they were informants for the regime, but the Nusra guy kept trying to blackmail the rest of us.’

Shadi and Ram both fled Syria for neighboring Lebanon out of fear for their lives.

But unlike other Syrian refugees who arrive in Lebanon, few gay refugees have family support networks they can rely on to support them and many are ending up homeless on the streets.

Gay Syrians have also been used by the Syrian Government as pawns - with the pro-government Baladna newspaper claiming that homosexuals were prospering in Syria thanks to the uprising as the Mukhabarat Syrian secret intelligence service is too busy to round them up.

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