Ratib / Syria
Ratib is a gay man from Syria. “I got married on 7 December 2007, and was divorced on 8 August 2008. My wife was still a virgin. That made a lot of problems. My Aunt told me that my brother-in-law wanted to kill me – he was with the Free Syrian Army, and now he’s with the Jabhat Al Nusra. Most of the time they would get a reward when they got someone to kill.” Ratib’s sister tried to mediate, to calm things down, instead the threats were confirmed by the brother-in-law “If I see him I will kill him” he said. “My bakery was in the regime area, so I thought it would mean I am protected from my brother-in-law and from The Free Syrian Army.” While seven check-points separated Ratib from The Free Syrian Army and his brother-in-law, he was not safe from the regime.
In October 2014, late one evening, Ratib was relaxing in a garden in the centre of Damascus with his boyfriend. “We used to go there so no one would see us, so we wouldn’t be in trouble. It was around ten at night. We were waiting for my friend. I lay my head on the shoulder of my boyfriend. I saw two people coming towards me. They asked ‘how are you?’ I raised my head and saw they were police. They put Ratib in the boot of the car and took him to the police station. They took me underground to a very small room. All of the police from the station came down to beat me. They used their hands, their feet, cables, sticks – from 11 to 6 in the morning. I was bruised all over my body. I was always trying to hide my genitals and face, they don’t look where they beat you, they just beat. They were wearing heavy army boots so you must cover your face. They didn’t ask me anything. They beat me because I am gay. I felt very humiliated. I was scared of course, but every time someone beat me I would say to myself, ‘this is the last one, this is the last one’. My lawyer had paid everyone in the station and court to change the sentence from gay sex in the street to insulting my wife in the street. He paid a lot of money to do this.”
On release he told his boyfriend, “this is a sign for us to leave.” His family was after him, and now he was being targeted by the regime too. “I became afraid to go into the street.” He started selling his materials from the bakery until he got his passport. Then he left for Lebanon. Even there though he doesn’t feel safe. At the end of 2014 Ratib received a message from his sister telling him to be careful, his brother-in-law was coming to find him.”
Talking about the persecution of LGBT people he says: “In the near future – you can’t have any positive thoughts about LGBT issues in this region. From inside you can’t do anything. Maybe when the people are resettled we can make a change. Here in the Arab world we have no laws to protect us.”
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