Subhi Nahas, a 28-year-old gay Syrian who now lives in San Francisco, said he fled because he feared his own father might turn him in to al-Qaida’s affiliate, the Nusra Front, which also has targeted homosexuals.
When his father learned he was gay, Nahas said he called him a shame to the family and beat him. Around the same time, in late 2013, Nusra fighters launched a crackdown on suspected gays in Nahas’ hometown of Maaret al-Numan, detaining 25 men and announcing through mosque loudspeakers that they would cleanse the town of homosexuals.
“With the problems between me and my father, I did not rule out that he might (hand me over),” he told the AP.
So he fled, first to Lebanon, then Turkey. But in Turkey, he said, he began getting death threats from a former school friend who joined the Islamic State group. Fearful that he wouldn’t be safe even in Turkey, he legally resettled to the United States in June.
In August, Nahas and a gay Iraqi man spoke about the suffering of homosexuals in their countries at the first-ever U.N. Security Council session spotlighting violence and discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.
The stigma surrounding homosexuality makes it difficult to document IS killings and identify victims, rights groups say. Families and friends refuse to talk about victims. Gays under IS rule are terrified to speak, and most who flee abroad go into hiding.
The Islamic State group’s announcements are the main source of information, but the group often does not name the victims, perhaps in deference to their families, who could lash out in anger at having their names publicly linked to homosexuals.
“Such a barbaric show of murder leaves LGBT individuals in constant state of fear and would deprive them of a normal life that any human being is entitled to,” Alizadeh said.
Widespread public hostility leaves the community even more vulnerable.
“They are violating God’s laws and doing something that is forbidden in Islam, so this is a legitimate punishment,” said Hajji Mohammed, a resident of the IS-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. There the group has thrown men suspected of being gay off the Insurance Building, a landmark about 10 stories high.