A gay political refugee
This man had no other choice but to escape his country in the Middle East because he is gay. After arriving and settling in Brussels, he became a political refugee.
When and how did you find out you were gay?
Before going to university, I had a feeling that I was into guys and I knew I was different from straight people, but I didn’t know what being gay meant and that it even existed.
But when I went to university, I met lots of people and I started to hear about homosexuality and I related to it. I was 19 years old when I finally understood that I was gay. However, I was never out until I came here to Europe.
Is it possible to be openly gay in the Middle East?
In the Middle East you’re not aloud to be openly gay, and there is a law that says that they can arrest you in some countries. In other countries they even have the right to kill you.
Where I come from, they have the right to arrest you if you do anything in public or if they know and have proof about it, or if they catch you.
Talk about your family and friends. Do they know you’re gay?
No, my family doesn’t know I’m gay and I don’t want them to know. If they knew, it would be a big problem and they would have to kick me out of the family. I can’t say exactly what would have happened if I had told them but I know it wouldn’t have gone well.
They won’t accept it, even if I feel like my mother could try to accept it because she’s still my mother and she loves me and I love her also… but she would be extremely worried and think about it all the time. She would blame herself that I’m gay and not straight. So I don’t want her to be in this situation, to think about it all the time or to think that something is wrong with me. It would be painful for both of us. It’s better to hide it as much as I can till the end. I don’t know if one day I will face her but I prefer to postpone it to as late as possible.
I have one gay friend. He has the same issue with his family and sisters. He’s still living there with his double identity so his sisters insist on him getting married because he’s getting older. He cannot do anything about it so he will probably marry a woman to get rid of the social pressures, for the family’s honour, and to be accepted by all.
As for my other straight friends I couldn’t tell them that I was gay. I couldn’t have come out to my friends because I’m sure they would have never accepted it. I had a talk one day and asked them how they would react if they had a gay or lesbian friend and whether they would you accept it or not. They answered that of course, they wouldn’t accept it because if they walked and hanged out with a gay person, that meant that society would look down on them and perceive them as gay too.
So, it’s complicated. They think gay people are too different and don’t have the right to live as normal human beings. It’s just too dangerous to be LGBT in the Middle East… It’s too dangerous. So most gay people just live a double identity. As a result, many gays are depressed and in psychological pain.
Why did you have to flee your country?
I’d rather not go too much into details about why I had to flee from my country because it’s painful. I basically trusted someone who used photos and videos I sent him as blackmail. It was a man from another city whom I thought I could trust and whom I opened up to about my sexuality. I found out that that person was blackmailing and threatening me so I had to flee the country. I ended up in another country in the Middle East but the story didn’t end there and I got fired from my job because they found out I was gay through this person who reached my boss. So for my personal security I had to flee the Middle East.
Where did you go to find refuge?
I had to leave and go to a destination where they could respect my identity and give me the right to be who I am without fearing for my life.
I came to Europe, Brussels, and I’ve been living here for a couple of years. I’m trying to be myself, starting from scratch. Here I feel more free, I am myself and if I meet a new person I’m never scared for anyone to discover that I’m gay, because they respect that.
However, I’m having a hard time adapting to different countries because of the language barrier, switching careers and being away from my home and my family. But still, I can start again here with one identity and as a respected human being.
Do you still feel in danger in Belgium?
Here in Belgium I don’t feel in danger at all. If the same story that happened to me in the Middle East would have happened in Belgium, it would have been perfectly fine an normal to society. I’m grateful to live in a country where they protect your identity and your rights. I think many people take that for granted, but I am grateful every day.
I’m much happier here because I can be myself. I have one identity and I am allowed to show my emotions and open up freely. I can be who I am and the law will back me up and protect me. People here don’t care if you’re gay or straight or anything else. They accept you for being the way you are, as a human being. Even at work they know I’m gay and my colleagues are nice and support my story. They really appreciate that I’m open and myself.
If had to go back in the Middle East however, I would feel in danger for sure.
The person who blackmailed me is still living there so I’d be scared to go back. If I go back later I’ll have the same problem. But as a soon-to-be Belgian citizen, I’d be less scared because I know that I’ll be protected by the country.
Any concluding remarks?
I don’t understand how some countries do not accept LGBT people – whether in Africa, Europe or the Middle East. Why are we being judged, how different are we from one another? We’re all human beings, we are born like this. Being gay is not something you develop, it’s genetic and I think many people cannot understand that. It should be a normal thing. Homosexuality has always existed and also exists in the animal life, it’s natural. We’re born like this. We have to accept it. We shouldn’t even have to discuss it. The most important is to be healthy and to love and support people around you.
If we respected each other more everybody would be happy in their country with their family and friends. It’s not easy for anyone to leave their country and the people they love. They will be free in another country but it will affect them. You shouldn’t have to leave your country because you are who you are, that makes no sense. I love my country but my country doesn’t love me.
I would like to tell every homosexual person that may be reading this interview that if you really live a double identity and it affects you, don’t forget that you only have one life so just be yourself, go to a destination where you can be free. It’s your life and nobody else’s.