news

Mr Gay Syria stands up to ISIS as he reveals extremist group beheaded his boyfriend

2016-05-13
Back in February Hussein Sabat was crowned as Mr. Gay Syria in Istanbul and was one of five men who fought for the position. In a new interview with the Daily Mail, Sabat reveals how he is now campaigning for LGBT rights in war-ravaged countries. For the competition, each contestant was given three minutes to perform and Sabat gave a monologue where he spoke about the pain gay Arabs experience. “I played a character speaking to his mother at her grave about the difficulties of being gay. I just wore trousers and a t-shirt.” Speaking about his campaign and the pageant, Sabat said: “I want to show that Syrian gays are not just bodies thrown off buildings by ISIS; we have dreams and ideas and want to live our lives.” “Of course, we were nervous, but we’re excited – we all wanted to be Mr Gay Syria to do something empowering.” ISIS have been responsible for a number of gay deaths and in the interview the 24-year-old hairdresser revealed that ISIS beheaded his first boyfriend, Zakaria. “I was with Zakaria for four years, but three years ago ISIS beheaded him. They sent the execution video to his family. His mother almost went crazy, and I couldn’t speak for a month.” But that hasn’t stopped Sabat.
He says, “Everyone is scared of ISIS, but it doesn’t stop me from living my life. I won’t let them be a barrier, and I hate them more than I’m scared.” Members of an Istanbul-based LGBT support group came up with the idea. “I thought it was going to be all about the looks and not just about the whole package, so I didn’t want to do it. But then, three weeks later, I saw an application form posted on Facebook. I don’t know why, but I found myself filling it.” Sabat explains how he told the organisers that if the competition was all about beauty, he didn’t want to be part of it. “But they said no, we need someone who can talk,” Sabat said. Sabat also reveals how he suffered a homophobic attack by a group of Syrian and Turkish men nine months ago. He was walking home from work when a fellow Syrian overhead him talking to his boyfriend on the phone. “He called me a f**got, and I made the mistake of answering back. I asked him, ‘do you know me?’ and he said, ‘you’re Syrian and you’re putting us all to shame.” Sabat was then punched in the face and gut before being dragged away into a car. “They were going to kidnap me,” Sabat said. “It was terrifying. Even the freedom in Istanbul is not complete.” Saban was lucky and managed to escape before they could do anything else. Because of attacks and prejudices like this Sabat, like most Syrians, live a double life to friends and family. He explains if his family ever found out, they would try and ‘treat’ him. Sabat and the organisers are all campaigning to help let gay Syrian refugees grant asylum in Europe. He vows to continue fighting for LGBT rights and says: “We need to be more public about our sexuality so we can demand our rights. I can’t give advice because some people just can’t leave Syria.” More stories: Spain’s first openly gay football referee quits over homophobic abuse Gay cyclist passes a homophobic street preacher – what he did next left the crowd cheering