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LGBT, Sami

Tea and Talk Group – Istanbul

teatalkcampaignWhat can you do when no one is willing to help you? Syrian LGBTI people decided to start a fundraising campaign to help SPoD, a Turkish LGBTI organisation, to continue its work with LGBTI refugees in Istanbul. SPoD itself was not very successful at applying for funds for an LGBTI project. However, this struggle had started some years before.

In 2012, I founded Mawaleh, the first Syrian LGBTI magazine, hoping to spread information about the problems LGBTI Syrians might have in and out of the country. While working on Mawaleh and in northern Syria with/for different media outlets, I predicted the gay killings and all the violations against LGBTI Syrians that we keep hearing about now.

After witnessing the rise of radicalisation in Syria, I tried to apply for funds to establish some kind of a civil society group that can assist the LGBTI Syrians who flee/fled/are fleeing the war and atrocities in the country. I received many politically-correct rejections whether from western governments or from international LGBTI organisations. The UK’s DFID turned down the proposal and then went on to list the Syrian-related project they were funding. It felt like, “we are doing a lot for Syrian refugees and Syrian LGBTI lives are the least of our concerns”. That same government raised the issue of ISIS gay killings while debating for its air strikes in Syria and Iraq. Later on, it deported gay Syrian asylum applicants.

Some told me to seek help from international LGBTI organisations, but those too did not want to work with Syrians. Arcus Foundation for example sent me saying, “I do not see that it is likely we will work in Syria, especially given the current political situation.

In Istanbul a few days ago during the launch of the campaign and the opening of Bradley Secker’s exhibition, I told the LGBTI Syrians there, “I know we tried a lot before and some people say that we have failed. I don’t want to be believe that we have failed, we just haven’t succeeded yet, and we need to keep trying. We must not surrender.

I have always believed in that. This is why after all those tries, I decided to organise a Mr Gay Syria competition in Istanbul hoping that it will bring media attention to the cause. Unfortunately, the new management of Mr Gay World decided to put too many obstacles in our way, which resulted in missing on the chance to apply for visas for the Syrian delegates.

After yet another unsuccessful try, we decided to campaign for resettlement for LGBTI Syrians and raise money for SPoD’s project at the same time. We established contact with AllOut organisation and waited for them for weeks, during which a gay Syrian and a Transwoman were killed in Istanbul. Despite all that, AllOut did not seem to find the “urgency” for such campaigns.

We decided to go on with our idea and launch the campaign. Most of the LGBTI Syrians I know in Istanbul did not think it will succeed or be of any help. I told them that SPoD, Bradley, and I thought that we should give it a try. I also told them that I have faith in people.

LGBTI Syrians have been used by governments for political gain and then faced deportations by the same governments. They were ignored and marginalised by LGBTI organisations. They are being abused, attacked, ostracised and forced to lose hope in everything and everyone. Help them restore their faith in people. Donate now, and/or share the campaign.

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