Facing own dangers, Turkey’s LGBT community defends Syrian counterparts

Middle East Eye on Istanbuls Syrian LGBT community:

“Every Sunday, Syrian LGBT refugees from all corners of the city meet up for weekly “Tea and Talk” meetings. Several issues are discussed, including the difficulties involved with obtaining residency permits and applying for asylum, as well as more mundane matters such as entry prices into Istanbul’s various gay clubs. […]

[…] While Turkey’s LGBT community has seen better days, fending off threats to ensure their own survival, Turkish LGBT organisations have been committed to showing solidarity with refugees from Syria.

Though he concedes Turkey is slightly better for LGBTs than Syria, Ammar is worried by the worsening situation and plans to leave for Europe. Ali shares a similar view. “In Syria, I always hid the fact that I was gay. Here they are more open-minded,” explains Ali.

He nonetheless recounts experiences of harassment on the streets of Istanbul and has applied for asylum in the US. Despite the local community’s attempts to bring succour, Istanbul serves as little more than a transit hub for Syrian LGBT refugees. “These attacks on LGBT people are like an alarm to us,” Menem says.

Unlike his peers, Ayman has not made plans to leave and go to the West. Amid the sweltering heat of his office, he opens a window and lights another cigarette. “Leaving to Europe would feel like betrayal. Because if I don’t stay and help, who will?”

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