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Friday, June 24, 2022
Subhi Nahas, a Syrian refugee, explains the experience of LGBTQ individuals in the Middle East  in his lecture as part of LGBTCC’s Out & About Month.

Subhi Nahas, a Syrian refugee, explains the experience of LGBTQ individuals in the Middle East in his lecture as part of LGBTCC’s Out & About Month.

Syrian refugee shares story of LGBT persecution

Subhi Nahas, an advocate for LGBT refugees, shared Tuesday at Union South his personal experiences with persecution during his talk, “Seeking Refuge: A Journey to Refugee Advocacy.”

WUD Society and Politics and WUD Global Connections co-sponsored the lecture, which kicked off the LGBT Campus Center events for Out & About Month. This month is a time for UW-Madison and the community to celebrate LGBT individuals.

Nahas described the states of LGBT people in his home country, Syria, where homosexuality is considered a crime. Individuals can be forced into situations, such as arranged marriages, isolation or risky escapes.

The advocate, a refugee himself, said he dealt with these struggles personally. Nahas was deprived of support from his family after coming out as gay, and dealt with physical and emotional violence from community members and extremist groups.

“It took me a lot of time to realize the trauma that affected me,” Nahas said. “I did not realize it until I started knowing that I am normal, and realizing there is not something wrong with me like I was told back home.”

He made the decision to flee to a friend’s home in Lebanon, and later voyaged to Turkey. There, he was threatened by a former classmate and member of ISIS. He said he did not feel protected even in a government-designated safe house.

The United States accepted his case and he was brought to California in 2015. He conformed to American culture with help from a sponsor and outreach groups.

Nahas told his story, which he said is similar to all Middle Eastern LGBT persons, to the United Nations Security Council in August 2015. It was the first exposition of violence toward LGBT people by the Islamic State.

“After finding safety you have to find myself, I find myself by helping people, not restrictedly LGBT people, and advocating for their equality and safer havens to go to someday,” Nahas said.

His advocacy work includes writing a magazine discussing LGBT issues in Syria that was published discretely online. Nahas also works with the International Rescue Committee to aid refugees, focusing on helping LGBT arrivals. He is working with many other groups, including the UN, to aid LGBT individuals still in the Middle East that may be unable to escape.

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