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LGBT Syrian Refugee Makes History at the U.N.

Sep 11, 2015

Blog Post

Rachel Nusbaum, HIAS.org

Subhi Nahas, a Syrian refugee resettled by HIAS, and Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, speak to press following the U.N. Security Council meeting on threats to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Middle East. August 24, 2015.

(webtv.un.org)

Subhi Nahas, a Syrian refugee who HIAS resettled to the United States, recently became one of the first people in history to address the U.N. Security Council on the subject of LGBT persecution.

Nahas, a gay man who fled ISIS and was resettled by HIAS and our partners at Jewish Family & Children's Services of the East Bay only three months ago, addressed the historic gathering on August 24, 2015.

“It was never okay to be gay in Syria. Not before the civil war that tore apart my homeland in 2011 and definitely not after pro-Islamic militants took over,” Nahas writes in a powerful piece for The Huffington Post. But ISIS’ particular brand of brutality has made life even more precarious for LGBT persons in Iraq and Syria. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has documented at least 30 instances since June 2014 of gay men, or those suspected of being gay, being executed by ISIS.

In 2014, ISIS took over his hometown of Idlib and began executing men they suspected of being gay. "At the executions, hundreds of townspeople, including children, cheered jubilantly as at a wedding. If a victim did not die after being hurled off a building, the townspeople stoned him to death. This was to be my fate, too," Nahas told the Security Council. So he fled – first to Lebanon and then to Turkey.

He was ultimately able to find safety here in the United States, where he is already hard at work advocating for greater protection for other LGBT refugees who, like him, are persecuted simply because of who they are.

HIAS has resettled many LGBT clients who were persecuted in their home countries as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including a handful from the Middle East. Recognizing their unique needs, HIAS provides intensive case management and specialized services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex refugees upon arrival in the United States. Case managers and volunteers at HIAS partner organizations provide an invaluable support system, helping refugees navigate social services, the healthcare system, and educational and vocational resources.

Nahas’ speech to the U.N. Security Council is a powerful example of the incredible resilience of LGBT refugees. The international community should heed his call to action.

You can watch remarks by Subhi Nahas and Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., following the Security Council meeting here.