M_Id_392923_Syrian_conflictSyria: Many gay men in Syria are threatened not only by the Syrian Army and Islamist organizations and rebels but also from family members, says Human Rights Watch.

The report was based on interviews with 19 gay Syrian men seeking refuge in Lebanon.

A man who wished to remain anonymous, described how after being kidnapped by the Syrian Islamic Liberation front, was kept detained for 23 days.

His father, who at the time was unaware his son was gay, paid a ransom to have him freed to Lebanon. However, the Islamist group outed the individual which prompted the father to threaten to have him killed if he is ever found.

Half the men interviewed were rejected by family and in addition to the physical and verbal violence suffered from extreme Islamist groups, five were subject to death threats.

A 26-year-old told of being blindfolded and handcuffed to a ceiling by unidentified men who said they were affiliated with al-Qaeda and who tried to get him to reveal the names of his gay friends.

A gay couple, who were kidnapped by the Syrian army, were forced to strip and have sex with each other in front their interrogators, the report said

The men used chalk to make up their faces, pejoratively referring to them as “tante” (auntie). In another interview, one man said he was abducted by Syrian Army soldiers  who forced him to to strip and raped him.

A baker who fled to Lebanon after learning that his family had given his personal details to the armed Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra in a bit to find him, said: “I know my family will always try to find me so they can kill me.”

Gay men have even before the war been the target of “honor killings” with  family members viewing same-sex relations as a disgrace and the persecution is their bid to overcome that public disgrace.

Others have been imprisoned in accordance with Article 520 of the country’s 1949 penal code, which calls for a three-year sentence for “carnal knowledge against the order of nature.”

“The war has, however, intensified the surveillance, entrapment and public exposure of gay men,” says the report.

Human Rights Watch says gay Syrians are in dire need of for basic levels of protection and assistance.

Since fighting first began three years, more than 100,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the escalating conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule. This internal conflict has destroyed whole neighborhoods and forced more than nine million people from their homes, reports the BBC.

The armed rebellion has evolved with as many as 1,000 groups commanding an estimated 100,000 fighters. Secular moderates are outnumbered by Islamists and jihadists with a link to al-Qaeda. Their brutal tactics have caused widespread concern and triggered rebel infighting, it added.

Source: hrw.org ; washingtonpost.com; homophobic.co.uk