The Future of LGBTQ+ Syria and the Aid Response: Case Studies in Regional Programming



Since mid-2021, the Syria crisis response has devoted increasing attention to the feasibility of support for LGBTQ+-sensitive projects. In response to the growing visibility of LGBTQ+ aspects of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, many donors have expressed a willingness to contemplate such activities, but have found it difficult to operationalise that desire. Understandably, many decision-makers have taken stock of imposing conditions inside Syria and in major refugee-hosting states and have concluded that such projects, though long-neglected and deserving of greater attention, are impractical, overly complex, or even dangerous to partners and beneficiaries alike. The Government of Syria effectively criminalises homosexuality, and tight controls on civic space in Syria mean that overt advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights poses a very real risk to campaigners, implementers, and beneficiaries. Aid actors, therefore, face a significant challenge in identifying relief activities that are both realistic and can improve material conditions for LGBTQ+ Syrians.

This report proposes practical first steps to bridge these gaps. It builds on our previous assessment of LGBTQ+ experiences of the conflict in Syria (see: LGBTQ+ Syria: Experiences, Challenges, and Priorities for the Aid Sector) and draws on lessons learned from regional contexts to identify entry points to facilitate LGBTQ+-sensitive project implementation in Syria, refugee-host states, and the region more broadly. Achieving sustainable progress for LGBTQ+ Syrians is a formidable challenge that will be realised not in a single project cycle, but in the long term. It will require cautious localisation and support for civil society wherever possible, in addition to advocacy for the rights of LGBTQ+ persons.