A comprehensive study of LGBTQ+ Syria has yet to be written. Although LGBTQ+ issues have come to the fore at various stages of the ongoing conflict, gender and sexual minorities in Syria have more often than not been ignored and actively marginalised. As a result, the impact of conflict-related violence on LGBTQ+ persons and the resulting needs of LGBTQ+ beneficiaries have been kept out of view by what one advocate has described as “walls of silence”. This report is a preliminary attempt to rectify this oversight. Among the most pervasive misconceptions this research seeks to correct is the widely held belief that LGBTQ+ issues are somehow of marginal importance in Syria. As explored below, the recognition of LGBTQ+ persons and their specific experiences of conflict is imperative not only for reasons of equality and social justice — the failure to bring these issues to attention also impedes effective donor-supported aid programming, political advocacy, and accountability.
This paper provides a summary overview of LGBTQ+ issues in wartime Syria. It is based on an extensive review of relevant academic and sectoral literature, key-informant interviews (KIIs) with aid practitioners and LGBTQ+ Syrians, and the results of an online survey of 70 LGBTQ+ Syrians.
Treating the conflict as a critical branch point in Syria’s recent social history, the report details LGBTQ+ experiences in various zones of control and in main countries of asylum. It then documents the myriad challenges that face LGBTQ+ Syrians inside the country and abroad, including healthcare disparities, legal discrimination, social prejudice, and the unpreparedness of aid workers to meet resulting needs.
Finally, it concludes with an extensive discussion of practical recommendations for donor-funded aid activities that can begin to address the needs of LGBTQ+ Syrians.
It is impossible to condense the full diversity of Syrian LGBTQ+ experiences into a single report, let alone a report of this length. Ultimately, it is our hope that this research can serve as a conversation starter concerning a dimension of Syrian life that is seldom acknowledged and poorly understood.
Only by beginning with a recognition of past and present blind spots can institutional donors and implementers alike begin to address issues of importance to LGBTQ+ Syrians, whose marginalisation in aid activities exacerbates conflict-related traumas and systemic needs