Article Source: Lesbian News
A Syrian LGBTQ group has been set up last March called the Guardians of Equality Movement (GEM) to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community in Syria.
Presently, LGBTQ people in Syria face daily discrimination and violations as policies and legal provisions incite hatred and violence against those that don’t meet prevailing social standards and expectations in Syria.
Particularly, Article 520 of the Syrian Penal Code criminalizes homosexuality with a prison term of up to three years.
Syrian LGBTQ group to protect LGBTQ rights
The group is one of the first nongovernment organizations (NGO) that focuses on the LGBTQ people in Syria as well as those part of the global Syrian diaspora.
As stated on their website, “GEM works toward the protection and advocacy of human rights at social and diplomatic levels for all vulnerable Syrian LGBTQIA+ regardless of political affiliations, religion or ethnic background.”
“Our programs support Syrian LGBTQIA+ individuals’ basic needs, provide holistic protection services including in unsafe environments, document LGBTQIA+ rights violations, and conduct research and advocacy promoting Syrian LGBTQIA+ rights,” they declared.
Previous efforts by Syrian LGBTQ activists to change stereotypes in society and demand rights had failed because of lack of organization to ensure their continuity and achieve their goals.
This group is their first step towards protecting and preventing violations of the rights of Syria’s LGBTQ community.
NGO group members speak from experience
Members of GEM related their own experiences of being oppressed in Syria, hence the need to set up a group to fight for the rights of the community.
Its chairman of the board, who preferred to remain anonymous, spoke to Al-Monitor about being arrested and violated for being a homosexual.
“This pushed me, along with a number of activists, to establish GEM. We reach out to our target audience through [traditional] media, social media and partner organizations, or through our own members,” the chair said.
This means dealing with caution and care with the beneficiaries of the group’s services, which includes a financial grant to improve their situation and move them to a safe area.
A recipient of the grant, who also preferred to remain anonymous, told Al-Monitor that after being arbitrarily arrested and persecuted, the grant gave him a chance to move to northern Aleppo to reach Europe via Turkey.
Organizing a Syrian LGBTQ group in a crisis
Establishing the group is harder than it already is, given that Syria has been undergoing conflict for more than ten years.
During this period, cases of rights violations against members of the LGBTQ community has increased, including forced disappearances, arrests, and sexual assaults.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, said the Syrian LGBTQ community has been strongly rejected by all religions and the societal culture in the country.
“This is why no entity is able to defend them,” Ghany told Al-Monitor.
With the community experiencing rights violations, none of the international human rights organizations are helping to shed light on these violations, Ghany added.