The Syrian LGBTQIA+ People in Conflict and Displacement : Peace and Accountability Efforts

Syrian LGBT


This study aims to investigate the intricate social and political dynamics surrounding LGBTQIA+ individuals within Syria from 2011 to the present, tries to examine the consequences of the Syrian conflict on this group, and seeks to examine the nature of the violence experienced by Syrian LGBTQIA+ individuals who have been displaced or forced into exile, as well as the obstacles they encounter in their pursuit of safety and protection.
Furthermore, it analyzes the intersectionality of oppression and discrimination faced by this community within Syria and in their new countries of residence and the extent of their involvement in peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and accountability initiatives and endeavors led by Syrian civil society actors and organizations.
Prior to delving into the findings, it is critical to acknowledge the contentious matter of terminology associated with LGBTQIA+ identities, specifying that variations such as LGBTQ, LGBT, and LGBTIQ are frequently used in various contexts. In contrast, GEM employs the acronym LGBTQIA+ to refer to individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual while also recognizing additional identities that are not encompassed in the short acronym more collectively.
The methodology included qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. It encompasses a survey completed by 74 Syrian LGBTQAI+ individuals based inside or outside Syria. The purpose of the survey was to learn about the challenges this community is facing in different control areas inside Syria and in Syrian refugee-hosting countries, as well as delve into the role this group is playing in peacebuilding and accountability efforts.
The survey collected responses on various aspects, including forms of SGBV during
conflict and displacement, social and economic discrimination, the intersectionality of vulnerability, their contribution to Syrian civil society’s efforts in peacebuilding and accountability, and suggestions for local and international organizations.
The study encompasses four chapters. The first one explores the challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ members in various areas under different forms of control, including the control of the Syrian Government, opposition factions like HTS and ISIS, and the Autonomous Administration in the Kurdish region. The study underscores that before the onset of the 2011 uprising and subsequent conflict, the situation for LGBTQIA+
8 individuals in Syria was challenging but relatively more accepting. However, during the conflict, LGBTQIA+ individuals became targets of discrimination and violence from both state and non-state actors. Campaigns against the LGBTQIA+ community in different controlled areas intensified after 2011, leading to arrests, detentions, and widespread persecution.
The second chapter of the study sheds light on the pervasive violence faced by Syrian displaced LGBTQIA+ individuals and groups, exacerbated by the ongoing conflict that began in 2011. As a result of displacement caused by the conflict, LGBTQIA+ Syrians confront numerous challenges, including heightened vulnerability to violence, discrimination, and mistreatment. Syrian LGBTQIA+ living in refugee camps and other displacement settings often experience elevated levels of violence and face barriers in accessing essential services such as housing and healthcare, primarily due to discriminatory attitudes prevalent among fellow displaced individuals and government authorities. Despite legal safeguards in some destination countries, Syrian LGBTQIA+ individuals continue to encounter instances of discrimination and abuse, compounding their challenges in seeking safety and integration. Moreover, the lack of support and resources available to displaced LGBTQIA+ Syrians further exacerbates their plight, with limited organizational assistance and a scarcity of tailored initiatives addressing their unique needs. The chapter highlights the intersectionality of vulnerability and marginalization faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals in displacement, underscoring the urgent need for inclusive and responsive humanitarian interventions to address their distinct challenges and promote their rights and well-being.
The third chapter of the study delves into the pivotal role of Syrian LGBTQIA+ individuals in accountability and peacebuilding endeavors. It begins by identifying the barriers to meaningful political participation faced by Syrian gender and sexual minorities, highlighting the systemic invisibility of these groups in peacebuilding efforts. In contrast, this chapter also explores the potential benefits of LGBTQIA+ political participation in accountability and peacebuilding processes. It draws parallels with historical LGBTQIA+ activism, emphasizing the importance of creating inclusive spaces for marginalized communities to assert their rights and contribute to social change, and outlines strategies to support the participation of Syrian gender and sexual minorities within civil society.
The study concludes with recommendations to local and international organizations working with Syrian LGBTQIA+ individuals, aiming to address their specific needs and challenges better and engage them in peacebuilding and accountability efforts. For the LGBTQIA+ community inside Syria and neighboring countries, it is suggested that local and international organizations allocate additional resources to support LGBTQIA+
9 individuals and organizations in Syria, enhance the capacity of personnel to engage effectively with local LGBTQIA+ communities and establish a UN Syrian LGBTQIA+ cluster, to coordinate efforts. Furthermore, consistent assistance and solidarity from the special envoy to Syria, alongside promoting international recognition and support for the LGBTQIA+ movement, are essential. Moreover, it is proposed that Syrian NGOs adhere to gender and LGBTQIA+-sensitive policies to receive funds from international donors.
Concerning exiled and displaced Syrian LGBTQIA+ communities, it is recommended to incorporate them into planning and decision-making processes, raise awareness about the violence they face, enhance the responsiveness of security forces and government officials, and advocate for the protection of LGBTQIA+ human rights defenders. Finally, to integrate Syrian LGBTQIA+ groups into peacebuilding and accountability efforts, measures should be taken to include them in the constitution editing process and
facilitate their participation in the Universal Periodic Review on Syria.

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