DRESDEN — Thousands of kilometers away from their war-torn home, and yet they still don't feel safe. Three gay Syrians who say they've been harassed by Muslim refugees in Dresden decided to tell their story to German news agency DPA.
Ahmad Suliman says that if he had come out openly about his sexual orientation in his native Syria, he would have been beheaded. Homosexuals are publicly executed in Syria and in Iraq. It was that reason, as much as the civil war tearing apart the country, that ultimately led the 20-year-old Muslim to flee his homeland.
But when he arrived in Dresden, Germany, he was greeted by the unhappy reality that the city is home to the rising xenophobic group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (Pegida).
Still, the direct attacks against Suliman and his friends did not come from Pegida, but from other refugees. Suliman, Rami Ktifan and Yousif Al-Doori told DPA that they have been abused and tormented for being gay by other refugees from the Middle East. "At first we tried to hide it, but at some point we simply wanted to live free, in Europe," says Al-Doori.
Ronald Zenker, head of the CSD (Christopher Street Day, an association in Dresden that organizes an annual gay rights event) rescued the three men from the tent city, and has since arranged to accommodate them privately.
Since 2013, the persecution of homosexuals because of their sexual orientation is a valid reason for asylum in the European Union. But there is no statistical recording of the different reasons of asylum seekers in Germany.
Homosexuality is a taboo in Arabic families. Al-Doori had hoped he could live a different life in Germany: "In my home country I constantly had to pretend. I led a double life."
But the hostility and abuse followed him all the way to Germany. For now, it is other refugees who give them trouble, and the Pegida movement is instead one big paradox. "People who sympathize with Pegida are also willing to help gay refugees," says Zenker, "They have their own way of differentiating good versus bad refugees. Gay refugees are part of the "good ones' because they are being persecuted by other Muslims."