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No Mercy: LGBT Syrians and al-Nusra

Fri 4 Dec 2015 In: Politics and Religion View at Wayback View at NDHA

Australia's DNA has published an excellent recent article on the plight of Subhi Nahas, a Syrian gay refugee now living in the United States. While ISIS has received the most condemnation for its execution of gay men, Subhi's experiences inform us that there are other Islamist threats to LGBTI Syrians and Iraqis, such as the al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. A young boy in Syria partaking in a demonstration in Isqat Al Nusra is the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda, the international Sunni Islamist terrorist organisation. Although it opposes ISIS and the Assad regime, their opposition appears to be based on the same Sunni Islamist philosophy and it behaves identically to ISIS, which was expelled from al Qaeda due to its extremist tactics. Founded in 2012 as Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra was declared a terrorist organisation throughout the western world soon after. Its leader, Abu Mohammed al-Julani, is believed to be Syrian himself. It is advised bymajlis ash-shura, a consultative council of conservative Sunni umma (clergy). It has been instructed by al Qaeda leadership to collaborate with other Islamist groups and establish shariah law in districts under its control. It denies that it is anti-western, but has praised ISIS' Paris terrorist attack in late November 2015. Furthermore, there is compelling evidence that many al-Nusra militia members are experienced former al-Qaeda operatives who were involved in campaigns against the United States during its decade-long Iraqi occupation (2002-2011). ISIS and al-Nusra had an acrimonious split from one another in 2013 and the two organisations fight one another as well as the Assad regime. While rumours are afoot that it has also split from al-Qaeda, this has yet to be substantiated, although Syrian nationalist and Islamist internationalist factions may exist within al-Nusra. It has launched attacks in Aleppo, Damascus and Dourah against civilian critics as well as the armed forces and other representatives of the Assad regime. It seems free from sectarian animosities and has treated temporary western hostages well, releasing them after an interval, unlike ISIS, which has beheaded them. It is funded either by Qatar or the US Central Intelligence Agency, although sources differ on this. Subhi (28) discovered he was gay when he was fourteen. His conservative father became emotionally and physically abusive, but Subhi stated that his life was saved by the discovery of western LGBTI media and social networks online. The Assad regime was malignant enough- it has refused to decriminalise male homosexuality, tortures gay men and forces them to act as informers against ISIS, al Nusra and other anti-regime insurgents. Al-Nusra emerged in 2012 and occupied Subhi's home city, Idlib, in that same year and things got still worse for him and other LGBTI Syrians. Like the Assad regime, al Nusra tortures gay men and executes them, with little empathy from the conservative Syrian general public. When it comes to ISIS and al Nusra, there is little practical difference in their animosity, abuse and torment of LGBTI Syrians. Subhi fled to Lebanon in 2012 and became involved with the progressive and inclusive Organisation for Refugees, Asylum and Migration (ORAM) in 2013, addressing the UN Security Council on the specific plight of LGBT refugees. This led to death threats from conservative Muslim refugees but Subhi successfully sought asylum in the United States and was granted sanctuary there. He believes that there is a vicious circle apparent when it comes to LGBTI rights in the western world. As things progress here, religious social conservatives, military dictatorships and authoritarian regimes use homosexuality and transgender identity as tools for social division and greater legitimacy, resulting in abuse, torture, harassment and execution of their LGBTI inhabitants. ORAM is a beacon of inclusiveness and sanctuary. However, Andrew Creagh notes that Australia's repressive and draconian treatment of "illegal" refugees and asylum seekers is in contrast with New Zealand, whose government agencies have just finished training that sensitises them to the plight of LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers. Good to know we're doing something right. Recommended: Andrew Creagh: "Run or Die"DNA191 (December 2015): 60-65 ORAM International: Wikipedia/al-Nusra/ al_Nusra Daniel Byman:Al-Qaeda, the Islamic and the Global Jihadist Movement:What Everyone Needs to Know: New York: Oxford University Press: 2015 Craig Young - 4th December 2015    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 4th December 2015 - 9:20am

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