“M.F” was just a teenager that did not have enough knowledge when his mother asked him to get married before she died. He had just finished high school and wanted to continue his studies at the university, despite the rambling thoughts and emotions he used to have and had been too afraid to show.
It was the early 1990’s and Syria had not caught up with the technological revolution yet. Having a landline was a dream that needed a ten-year plan to achieve. “M.F”’s only option was to wander the streets and public parks searching for someone with whom he shared the same feelings and thought; someone who had a place, any place, where they can steal some moments alone and surrender to the desires that raged inside them.
The nineteen-year-old gave in to his mother’s wishes of an arranged marriage to one of his relatives. For a while, he thought that his desire for men would eventually die; he relied on prayer and the Quran to help him in his journey. He also focused his attention on studying, even more than on his marriage.
Only a few months passed by before he started loathing his wife’s body that lay in their bed next to him. Although he was doing his marital duties, he could not sleep next to her. So, he started sleeping in the living room turning its sofa into his perpetual sleeping bed; he is still sleeping on that sofa until now. That decision sparked the expected problems with his wife; they separated several times but she returned to him every time.
Years passed by, during which their strange relationship did not prevent them from having a son and two daughters. He thought that his luck is changing when he was granted a master scholarship abroad. He spent two years before he coming back to a wife and four children; his wife had given birth to a third daughter while he was studying. Having four children proved too difficult for his troubled relationship with his wife and they separated for a long time.
After two years of studying abroad, “M.F” came back with the same level of religiousness. But he was able to reconcile with his desires and started to look for a partner to share a secret life with. He found what he was looking for in a young man a few years his junior. He fell in love with him and they started to meet more frequently before they tried to rent an apartment where they can get together from time to time. This relationship started before he and his wife separated and continued until after they did.
He thought that life started to smile, and that he would be able to continue with his secret relationship in peace; he was fulfilling all his responsibilities towards his family, and at the same time, he had a lover with whom he can be his true self. That smile did not last for long.
His wife found out about his sexual orientation and started threating to tell his family. He did not comply, so she told his and his lover’s families about their secret relationship. Having some photos the two lovers took helped her prove that she was not lying. Then his journey with pain, persecution, threats and torture began.
Months passed by with “M.F” living in constant fear until one day, one of his brothers fired a gun at him in an attempt to intimidate him into going back to his wife and remaining faithful to her without causing any more scandals. “M.F”’s wound was superficial and after his brothers bandaged it, they handcuffed him to a toilet, beat him, and urinated on him until he complied with their conditions.
He went back to his wife, who still follows him, threatening to expose his sexual orientation to his employers and colleagues this time around, if he even thought of trying to meet or have sex with someone. She even taught their own son to humiliate him with the word “sodomite” or “faggot” when they argue about something.
Some scars on “M.F”’s body are still visible as an evidence of his family’s brutality. His life is yet an example of the troubles and hardships gays in Syria still have to go through. But “M.F” doesn’t even consider it to be a life; his life has been taken hostage and he was prohibited from living. Every time he manages to steal a moment to speak with a gay friend of his, he says, “I just want to live. I just want them to let me live. My life is like death…”
interviews by: Sami Hamwi
translations by: Nour Maarrawi
translations edited by: Adam Domari