When my friend first approached me with the idea of Mawaleh, I was a bit hesitant but also loved the idea of being part of the first LGBT magazine in Syria.
At first, I thought it would be an easy part-time job that would help me fill my spare time, but after working on a couple of issues, I realized that it took a lot more time and effort than I thought.
I work on the sections about International News and Sexual Health and I chose those parts because they do not involve as much literary writing as the others. However, looking for interesting news that would suit the audience of the magazine proved to be a gruesome task.
Another thing that I didn’t expect would take a lot of time, was the graphic design of each issue. Mahmoud and Nour mostly take care of that part, but it usually involves a lot of effort on their part, to publish the issue on time.
I have some previous experience with translation and when we decided to publish an English issue, I volunteered to edit the translations of the Arabic articles. In a way, I find translation to be more fun and challenging than writing because you have to communicate the authors’ thoughts to the readers of the other language without letting your own understanding of the written material interfere in the process.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that after working on Mawaleh for a few months; I have a new found respect for journalists and publishers.
Gay Life in Syria during the War:
Although I’ve known I was gay since I was 13 year-old, I didn’t have the courage to act on it until a couple of years ago. I created an account on an online gay dating site and started meeting other gay guys.
I was a very isolated teenager who lived in his own world and I was surprised that I hadn’t noticed earlier how visible the gay scene was in Damascus. You can easily spot gay people holding hands or just walking down the street in groups.
Around the same time, demonstrations started breaking out around Syria and soon they escalated into violent clashes with security forces. A few months later, the situation deteriorated into a full-scale war between armed opposition forces and the Syrian regime.
I find it a very interesting experience – maybe even ironic – that once I started enjoying my life and accepting my sexual identity, a civil war broke out in my country. Most of the time I’m filled with all these contradicting feelings; I’m excited about my new date with this cute guy but at the same time I’m scared we might die from a bombing or mortar shelling.
Another thing that startled me is how normal life can be during war. We get used to hearing gunshots, shelling and bombings. We get used to the news of massacres and the escalating number of casualties. We get used to death.
When my parents used to tell me about news they used to hear about the civil war in neighboring Lebanon, I always used to think to myself “if the same ever happened here, I would just pack my bags and leave”. Now that I’ve lived through a civil war for a year or so, I realize that life can be normal even in wartimes. I am still going to work and hanging out with my friends, albeit my curfew has moved back to 9 PM. I never imagined I’d be able to do all sorts of every-day life tasks in such times. I never thought I’d be able to laugh and be happy – even if only for a few hours – while a neighborhood less than 3 KMs away was being shelled.
On the down side, I think we’ve all lost a piece of our soul. It shouldn’t be acceptable or normal to be surrounded by death as much as we are without being emotionally affected. Yet, we have to let go a little and try to lead as normal a life as possible. Otherwise, we would just sink into sadness and depression to no avail.
A lot of you might think that this is selfish or inhumane but after a while we need to move on. Because the sad truth is, life goes on. With or without anyone, it just keeps moving forward.
Like every other Syrian, the civil war drastically changed my life. However, it also made me a stronger person. It made me realize that no matter how unbearable life gets, we always find a way to cope and move on.
R.I.P Syrian Martyrs
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