Where LGBTQ War Refugees Finally Feel Safe
When you’re queer in the Middle East, escaping war doesn’t mean you’ve escaped the people who want you dead.
Photos by Danielle Villasana
Seventeen-year-old Haron sits on a bench in Gezi Park, unsure of what to do next. Night is falling as rain clouds begin to roll over Istanbul. With just $50 in his pocket and no place to go, he finds a nearby tree, unzips his suitcase, and covers himself with jackets and sweaters. Rain hits his face as the magnitude of his journey from Syria begins to settle.
It’s November 2015 and Haron is a refugee who fled duel dangers: the civil war that has torn apart his country, and the constant abuse he received from his community for being gay. Haron arrived in Turkey with hopes of reaching a more LGBTQ-friendly place in Europe. But with little money, his journey is at a halt, and without a plan, he is left stranded and alone.
“I arrived in Istanbul that day and didn’t know anyone,” Haron recounted in a recent interview. “I lived in the park for two months, and every day I’d wake up to police in my face telling me to get up and go somewhere else.” (Like others interv…