'Syrian gays are not just bodies thrown off buildings' - Mr Gay Syria defies Isis in his hotpants after beheading of boyfriend
The newly-crowned Mr Gay Syria has said he is determined to show a different side of his country’s LGBT community.
Hussein Sabat (24) said he is dismayed that the most visible members of the Syrian gay community are the dead.
“I want to show that Syrian gays are not just bodies thrown off buildings by Isis; we have dreams and ideas and we want to live our lives.
“Of course we were nervous but we’re excited – we all wanted to be Mr Gay Syria to do something empowering,” he told the Daily Mail.
In 2013, the terror group beheaded his long-term partner, and Mr Sabat received the horrifying execution video.
“I was with Zakaria for four years, but three years ago Isis beheaded him. They sent the execution video to his family – his mother almost went crazy and I couldn’t speak for a month,” he said.
At the competition, Mr Sabat and four other men had three minutes each to perform for the crowd in Istanbul, before audience members voted for their favourite contestant.
While one showed off his dance skills while wearing high heels, another competitor opted for a strip tease.
Mr Sabat performed a monologue about the painful experiences of gay Arab men.
“I played a character speaking to his mother at her grave about the difficulties of being gay,” he said.
Husseun left Syria two years ago when ISIS and Syrian regime shells fell close to his home if Afrin, northern Aleppo.
He now lives in Istanbul, but said he still doesn’t feel safe there, as nine months ago he was victim to a brutal beating on his way home from work.
“I was talking on the phone with my boyfriend and a Syrian guy overheard me. He called me a f****t, and I made the mistake of answering back.
“I asked him, ‘do you know me?’ and he said, ‘you’re Syrian and you’re putting us all to shame’.”
The man, accompanied by a number of friends, began to hit him in the face and gut so badly that he couldn’t open his eyes fully for a month afterwards.
His family doesn’t even know he is gay, despite living with him in Istanbul.
“Anybody in my situation would be scared and I’m not prepared to lose my family for any reason. But they will find out one day and I hope they find out from a stranger and not from me.
“I hope I’m far away from here when they find out – it would be much better if I’m in Europe.
“If they find out I will have to lie to them, they will deny it and take me to a doctor or a sheikh to ‘treat’ me, but if I insist that I am gay, they will kick me out of the house,” he said.
Mr Sabat is campaigning for LGBT rights and for more gay Syrian refugees to be granted asylum in Europe.
He was set to represent Syria at Mr Gay World, but was denied a visa to travel.
“We need to be more public about our sexuality so we can demand our rights. I can’t give advice because some people just can’t leave Syria,” he said.
He added: “Everyone is scared of Isis but it doesn’t stop me from living my life. I won’t let them be a barrier, and I hate them more than I’m scared.”