LGBT rights in Syria

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LGBT rights in the
Syrian Arab Republic
Syria (orthographic projection).svg
StatusIllegal (de jure)
(Syrian Arab Republic)
PenaltyUp to 3 years in prison[1], vigilante attacks, beatings, torture, vigilante executions[2][3]
Gender identityYes
Discrimination protectionsNone
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex unions

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the Syrian Arab Republic face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Article 520 of the penal code of 1949, prohibits "carnal relations against the order of nature", and provides for up to three years' imprisonment.[4][5]

In territories controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham—a rebel group which controls around 7% of Syria—LGBT Syrians are arrested, beaten, and executed.[6][7]

Mahmoud Hassino, a gay Syrian opposition activist and journalist who started the online magazine Mawaleh, notes that regardless of the outcome of the civil war, work needs to be done in the civil right area on behalf of all Syrians, not just the LGBT community. Miral Bioredda, a secular leader of the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, said "Personally I see homosexuality as a private matter. But Syrian society would say "no way" if gays rose to claim their rights. Developing a civil society will take time." Nasradeen Ahme, a member of the Free Syrian Army which works to bring down the government of Bashar al-Assad, said "If I was in charge I would enforce tougher laws against homosexuals. If someone said homosexuals should be stoned to death as in Iran and Saudi Arabia, I would not object."[8]

The government and the opposition typically being unaccepting of homosexuality often leaves LGBTQ+ Syrians being confused which side to stand by and thus prevents them from participating in the future political decision of their homeland.

LGBT history in Syria

2003: LGBT rights first recognised by UN

In 2003 Syria, in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, voted to postpone a United Nations draft resolution on human rights and sexual orientation. The vote was 24–17. The draft resolution would have the Commission express deep concern at the occurrence of violations of human rights in the world against persons on the grounds of their sexual orientation; stress that human rights and fundamental freedoms were the birthright of all human beings, and that the universal nature of these rights and freedoms was beyond question; and call upon all States to promote and protect the human rights of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation.

2004: Legislation of transgender rights

Sex reassignment surgery is legal in Syria. In 2004, a Syrian woman named Hiba came forward as a transgender woman who had been given permission to have a sex change operation.[9]

2010: Political interference

In 2010, the Syrian police began a crackdown that led to the arrest of over 25 men. The men were charged with various crimes ranging from homosexual acts and illegal drug use, to encouraging homosexual behavior and organizing obscene parties.[10]

2011: Social movements and virtual organising

After 2011, the LGBT community in Syria started to demand rights more openly, and campaigns outside of Syria started to spread awareness about LGBT rights. That was greatly affected by the expanding number of Syrian immigrants and refugees who found more opportunities to speak out.

Many LGBT Syrian refugees participated in gay pride parades around the world.[11][12]

2015: International concerns

In August 2015, the UN Security Council met in a session on LGBT rights co-sponsored by the U.S. and Chile. The council heard testimony from refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq. In ISIS-held areas, the refugees reported increased violence against women and members of the LGBT community. They reported that ISIS had claimed to have executed at least 30 people for "sodomy".[13] This was the first time in its 70-year history that the UN Security Council had discussed LGBT concerns.[14]

LGBT life in Syria


In 1971, Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani wrote "The Evil Poem", in which he described a sexual relationship between two women.[15]

Before 2011, a gay tour was organized by Bertho. It was the first and the only gay tour in the middle east, choosing Damascus and Aleppo as one of their main destinations in the middle east. "And it was the best destination ever", he says. "We’d go on tours of the hammams in Aleppo, and in Damascus it was a paradise for gay people. We never had any problems, never ever".[16]

They tour passed by Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Since the beginning of the civil war, the tour stopped its activities in Syria due to the increase of terrorism caused by Islamic extremists.[17]

Furthermore, areas of Damascus that were previously underground hubs where LGBT would meet, and were practically the only places in Syria where an underground LGBT scene could even exist, have been eradicated since the Civil War began and most cultural pursuits have stopped.[18]

LGBT movies and series

On 19 October 2017, Mr. Gay Syria was released. Written and directed by Ayse Toprak, the movie follows two gay Syrian refugees who are trying to rebuild their lives.[19]

A Lesbian Tale, a short movie, was filmed in Syria. It was published by Maxim Diab on 16 January 2014.[20]


With the development of modernization, society were moving forward to being nuclear families and social tolerance toward LGBT people were gradually declining, until the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. Due to the emergence of the war, society has become more tolerant of LGBT people. Safety, water, and food are their primary concerns, income, and education followed with the necessity.

HIV/AIDS issues

The first reported cases of HIV infection were in 1987.[21]

In 2005, the Deputy Minister of Religious Endowments publicly stated that HIV/AIDS was divine punishment for people who engaged in fornication and homosexuality. That same year, the Health Ministry stated that only 369 people in Syria were infected with HIV and that the government offers such people "up-to-date medicines to combat this disease freely".[22] Non-governmental organizations estimate that there are truly at least five times that many, and the United Nations chastised the government for its ineffective prevention methods.[23][24]

Beyond tolerating the work of some NGOs, the government has established voluntary clinics that can test for HIV/AIDS and distribute some educational pamphlets, but comprehensive public education, especially for LGBT people, does not exist.[25]

Instead, the government launched a limited HIV/AIDS educational program for youth in secondary schooling.[26]

Political support

As part of the Rights in Exile Programme, the International Refugee Rights Initiative has compiled a resource page for LGBTI citizens of the Syrian Arab Republic.[5]

Abdulrahman Akkad Story

In July 2017, a Syrian young man residing in Germany named Abdulrahman Akkad published a live Video on Facebook, in which he announced his sexual orientation and that his family was pressuring him to marry against his will.[27][28]

In July 2020, Abdulrahman Akkad published a picture of him gathering with his family and officially announced that they accepted his sexual orientation and that his family loves him unconditionally, Akkad's family is the first Syrian family to openly accept their gay son[29] his story was covered by many Arab and German media,[30][31] and Akkad's story was mentioned in the human rights session in the German Parliament in 2020[32] by German philosopher David Berger.[33][34]

One of you (2020)

"One of you", or in Arabic "واحد منكن" (pron: wahed menkon), is a social media movement that started on Facebook at first in 2020, then moved to Twitter for easier recognition. It launched around March in Syria, then followed by the Arab community.[35] Continued for a month afterwards, but due to recent events at that time, mostly being about the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend died.

It started with university students painting the LGBT flag colors on their fingers, with the hashtag #oneofyou on their hand, taking a picture with a faculty building while raising the hand, and posting it from various accounts. Most people who started the trend did not post from their personal social media accounts out of fear of being recognized, instead; they sent the picture to various pages from fake accounts to publish on their behalf.

Reactions varied, from people defending the trend, to others promising blood, to people who participated afterwards.

No incidents happened while the trend was ongoing, no casualties, just online discussions. Some escalated into heated arguments, but nothing happened as the trend died.

In the Diaspora

Syrian LGBTQ+ refugees; among other ones from different nationalities are facing discrimination and exclusion in the hosting countries based on other factors such as race, language, skin color and religious background. [36]

Summary table

Right Legal status
Same-sex sexual activity No Up to 3 years imprisonment in the Syrian Arab Republic[1] vigilante attacks, beatings, torture, vigilante executions[37][38]
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriage No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military No[39]
Right to change legal gender Yes check.svg Transgender people are allowed to change legal gender. Sex reassignment surgery is allowed for people whose gender is unclear or whose physical features do not match their physiological, biological and genetic characteristics, first case was reported in 2004.[9]
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Not legal even for heterosexual couples).[40]
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also


  1. ^ a b "Syria - GlobalGayz News Archive".
  2. ^ "Al-Qa`ida Uncoupling: Jabhat al-Nusra's Rebranding as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham". Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. 22 August 2016.
  3. ^ "[Letter from Damascus] | We Don't Have Rights, But We Are Alive, by James Harkin | Harper's Magazine - Part 3". Harper's Magazine. 1 February 2016.
  4. ^ "Syrian Arabic Republic" (PDF). Equal Rights Trust.
  5. ^ a b "Syrian Arab Republic LGBTI Resources | Rights in Exile Programme". Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Al-Qa`ida Uncoupling: Jabhat al-Nusra's Rebranding as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham". Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. 22 August 2016.
  7. ^ "[Letter from Damascus] | We Don't Have Rights, But We Are Alive, by James Harkin | Harper's Magazine - Part 3". Harper's Magazine. 1 February 2016.
  8. ^ "Gays join the Syrian uprising | DW | 07.09.2012". DW.COM.
  9. ^ a b "Syria: Cleric saves transsexual". Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  10. ^ Brocklebank, Christopher (23 June 2010). "Syrian authorities crack down on gay men". Pink News. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  11. ^ Kassam, Ashifa (4 July 2016). "Syrian refugee marches beside Justin Trudeau in Canadian pride parade". The Guardian.
  12. ^ Brekke, Kira (6 September 2016). "After Years of Repression in Syria, This Gay Refugee Just Celebrated His First Pride Parade". Huff Post.
  13. ^ Westcott, Lucy (25 August 2015). "Gay Refugees Addresses U.N. Security Council in Historic Meeting on LGBT Rights". Newsweek.
  14. ^ "UN Security Council holds first meeting on LGBT rights". Al Jazeera. 24 August 2015.
  15. ^ "Fetishization for the Sake of Representation: Poetry and Cis-Power". 10 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Meet 'the First and Only Gay Tour Guide in the Arab Middle East'". Vice. 24 July 2013.
  17. ^ "Meet 'the First and Only Gay Tour Guide in the Arab Middle East'". Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  18. ^ "LGBT community finds Damascus more open". Al-Monitor. 15 December 2014.
  19. ^ "Mr Gay Syria - Crowdfunding teaser - YouTube".
  20. ^ "A Lesbian Tale | حكاية مثلية "Short Film" - YouTube".
  21. ^ "Syrian Arab Republic" (PDF). 2004. p. 2.
  22. ^ "369 infected with AIDS in Syria". Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  23. ^ "". 16 June 2006. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  24. ^ "EGYPT-SYRIA: Governments criticised for approach against HIV/AIDS". 7 June 2006. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  25. ^ "". United Nations .sy. Archived from the original on 24 April 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  26. ^ "" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  27. ^ "الحبّ انتصر!... شاب سوري مثليّ الجنس يُعلن تصالح والديه معه". رصيف 22. 27 July 2020. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  28. ^ "في فلك الممنوع - مـجتـمع الـميم/عين.. مــيــم تصرخ أنا مثلــكــم وعــيــن تعـجـب من عنفكم!". فرانس 24 / France 24 (in Arabic). 3 September 2021. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  29. ^ DW Stories - A five-year wait for acceptance after coming out | Facebook, retrieved 29 September 2021
  30. ^ DW عربية - حوار حصري مع لاجئ سوري مثلي وقصة معاناته | Facebook, retrieved 29 September 2021
  31. ^ "Flüchtlinge: Angst vor anderen Flüchtlingen, weil sie sich für Frauen oder Schwule einsetzen". (in German). 1 February 2020. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  32. ^ "Deutscher Bundestag - 14. Bericht der Bundesregierung über ihre Menschenrechtspolitik..." Deutscher Bundestag (in German). Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  33. ^ PP-Redaktion (21 November 2019). "Abdulrahman Akkad: Er floh aus Syrien, kritisierte den Islam und wird nun in Deutschland zensiert". Philosophia Perennis (in German). Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  34. ^ Berger, David (1 July 2020). "Islamophob? Instagram löscht Profil von atheistischem, homosexuellen Islamkritiker". Philosophia Perennis (in German). Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  35. ^ "At home and abroad, LGBT Syrians fight to have their voices heard". Syria Direct. 11 October 2020. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  36. ^ Secker, Bradley (9 March 2020). "'Gayropa': challenges and hopes of Europe's LGBT+ refugees – in pictures". the Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  37. ^ "Al-Qa`ida Uncoupling: Jabhat al-Nusra's Rebranding as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham". Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. 22 August 2016.
  38. ^ "[Letter from Damascus] | We Don't Have Rights, But We Are Alive, by James Harkin | Harper's Magazine - Part 3". 1 February. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  39. ^ "'The Queer Insurrection': Coalition forces fighting Isis in Syria form first LGBT unit". The Independent. 25 July 2017. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  40. ^ "Surrogacy law: regulated, unregulated".
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