Fighters belonging to the Islamic State jihadist organisation threw a man they accused of being gay from the roof of a two-story building, then published photos of his death online, along with the ruling. This appears to be the first time that the IS group has carried out this type of sentence. Our Observer, a young gay man from Syria who is now a refugee in Turkey, told us about the terror amongst gays living in regions controlled by the IS group.
Fighters from the IS group read aloud the man’s death sentence.
The identity of the man thrown from the roof remains unknown. After being accused of practicing sodomy, he was sentenced by the Islamic court of Wilayat Al-Furat ("the province of the Euphrates"), an administrative division set up by the leaders of the IS group, which now controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq. The ruling, which was published online, reads: "The man who acts in the way of the people of Loth [a Koranic reference to homosexuality] will be thrown from the highest point in the town and will be stoned until death follows.” The macabre photos published online tell the gruesome story of his death: one shows the man being thrown from the roof, another shows him mid-air and a third shows him lying lifeless on the ground.
The exact location of the execution was not mentioned in the jihadists’ online post. However, according to one of our contacts in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, the death sentence was probably carried out in an area located a few kilometres from the city, on the Iraqi side of the border. Our contact has been to the area, which is just east of the Syrian town of Al-Boukamal, and said he recognised it from the photos.
For Romain Caillet, a researcher who studies Islamist movements, “This is the first time that a jihadist group has executed a gay person in this way. The killing of homosexuals is mentioned in the hadiths attributed to the prophet of Islam. Throughout history, jurisconsults have had different ideas about the execution method. The standard method of execution favoured by medieval jurisconsults was to throw the culprit off of a cliff. So the IS group is practicing a literal interpretation of the medieval jurisconsults’ "recommendations.”
There is a real witch hunt going on for gays in areas controlled by the Islamic State group, according to the "Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project." This New York-based organisation seeks to help the most vulnerable refugees in the Middle East, in particular especially the LGBT population. A lawyer for the project explains: "A lot of the LGBT who have escaped from zones in Syria and Iraq under the control of the Islamic State organisation, and who we help to resettle, tell us that some of their gay friends were executed. People suspected of being gay are arrested, interrogated, and tortured. A lot of them are then executed. Very often, the jihadists have no proof that a particular individual is gay. They might be under suspicion for something as simple as the way they walk. Before, if people living in these areas didn’t openly declare their homosexuality, they were left alone. It’s no longer like that. It has become very dangerous for them.”
"The Syrian regime arrests and imprisons, the Islamic State arrests and executes”
I could not reveal my sexual orientation in Syria – my family never would have accepted it. A large majority of Syrian society rejects homosexuality. Under Bashar al-Assad’s regime, gays were in danger of imprisonment. Today, whether they are in ‘freed’ zones or zones controlled by the Syrian army, gays are in danger. The regime arrests and imprisons; the Islamic State group arrests and executes.
As early as the start of 2013, there were already jihadists in Aleppo who would go on to join the Islamic state group. They belonged to many different jihadist groups including Fajr al-Sham al-Islamiya and Jaysh al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar. I knew who they were and so I was careful to conceal my sexual orientation. I was living in total fear. I rarely left by house. I rarely crossed checkpoints: at that time, there were checkpoints manned by the Syrian army but also others controlled by the jihadists. Each time that I passed a checkpoint, whether it belonged to the Syrian army or to the jihadists, I was completely searched – including my phone. You had better not have compromising photos on your phone.
Luckily for me, I left Syria in November 2013, just when the Islamic State organisation took over the city. I was a photographer there for a press agency. My co-workers and I left on foot. We headed to the countryside near Aleppo. Eventually, we got a ride into Turkey. Now, I live in Antakya. I refuse to hide my sexual orientation. I am no longer afraid, even if the Turkish police isn’t exactly gentle with homosexuals. But now, I want to finally be able to express myself. I write for the online magazine Mawaleh, which was created by gay Syrians from the diaspora. We write about all of the persecution we face in Syria and elsewhere. I hope that I will help people open their minds.
Mawaleh is a Syrian magazine that deals with questions of sexual orientation and gender.
The magazine's Facebook page.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Dorothée Myriam Kellou (@dorakellou).