This gay couple overcame all odds to be together after meeting by chance during the Iraq war.
Nayyef Hrebid worked as an interpreter in the US army and Betu Allami fought with the Iraqi Army.
They met during a dangerous mission to reclaim a hospital which had been overtaken by insurgents.
The couple, when they first met, got time together in a safe house, and would eat a meal, before sitting outside in the garden, talking for hours.
Speaking about the ordeal with KUOW Public Radio, Hrebid says the conversations were what kept him going during the difficult time.
“Because, you know, we see dead people. We fight. So what we talk about is our life and past, about how we feel, about where we like to be in the future,” Hrebid said.
“And that was very beautiful in that difficult moment,” he went on.
The couple at the time weren’t out as gay, but both say they knew they had feelings for one another.
After four days together, Allami said: “I love you”, and Hrebid kissed him.
The result? Allami says he didn’t eat for two days.
The couple took huge risks with their relationship in Iraq, whee they could both be sent to jail for up to 15 years.
“To be gay in Iraq, it’s very dangerous,” Hrebid said.
“It’s losing your life. You get shame to the family. You lose your family, and you lose your friends, you lose everything almost. That is why there is other ways to be gay, just between you and maybe the other person.”
Overcoming all odds, the couple managed to keep their love a secret for five years, and with the help of friends, they occasionally managed to meet up privately to spend time together.
It was not the couple’s sexual orientations which put them in danger, however. After militants began writing the names of the interpreters, Hrebid feared for his life.
He said he was unable to make contact with his family, and he was branded a traitor.
Eventually Hrebid was granted asylum, but the pair had to stay in touch as Allami remained in Iraq.
They were eventually reunited but not before Allami’s family found out he was gay.
Allami managed to get to Vancouver, Canada, so at least they could see each other bi-weekly.
Then in 2015, they were both granted visas to remain in the US.
“That day was one of my biggest days, ever. We went there and I had a bunch of paper, photos and letters to prove our relationship. And the interview was only 10 minutes. She asked specific questions about how we met, how long we’ve been together, and how we connect with each other. After that she said, ‘You’ve been approved for a visa to live in the United States,'” Hrebid said.
After screaming and crying, he realised he would actually be able to live his life with the man he loves.
“I want to wake up to up see him in front me. And when I close my eyes, he’s the last face I see,” he says.
The couple now live on Capitol Hill in Seattle, and describe their apartment as a “palace”.