Mr Gay Syria stands defiant against extremists who beheaded his boyfriend
The 24-year-old wants to show that Syrian gay men are more than ‘bodies thrown off buildings’.
In a defiant stand against Islamic State, a group of gay men recently came together to throw the country’s first Mr Gay competition.
The men battled it out to become the public face of the war-torn country’s LGBT community, whilst highlighting the issues facing gay and trans Syrian refugees.
The newly crowned winner, Hussein Sabat, insists he feels more hatred towards the terror group rather than fear.
“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.
“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,” he told the MailOnline.
“Of course we were nervous but we we’re excited – we all wanted to be Mr Gay Syria to do something empowering.”
Sabat has felt the effects of Islamic State firsthand, after his boyfriend was murdered four years ago.
“I was with Zakaria for four years, but three years ago ISIS beheaded him,” he explained.
“They sent the execution video to his family – his mother almost went crazy and I couldn’t speak for a month.”
The competition took place in Istanbul, where Sabat fled with his family – who he says would disown him if they knew he was gay – two years ago.
Despite feeling more liberated in Turkey, they still face homophobia and discrimination.
The group say they hope the competition will highlight the issues facing LGBT refugees and help more gain refuge to Europe – a place they say they can truly be themselves.
Daesh militants last month executed a teenaged boy in Syria for being gay by throwing him off a roof.
The group has executed hundreds of men for homosexuality as it expands beyond its strongholds.