LGBT+ activist flees Jordan and is finally ‘supported, seen and heard’ in Australia

Lily Wakefield January 16, 2022
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The Sydney Opera House is lit up in rainbow colours

The Sydney Opera House is lit up in rainbow colours. (SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty/ Toby Forage)

After an 18-month fight, an LGBT+ activist who fled Jordan is finally “supported, seen and heard” in their new home in Australia.

AlShaima Omama AlZubi, 25, who identifies as a non-binary lesbian, has been a “victim of rape, sexual assaults, torture, forced marriage, forced conversion therapy, forced hospitalisation, and forced veiling abuse that dates back to their childhood”, according to Amnesty.

AlZubi, an LGBT+ and women’s rights defender, comes from a powerful family, with many members working for Jordan’s government, and whose “influence extends across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq”.

They first fled to Turkey from Jordan in July 2020, and later made it to Lebanon, planning to travel onwards to Australia on a humanitarian visa.

But in December, 2021, they were stripped of their passport and detained by Lebanese authorities for five days, who told them there was an Interpol Red Notice out of their arrest. During this time, Amnesty suspected that the Jordanian embassy in Lebanon was working on having them repatriated.

Finally, after tireless work by NGOs and Australian diplomats, AlZubi was able to board a flight to Australia on 30 December.

Speaking to SBS News, they said that since arriving, they have begun seeing a therapist and are finding their place within the local LGBT+ community.

They said: “Now I feel supported, seen, heard and treated like a human being regardless of my beliefs, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

“[I want to] move on in my life, continue my education, [and have] a great career and independence.

“Finally I have the chance to be myself without people shaming me and trying to kill me for it.”

In a message “to all of the women and the LGBTIQ+ community in the Middle East”, they added: “There’s always a way to be free. We just need the right people to help us.

“Never be ashamed of being yourself, never be sorry for who you are. Don’t let religion or anyone control your being. No one on Earth can be you.”

While homosexuality was decriminalised in Jordan in 1951, LGBT+ people face frequent harassment, discrimination and violence.

There are no laws to protect queer people from discrimination, no recognition of same-sex relationships, and one 2019 study found that 93 per cent of Jordanians believe that society should not accept homosexuality.

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