UNITED NATIONS — Syrian refugee Subhi Nahas watched in fear as the al-Qaida-linked group Nusra Front took over his hometown of Idlib and began torturing and executing men suspected of being gay. Then, with the rise of Islamic State, came videos of gay men being hurled from buildings.
If the victims did not die from the fall, they were stoned to death.
“This was to be my fate, too,” Nahas told a closed-door informal meeting of the United Nations Security Council Monday. The meeting was organized by the United States and Chile to draw attention to “brutal attacks” by the militants.
“I was terrified to go out. Nor was my home safe, as my father, who suspiciously monitored my every move, had learned I was gay. I bear a scar on my chin as a token of his rage,” Nahas said, according to a text of his prepared remarks.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said this was the first time the Security Council had discussed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
“It is impossible not to take up the struggle for their rights as our own as we have other great human rights struggles,” she told the meeting, according to her prepared remarks. “Today, we take a small but important step in assuming that work. It must not be our last step.”
Security Council members are not required to attend informal meetings. Angola and Chad were not present, diplomats said. The meeting was also open to all other U.N. member states.
Islamic State has declared a caliphate in territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria.
An Iraqi man identified as Adnan told his story to the Security Council by telephone from an undisclosed location, as he said he was still not safe.
“In my society, being gay means death and when [Islamic State] kills gays most people are happy because they think we are evil, and [Islamic State] gets a good credit for that,” he said, according to his prepared remarks.
“My own family turned against me when [Islamic State] was after me,” said Adnan, who fled his home. “If [Islamic State] didn’t get me, members of my family would have done it.”
Adnan said Islamic State militants hunt down gay people through cell phone and Facebook contacts of people they capture.
Nahas fled Syria to Lebanon, then moved to Turkey.
“Death threats followed me to Turkey. A former school friend from Idlib named Khalil had joined [Islamic State]. He relayed through a mutual friend that he wanted to kill me, aiming to go to paradise,” he said. “I was terrified.”
Nahas has settled in the U.S. and works with the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration to help governments and refugee agencies build their capacity to protect LGBT refugees.