A posed portrait of Sally. Sally has been in Lebanon for 7 months. “I ran away from Syria because I was running away from ISIS. One of my family members is now with ISIS. Because of him, I ran away here. He was in charge of investigations in ISIS. They want to catch and kill the gays. My last partner was kidnapped and interrogated by ISIS. I’m 90% sure they killed him. To kill someone they will choose the highest building and push him from it. They are worse than the Syrian investigation services. The gay people are treated as if they have a contagious disease. In Islam you are given the chance to ask for mercy and to re-enter Islam and follow the Islamic law. But ISIS considers gays as a contagious disease, so that’s why they kill them.” Sally says her friend will be forced to name all the LGBT people he knows, including Sally. Then they will be hunted. “Some of my other gay friends were captured and stoned to death, one pushed from the roof of a building, one was shot in the head – because of their sexuality. They had no proof – in Islam they say you have to have three witnesses, and caught in action, but they didn’t have any, they just killed them because they knew they were gay. I can never go back to Syria, the door of my parents and my country has been shut in my face. If I went back, they would kill me. The regime will take me directly to military service where I will die. ISIS will execute me – they will throw me from a building. Before they would shoot them. Now they push everyone from the buildings.” Discussing his identity Sally says, “On the inside I’m a woman, from the outside – I don’t know maybe half/half. I’m a woman and not a man, I don’t even consider myself a gay person, what can I do. I’m planning to do my sex transition.” Sally has a short-term job teaching literacy to refugees to survive as well as receiving some support from NGOs. She is waiting for resettlement. Beirut, Lebanon. February 2015.
Where Love Is Illegal, says Paris-based photographer and human rights advocate Robin Hammond, began with five gay men fighting for survival in Nigeria after having been arrested and tortured. They were living in hiding from the public, afraid and without homes; their story continues to haunt Hammond, to anger him, and to spur him forward in his journey towards giving voice and a platform to LGBTQI individuals suffering abuses that remain untold and invisible to the world at large.