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Seeking Sanctuary

When aircrat engineer Sinan Shwaili and a group of fellow activists put up posters in Baghdad, hoping to help other LGBTs, little did they know that their lives would instantly fall apart. Sinan shares with Brian Finnegan his story of terror and murder in Iraq, his desperate light to Ireland, and how he is still forced to live with anti-gay hatred in the Direct Provision system. Portrait by Marek Hajdasz.

‘You are not alone,’ that was our motto.” So says Sinan Shwaili, who before coming to Ireland was a member of a small group of young LGBT+ activists in Iraq, where to be openly gay is life-threatening. “Our group was created so that we could reach out and support others by providing advice and guidance in what it means to be LGBT.”

Sinan worked for Austrian Airlines at Baghdad International Airport, and on the surface, he had a happy, successful life. “It was a good job and it was something I’d wanted to do for many years. Because it was at an international airport, US coalition forces were present every day. The danger, however, did not come from them but from the mafia gangs who would pose as army and police forces. If they suspected you of being homosexual, you would be indiscriminately killed.”

In a society dominated by political parties devoted to the discrimination of anything even close to gay rights, these tribal mafia gangs operate under the guise of law. All the gangs have their own agendas, but all of them have an equal hatred of LGBT+ people. “There was always the constant threat and fear of being discovered,” says Sinan. “When you live in a society where who you love can result in you being condemned to death, it is something that is never far from your mind.”

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About GCN

Our cover star, quintessential queen, Chanel is just one of the Dublin drag queens photographed by the up and coming to Steven Peice for our photo essay, ‘The Dreamers’. “I feel that in a way drag has always been seen as a goofy entertainment, and there’s no real focus on how these men are actually transforming themselves into fully realised fantasies,” Steven says, and we couldn’t agree more. Elsewhere we get a queer flava of what’s on offer in both the Fringe and Dublin Theatre Festivals this year, we ponder why TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) have not made it across the water from England to our fair shores, people who identify under the plus in LGBT+ talk to us about the need to accept expanding queer identities, and we remember the mega-gay anthem that was Cher’s ‘Believe’. It’s a jam-packed issue, of that there can be no doubt!