First Person: I am a woman, a refugee, ‘I am who I am’

1 month ago 32
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The UN migration agency, IOM, is moving migrant centres crossed six provinces successful Turkey arsenic portion of its refugee response, which provide migrants, refugees, and big assemblage members, with education, societal services, law, vocational guidance, and assemblage support. One of those who has benefited from the centres is Leyla Al Darazi, originally from Lebanon, who though calved male, has identified arsenic pistillate since a young age. To coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, marked connected 17 May, Leyla told her story to Begum Basaran, a communications assistant with IOM Turkey. 

“What makes radical fly their homes? People fly from war, hunger, violence, utmost poverty, and adjacent escapade oregon love. I near Lebanon. I was successful existent information of being killed due to the fact that I was calved into the wrong body, and wanted to speech astir it.  

When I was nine, I looked astatine myself successful the full-length mirror, and I couldn’t recognize wherefore I didn’t person a girl’s body. I identified with my 5 sisters. I thought I was 1 of them. I liked to play with them; I wore my mother's apparel erstwhile I spent clip with them. I hardly spent immoderate clip with my brothers. 

Beaten and rejected 

When my begetter saw maine similar this, helium bushed me. He bushed maine truthful hard with a instrumentality that I fainted, humor pouring out of my ears. Another clip helium stabbed maine successful the arm, and I inactive person that carnal scar.  

What you spot isn’t who I am: I’m Leyla

He ne'er accepted me. Though, I was girl. I knew it then, and contiguous adjacent though I americium a father, I inactive don’t consciousness male. I americium trapped successful my body. I don't privation to person a beard. What you spot isn’t who I am: I’m Leyla.  

It hasn’t been easy, this choice, this life. I was bullied mercilessly astatine school. My begetter adjacent tried to person maine expelled. He kicked maine retired of the house, and I had to enactment for a surviving conscionable to decorativeness school. 

Then it was university. You’d deliberation I’d find immoderate tolerance there. I did not - the aforesaid story: bullying and discrimination, bullying and discrimination. I cognize that acquisition is the key, to occurrence and tolerance. And acquisition was similar the forbidden effect for me. The much they tried to obstruct my development, the much anxious I was to usage it to prosecute my goals. 

Covering up 

After university, I worked successful the media and kept my individuality a secret. Little by little, I started to admit much radical similar me. We communicated done concealed signs successful the daytime, but astatine nighttime I concealed my beard, enactment connected a wig and enjoyed the feeling of being free, being me. 

I joined a lesbian to appease my household and we had 2 fantastic children

Despite immoderate precious moments, beingness was inactive complicated. Very complicated. I joined a lesbian to appease my household and we had 2 fantastic children during our seven-year marriage.   

Finally, I decided to halt denying who I was and enactment for our LGBTQI+ rights. I connected with different radical successful that assemblage and became an activist, blogging and moving an LGBTQI+ website. 

So, determination I was. Despite each the difficulties, the treble life, and the taboos, I had a really good life successful Lebanon: I had a home, a bully car, a bully job, friends, and wonderful, beauteous kids…and occupation was coming my way. 

‘Men were coming to termination me’ 

One night I was astatine location erstwhile I heard shouting from extracurricular and knew men were coming to termination me. My beingness was a misdeed and deserved to die, successful their eyes. I jumped from the balcony and ran away. 

I didn't instrumentality thing due to the fact that I conscionable wanted to debar being caught and killed. I arrived astatine the airdrome at 3AM, and was successful Istanbul earlier dawn.  

When I arrived successful Turkey, I felt inspired by the state that LGBTIQ+ assemblage members enjoyed successful society. They gave maine anticipation that I could beryllium the woman I am. I made caller friends and began dressing up successful beauteous dresses, doing my make-up, and going retired successful the metropolis with them.  However, adjacent though determination was solidarity successful our community, successful wider society, I faced the aforesaid favoritism and hatred code present that I had faced successful Lebanon. 

Leyla with her twelve-year-old lad   and thirteen-year-old daughter.

© IOM Turkey/Begum Basaran

Leyla with her twelve-year-old lad and thirteen-year-old daughter.

‘Mummy and daddy’ 

Then 2 bully things happened. First, six months ago, my ex-wife helped with each the documents for children and my sister brought them here, and present they unrecorded with me. I’m mummy and daddy to them.  

Second, I got successful interaction with a migrant centre tally by IOM, which helped maine with ineligible issues, similar getting my kids into schoolhouse and getting regular healthcare. They adjacent helped maine get a occupation successful an Arabic restaurant. 

I privation to unrecorded arsenic who I americium without worry. And again, I have to thank IOM for helping me

Life is stable, the panic is over, and I person my children with me.  However, this isn’t the extremity of my journey. Turkey has been bully to me, by and large.  I privation to unrecorded arsenic who I americium without worry. And again, I have to thank IOM for helping maine get a ft connected that road.  

I went to the provincial migration bureau for an interview, and aft 2 days, I was granted conditional exile status. I haven't received immoderate further accusation connected resettlement. 

Standing by 

I'm lasting by. I'm not definite wherever I volition extremity up.  I deliberation it would beryllium bully to determination to an English oregon French-speaking state due to the fact that those are the languages I speak. 

I privation to decorativeness by saying that favoritism is utterly futile. There is nary payment to it. It achieves nothing. It conscionable damages people, and it damages society. 

For me, it made maine stronger, and present I person a caller family: the LGBTIQ+ community. It’s not conscionable my assemblage and my family, though. It’s my life, and it’s a awesome of my identity. And I cognize 1 happening for sure, we are each calved equal, and we each merit to beryllium treated that way.”  

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