[Produced alongside Thomson Reuters Foundation’s digital correspondent Avi Asher-Schapiro and published here on June 3, 2021]
When he was growing up in a small Egyptian town outside Cairo, Omar began feeling sexually attracted to other men. Too afraid to talk to family or friends, he turned to Facebook for help, shielding his identity with a false name.
Scouring social media for information and advice is a common recourse for young men and women who think they may be gay and live in socially conservative Arab societies.
But it can lead them to therapists, spiritual leaders and influencers promising to “cure the affliction” of homosexuality through so-called conversion therapy – practices that aim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
[Published here on November 20, 2019]
Baghdad (AFP) – The threat came by anonymous Instagram message one late Iraqi evening, making Hala’s blood run cold: “I’ve got all your pictures and recordings. Shall I send them to your dad?”
[Published on AFP’s Correspondent Blog on May 24, 2019]
Mosul — “There are families living in this alleyway.” The Arabic words were hand-painted in red, black, and blue on a tattered canvas, pinned up where a small side street led off a main thoroughfare in Iraq’s Mosul. The alleyway looked anything but livable — bullet holes and craters from mortar rounds still scarred the walls around it nearly two years after the fighting had stopped, and sewage water gurgled down the cracked pavement. The banner, my AFP colleagues said, was hung to alert passing aid groups to needy residents eking out a living, unseen, in the battered labyrinth of west Mosul.
[Published here January 2, 2019]
Dark skies were threatening rain over the Kurdish village in northern Iraq, but one woman refused to budge from outside the front door. Inside were two girls at risk of genital mutilation.
[Published here on October 22, 2017]
“Special operations by the Caliphate’s soldiers!” boasts a torn, blood-stained pamphlet at a bombed-out media kiosk in Syria’s Raqa, a symbol of the Islamic State group’s once fearsome propaganda machine. Continue reading
[Published here April 27, 2015 with photos]
Syrian rock bands fleeing war are finding safety and new fans in neighbouring Lebanon, where they are revitalising a Westernised scene with their focus on Arabic musical heritage.
Dozens of Syrian bands and independent artists have now become mainstays of the Beirut music scene, performing emotive and often bleak songs in front of concert-goers eager for fresh faces.
Men chant ‘Ya Hussein’ as they beat their heads. Image by James Haines-Young
[Published here November 18, 2013]
KFAR RUMMAN — THE excruciating wail could be heard without the microphones. On November 14th, thousands of women clad in black abayas and children watched the army of the caliph Yazid slaughter Hussein, a grandson and would-be heir of the Prophet Muhammad, in a theatrical recreation of the battle in 680 AD that split Islam into its Sunni and Shia branches.
Below the stage in this town in southern Lebanon, groups of young men prepared themselves for a bloodier part of Ashura, as the day of mourning for Hussein’s death is known. Men used razors to carve small incisions on the scalps of the men and boys, some as young as two-years-old. Cries of “Ya Hussein, Ya Hussein” echoed through the streets as men pounded their foreheads, blood streaming down their faces.