By Elise Adams
Subhi Nahas, a 28-year-old gay refugee from Syria, served as a grand marshal at the New York City Pride Parade on Sunday. Nahas came to the United States in 2015 after years of persecution and oppression.
Nahas faced abuse from his family as an adolescent after his therapist told his parents of his sexual orientation, and the outbreak of war in 2011 brought new dangers as his hometown, Idlib in northern Syria, fell to Al Qaeda. In Idlib, where ISIS also has had a presence, militants have routinely stoned gay men to death and thrown them off rooftops.
Nahas decided to flee Syria in 2012 after a bus he was traveling on was stopped at a roadside checkpoint by regime soldiers. Nahas was taken to a detention facility where he was isolated and harassed for hours. He was released with no explanation, but at that point decided Syria was no longer safe.
Nahas left for Lebanon, where a gay friend of his had gone a few months prior. Nahas worked as a humanitarian activist in Lebanon for six months before traveling to Turkey, where residents were more welcoming to the gay community. He lived safely in Turkey until he received news that a former classmate of his had joined ISIS and wanted to kill him.
Fearing for his life, he applied for refugee status through the UNHCR in 2014 and safely flew to California in June of 2015. He has been living in San Francisco since last summer, and he has a boyfriend of nine months and a job at a language translation company. He addressed the United Nations Security Council regarding the hardships for gay refugees this year.
Discussing his role as Grand Marshal with the Daily Beast, Nahas marveled at the turn his life had taken. “I never thought that in my entire life I would celebrate myself, or celebrate my sexuality, or that I would be free to do anything at all,” he said “And so to stand there, to be celebrated and to represent a whole community which is still under persecution, was amazing.”