Hussein Sabat (left) with the organiser of Mr Gay Syria
The winner of Mr Gay Syria is refusing to cower in the shadows, despite his boyfriend’s beheading by Isis militants.
Hussein Sabat, who now lives in exile in Turkey, has revealed that his first boyfriend was executed by the radical group in Syria.
Despite still fearing for his safety, Sabat won’t hide his sexuality any longer and was one of five Syrian men who recently competed for the Mr Gay Syria title at a small, low-key event in Istanbul.
“Of course we were nervous but we we’re excited – we all wanted to be Mr Gay Syria to do something empowering,” he told the MailOnline.
He explained that he refuses to let extremists define his life. “I want to show that Syrian gays are not just bodies thrown off buildings by ISIS; we have dreams and ideas and we want to live our lives.
“Everyone is scared of Isis but it doesn’t stop me from living my life. I won’t let them be a barrier and I hate them more than I’m scared,” said Sabat.
Sabat, who makes a living as a hairdresser, spoke about the horror of his partner’s beheading.
“I was with Zakaria for four years, but three years ago ISIS beheaded him. They sent the execution video to his family – his mother almost went crazy and I couldn’t speak for a month.”
In Turkey, Sabat can live more openly than in Syria, but he still faces homophobic abuse. Nine months ago he was beaten by two thugs in an anti-gay hate crime.
Although he won the title ahead of Mr Gay World in Malta last month, he was unable to attend because he was denied a Schengen visa. Another contestant, Mahmoud Hassino, stood in for him at the international event.
Since June 2014, Isis has proudly distributed images and videos of dozens of brutal public killings of gay men and those accused of being gay.
It’s been claimed that in some cases undercover Isis members set up ‘dates’ with gay men in order to lure, capture and execute them.
Isis is a proponent of a radical interpretation of sharia religious law which allows for the execution of people for “morality” crimes, including adultery and homosexuality.
Most victims of Isis gay executions have been beheaded, thrown off the top of buildings or stoned.