Nayyef and Btoo, a gay Iraqi couple, were recently broadcasted on the Ellen Degeneres show. The two have a documentary Out of Iraq that will be released soon.
The two met in an Iraqi war zone: one of them an Iraqi soldier, the other an interpreter. Love in the midst of a war, it is a love story sure to be remembered.
However, their love story is not a typical one in the Iraqi region, or even the greater Middle East.
Their love is dangerous and illegal, that may have resulted in their death. Not just at the hands of terrorists, but at the hands of the governments that serve to protect the people.
Currently four Middle Eastern countries serve their people with a death penalty if they are accused of homosexuality: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.
Countries such as Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Oman, and the Gaza Strip territory of Palestine, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates have all made homosexuality explicitly illegal with punishments such as jail time or fines.
Although the Iraqi government has not explicitly banned homosexuality, it is still dangerous for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Death or banishment could be the result of family and friends who can no longer be associated with a gay family member or friend.
Now residing in gay-friendly Seattle, the pair is able to breath and openly expresses their love for one another. They are now married and happier than ever in their new home.
Ellen named them “everyday heroes” for their courage of coming out, for being a beacon of hope for the persecuted middle eastern LGBT community.
In order to give back for all the support that they have received, the couple said that their work includes: “The LGBT youth who come from the Middle East, we help them with a place to stay for the first time, we explain about the culture.”
The LGBT community of the Middle East will preserve, and hopefully in the near future, will be able to freely love one another in their own homes.