Throughout the Middle East, as is the case in many parts of the world, LGBTQ individuals often face difficult and extreme hardships because of their sexuality or gender identity.

Where Love Is Illegal, an online platform that shares the stories of LGBTQ individuals from around the world, has featured numerous individuals from the Middle East. These brave people have shared stories ranging from being disowned by family members to abuse, torture and even having friends murdered for their sexuality or gender identity.

Behind the online platform "is a group of people that believe human rights are universal and that persecution based on sexuality or gender identity must end," according to the website.

The global project started as a photo series by Robin Hammond . During his travels, Hammond was shocked by the human rights abuses of homosexual and transgender individuals and wanted to tell their stories.

Eventually the project developed and the online platform was born. It has become, "a space where people can share stories of discrimination and survival. It is a stand against discrimination, persecution, and violence, by a people who cannot and will not be anything other than the way they were born–a people who refuse to be silenced."

The stories shared on Where Love Is Illegal come from every corner of the world; from North America, to South America, to Africa, to Europe, to Asia. Here are a few of the heartbreaking stories from the Middle East.


“I have been living in hell since my family kicked me out of the house six years ago... I didn't think that there is an 'illegal human being’!” @selfmademale  is a #transgender  man from #Kuwait  who has been ostracized and imprisoned because of his gender identity. 


“My older brother came to my house. He showed me a gun and said ‘you destroyed the honor of our family, be prepared to die’.” Fearing for his life, Khalaf, a #gay  man from Jordan, fled to #Lebanon . He has lost everything, but talking about coming out as gay to his family, he says he has no regrets: “I lost my family, friends and country, but I gained myself, and I felt the real life for the first time.”


“Here in Turkey it’s safer than Iran. In Iran I was worried each time I was leaving the house because of my appearance.” Arash is a #gay  man who fled #Iran  after facing #persecution  because of his #sexuality . In Iran, he says, he was imprisoned because of his appearance and LGBT #activism


“This is the tradition. I know he will keep trying and if he doesn’t do it with his own hand one of the family members will… but I was born this way and I will die this way!” Jessie is a young #transgender  woman living in a Palestinian refugee camp in #Lebanon . Because of her gender identity, her brother and father have tried to kill her several times.


“My society is ruled by religions which strongly refuse my sexuality so I lived wearing the mask of a straight man.” Sally is a #transgender  woman from #Syria


“I left Iraq because no one accepted me as gay… I used to go to the bathroom and cry. I was a rejected person – I was like a white robe amongst millions of black robes.” Khalid feared for his life. Not only were the number of attacks on #gay  men in Baghdad increasing, two of his gay friends were murdered, one in Khalid's own apartment while he was at work. Khalid came home to find out his friend been decapitated in the apartment. Khalid's own family threatened him as well. With no where to go and no one to turn to, Khalid fled #Iraq  in early 2015. He has applied for #refugee  status in #Lebanon  and is hoping for resettlement in a third country.


“The crime was that I am homosexual, and the punishment was forty days in jail losing my job, and losing my partner.” Attacked, beaten, tortured. Wolfheart recounts his experience with the legal system in Beirut, #Lebanon .


“I was tortured so many times because of my sexuality being gay I was beaten by family members father uncle elderly brothers.” Mohammed (not his real name) is a #gay  man from a Persian Gulf/Arabian Gulf country, has faced discrimination from his family: “I’m a big shame to my tribe and family it just begun with me when i was 14 my uncle beated me by a pipe… eventually he put me in dogs cage… We are not religious my family doesnt care about religion they care about reputation and their principles and culture.”