What would happen if to hold a gay beauty pageant among the citizens of conservative and homophobic country with strict Muslim laws? The screenwriters have looked at it, but there is no budget to represent their vision to the audience. The competition, based in Istanbul, Turkey, seeks to show that LGBT Syrians exist, and challenge perceptions of the Middle-Eastern country. But now the film may never be seen, as its maker seeks to raise almost £30,000 to cover costs.
Contestants compete through a written test concerning human rights, a talent round, and then the costume rounds, in a bid to find an ambassador for LGBT Syrians. “The contest was very much a community event”, the film director told Inews, “It wasn’t just the votes of the judges that counted, the audience votes also mattered. So you can imagine what a spirited event it was”.
The man who won the contestant, 24-year-old Hussein Sabat, lost his own boyfriend after Daesh threw him off a building. “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. 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,” he told MailOnline. “Of course we were nervous but we we’re excited – we all wanted to be Mr Gay Syria to do something empowering.” Sabat has felt the effects of Islamic State firsthand, after his boyfriend was murdered four years ago. “I was with Zakaria for four years, but three years ago ISIS beheaded him,” he explained. “They sent the execution video to his family – his mother almost went crazy and I couldn’t speak for a month.”