“From an early age, I was attracted to boys, and I was particularly close to my mother and sister. At that time, with stereotypical things, for example, playing with dolls, you could understand that I did not have the same interests as other boys, but realizing this and coming out happened much later, at the age of 14-15,” recalls Shafiq Salim Shafiq Hamarneh, a gay boy from Jordan who escaped from the oppressive environment of his native country in Georgia, a country that he loved from afar, but upon his arrival he realized that behind the beautiful nature there were also homophobic and xenophobic attitudes of the society. On his Tiktok page, he shares his experience of living in Georgia, daily self-reported news, including the sad facts that sometimes make him think – “maybe coming to live in Georgia was a mistake”.
In Jordan, homosexuality has been decriminalized since the 50s of the last century, although there is no anti-discrimination law in the country, moreover, any form of relationship between same-sex couples that takes place in public space can be a prerequisite for imprisonment for “offending public morals”. The criminalization of killing a family member “in the name of dignity” happened only recently, in 2013. At the same time, public attitudes are strongly negative — according to a 2019 survey, more than 90% of Jordanian citizens consider homosexuality unacceptable.
When speaking to Queer, Shafik talked about coming out to himself, his time in Jordan and the oppression he experienced in Georgia.
Self-discovery and support
“At first I was in denial, trying to see girls in a romantic way, but to no avail. It was almost like an obsession to somehow push my attraction to boys out of my head. Because of that, I had depression, I had to go through medical treatment and slowly I was able to accept the facts,” he says while talking about the subsequent difficulty of understanding his sexual orientation and tells us that some of his family members, his mother and sister, know that he is gay and today they are already supportive, although in the beginning It wasn’t like that — “At first, my mother also had a hard time accepting this fact, she told me that I was just having such a period. My aunt, who does not live in Jordan, explained that there was nothing special about it and gradually became much more accepting. Then I had a romantic relationship, we were together for 3 years. He often stayed with us and my mother and my sister knew that we were in love. My father, who I remember from a young age abusing my mother, does not know. Fortunately, they are now divorced. If my father found out about my orientation while I was living in Jordan, I don’t know what would have happened. I have no guarantee that he would not kill me.”
He says that in Jordan it is especially difficult to withstand the pressure from the society – queer people and their family members are constantly called that they are sinners, that it is degrading to have a queer person in the family.
“That’s why family members are sometimes less accepting, the sexual orientation of a family member is damaging to the reputation of other family members. They consider you a sinner, they don’t talk to your family anymore, they completely cut you off. Publicly announcing your orientation, expressing yourself is dangerous, you can be killed, your family will throw you out of the house, and even in the case of murder, the punishment is very small. Therefore, queer people are actively leaving the country,” he says.
Shafiq recalls one incident that happened while living in Jordan, when he was walking hand in hand with his partner and, as he says, smoked a small amount of marijuana. He was stopped by the police and arrested for drug addiction, although he said the real reason was seeing signs of romance between queer people in public.
“Thus, people are often arrested for “offending public dignity”. I remember another case when about 10 gay men had a party at home and all of them were arrested, but they were not even in a public space,” Shafiq recalls .
Life in Georgia
“I don’t know if coming here was a good decision or not. There are moments when I regret it,” says Shafiq, speaking about his decision to come to Georgia.
Sharif recalls many incidents in the past year, when he faced mockery and attacks from citizens and the police.
“I was assaulted near Freedom Square, I had blond hair at that time. I asked one of the people for directions and he attacked me for no reason at all. I went to the police, I had the footage, I waited for a few hours for the translator, who eventually came, but they didn’t really know English, it was a terrible inconvenience, and I immediately said that I didn’t want to file a complaint anymore,” Shafiq recalls.
He recounts another incident where drunken men forcibly removed his scarf and verbally assaulted him, and recalls an incident when he was mobbed by people.
“Another case that I remember happened when I had left something in one of the service facilities, by the timeI turned around, it had already closed, and I asked the people gathered there what I could do. They started pointing the middle finger and making derogatory comments. I had footage of the incident on my phone, which I showed tothe police, they took me to the department, they wrote dowm my complaint, but no one contacted me anymore, moreover, there was a sarcastic attitude on the part of the police. Therefore, I don’t want to have contact with them anymore, I have no hope that they will protect my rights,” says Shafiq, and tells us that apart from such cases, there are often times when he has to listen to racist comments and threats.
At the end of the conversation, Shafiq tells us that he is in a hopeless situation and often doesn’t even believe that anything will change for the better.
“When my mother was in Georgia, her support helped me, but she returned to Jordan and I was left alone. I am actually in a hopeless situation, I am waiting for the right to live here and there is no answer, and now I am a citizen of another country and I have no leverage, and the organizations cannot help me much. I can’t go back to my country either, I’m afraid to go there. And here I don’t actually leave the house anymore, the depression is back. I don’t even have the motivation to interact with different organizations, I have run out of hope that something will change for the better,” says Shafiq.