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[Letter from Damascus]

We Don’t Have Rights, But We Are Alive

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When I asked Hassan, a twenty-four-year-old reporter for a local TV channel in Damascus, if he could introduce me to members of Syria’s gay community, he took me to an anonymous-looking bar in the heart of the capital’s Old City. I’d met him two years earlier, in September 2013, while marooned in Damascus on a journalist visa from the Syrian regime. We’d hung out over the course of a week, mostly in that very bar, and I’d gotten to know some of his friends and family. So it took me by surprise when, shortly after we entered the dim, cavernous establishment and found a seat, he looked me in the eye and said, matter-of-factly, “You do know I’m homosexual, don’t you?”

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’s latest book is Hunting Season: James Foley, ISIS, and the Kidnapping Campaign That Started a War (Hachette). He traveled to Syria with the support of a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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