BEIRUT, LEBANON – After three months of living under ISIS, Zein knew he had to escape. He’d recently heard of two gay men who were thrown off the roof of the highest building in Deir es-Zor, the Syrian city where he lived. One of the few times he left his house to go to the market, he witnessed the execution of an Alawite and a Shia – each killed with a gunshot to the back of the head. Fleeing would mean leaving his brother behind, but he had no choice. As a gay man living in ISIS-held territory, the 28 year-old was particularly at risk for horrific violence.
The siege of Deir es-Zor began in April 2014, and by July ISIS controlled most of the province. “All of my friends had already left, and I thought to myself: what am I doing here?” he told Fusion through a translator here.
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