Updated: Feb 25
TRIGGER WARNING: Some content may be distressing for some readers and includes violent details.
Hello, my name is Matt and I’m 20 years old. I’m gay and recently had to escape from my family because I wasn’t safe. Im gonna tell you about how this all happened. I’ve been living in secret for so long because of the fear I was in. Even though I’m still scared, I believe its important people know what’s going, I don’t want to be forgotten.
Currently im in turkey, I’ve been here since 2019, and I never thought I would end up being a refugee. It started after I was a student here for one month, I was so excited because I was able to convince my family to send me to study here. In the beginning I was free, i met people from all around the world , made friends and even fell in love. For the first time in my life I wasn’t afraid to be with someone I truly loved. But I made a mistake, I was posting every detail about my daily life, and I got carried away. A picture of me wearing makeup made it way back to my family in Libya. At first I was panicking and worried, but somehow I felt brave, like even if I lost my family at least I was accepted by someone who loved me for me. With him, I could wear what I wanted. I could paint my nails, and even called be my new name, Matt. These simple things changed my life, I was happy, and I didn’t understand why family couldn’t let this continue.
Growing up I was really close to my brother; he was much naughtier than me. I felt he was different; I remember he caught me watching a film with gay characters and he said he thought it was okay. I felt he understood me. But this changed when it came to his own brother. I cant lie, I was beat up when I acted feminine in Libya. They forced me to suppress my feelings and any form of expression. It wasn’t easy and all of it made me work hard to get a student visa to study in turkey.
After my family found out, they insisted I returned and just drop my university studies. I knew what was waiting for me if I went, Ive seen and know people who have been jailed and even killed. The following month, he came. My brother showed up at my apartment. I was shocked and terrified what he would do. I feel stupid that I thought they would leave me alone, but I soon found out they intended on kidnapping me and take me back home to Libya. But my brother was not the same, he was different. He came in, dropped his thing and started asking me questions. I felt like a little boy in trouble. He hit me, beat me all over my body. I have bruises and scars all over my body now. I felt so ashamed, and when I looked up I saw he was taking pictures of me on the floor, he sent these to my family. I felt humiliated. He called them, I will never forget. He said “should I kill him now and run away? No one will know.” I couldn’t believe this was someone I grew up with, someone I had breakfast with every morning for 20 years.
One month passed, I felt so numb. Pain over my entire body. I learnt that my brother was waiting for cheap airplane tickets and that he took my passport to purchase tickets. He took my simcard and locked the apartment door so I wouldn’t leave. He knew I knew and made sure I listened to whatever he told me to do. Knowing the day was coming, I felt so scared. But I managed to stay focused and began asking for help using social media. I felt like I need to survive and if I don’t try I don’t know what will happen to me. There was no other options, ask for help and do something or die, but I chose to live.
I contacted every charity I could find but I heard nothing. I couldn’t call the police because gay people aren’t always protected from their family in turkey. I used whatsapp and social media to ask for help. I was following someone on Instagram and I knew he was also Libyan and gay so I asked him for help. He contacted people in Istanbul who planned my escape. I was nervous but this was my only chance. The day before the flight, his friends waited at night time outside my apartment building. When I got a message from them, I grabbed my bags and ran.
I felt free, the air, the people, the voice of the taxi’s door closing, it made me feel safe from a long time somehow, it was like my first time breathing.
I cannot explain this feeling.
Today, I feel strong. I feel like there is hope. Its been a few months since this all started. I escaped in August. I didn’t think id make this long or this far. A lot of people helped me and I’m so thankful for them.
This is my story so far. It feels good to share it, I hope it does something.
Just don’t lose hope and always ask for help if you need it, be safe and always think positive because we were born to stand out not to fit into something we are not.