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Mohammed
عائلة / Eayila / Familie

This is Mohammed’s story. A story of oppression, of suffering and desperation. But it’s also the story of Mohammed’s family, who could never understand him but who made him who he is today.

CHAPTER 1: Leyla*
Leyla is afraid for her son. She has know for a long time that Mohammed is different, different from his eleven siblings. But he cannot surpress it any longer. Now her 14 year old son sits in front of her in the living room and says: „Mama, I am gay“. Leyla starts to cry. Two hours later she is still crying. „You must keep that secret,“ she says to him. „Maybe we can fix it.“ It is a big step for Mohammed to tell Leyla about his sexual orientation. He has known for a long time and doesn’t want to have to pretend anymore. His mother says, „They will treat you like a criminal.“

The family lives in Al Jahra, a city in Kuwait, not far from the capital Kuwait City. In Kuwait homosexual behaviour is forbidden. Whoever is caught, goes to prison for a long time. LGBT* - people are outcasts there, who can only practise their sexuality in hiding.

„My mother is my life. I have fought for her. She never quite understood me and she never completely supported me, but she is the only one in my family who has supported me the most. I always had a close relationship to her. We are like friends and much more.“

The real problems began when Mohammed told his father his secret one day. The father is angry, he beats him and locks him in - for the next four years Mohammed may only be at home and at school. „He was always a father, but from this day on he became a monster, he became someone else,“ said Mohammed.

CHAPTER 2: Sara*
Sara never had a close relationship to her brother Mohammed. She is the fourth oldest child, he is the tenth. When Mohammed is 18 years old, he moves from Kuwait to Marburg to study medicine. For Sara he is a normal student. One who has ambitious goals. She doesn’t realise how much the stay in Germany will influence him. For years Mohammed thought he was sick, abnormal, the only man who loved men. His father had talked him into this, and his mother too. They are the only people who knew about his sexual orientation. In Germany Mohammed suddenly finds people who are like him. He feels that he is not the only man in the world who loves men. Through Apps, Mohammed begins to meet other men. He is still afraid of his family but finally he learns to understand and accept himself.

But he makes a mistake. A friend from Greece, who he meet through an App in Marburg posted something on Facebook about the life of LGBT* people. He tagged Mohammed. The post appeared on Mohammed’s chronik, visible to all his friends. Also his sister Sara. She sees the post and tells her father about it.

„Sara had her doctorate and her master in English literature. She is a very strict person and conveys this also to her students. That one must always stick to the rules. I am not angry with her for telling my father about the post. She didn’t know that I am gay. If I could turn the clock back I would like to have told her myself. Because if I had told my sister earlier about my sexual orientation, she would have understood my situation.“

The father is angry. What a scandal, that Mohammed has brought on his family and his name. In public. Mohammed should come home immediately. His residency status must be investigated, his father tells him. Mohammed is suspicious, he had checked his residency just recently. But his father didn’t accept any argument and booked his son a plane ticket to Kuwait.

CHAPTER 3: Ali*
After several hours flying and a stop-off in Dubai, Mohammed landed in Kuwait. It is 11pm and no-one is there to pick him up. After half an hour Ali, Mohammed’s father appears. Mohammed remembers exactly that he wore a black suit as usual. Ali didn’t greet him. Mohammed should come to the car. First of all he asked Mohammed for his passport, put it in his jacket pocket and drove off.

When they got home, Mohammed knows right away what is going on. His father and his oldest brother mistreat him, over and over they attack him. Then they lock him in his room. „Everything was destroyed. My whole life. I was so desperate,“ said Mohammed. He tried to take his life in the bathroom with cleaning liquid. His family find him and call the ambulance. Mohammed is brought to the hospital.

After four days he is feeling better, but he is not allowed to go back home. His family send him to a psychiatric clinic. They have told the police about his „sickness“ that he is gay. His father, his mother and his eldest brother signed the admission. They wanted to protect the name of the family. Mohammed had to stay in the clinic for almost two years. There they gave him tablets and they wanted to cure him from his „sickness“ with therapy. He received visits only from his mother Leyla. She wants to get him out but his father won’t allow it.

After almost two years Mohammed leaves the clinic. He assured the hospital staff that he was now „cured“ and is now heterosexual. His father is weak, he has cancer and allows Mohammed to leave the clinic.

When Mohammed is free again, his father calls him to him. Ali is very sick, he will soon die. Only Leyla is in the room with them when he talks to Mohammed.

„He begged me to forgive him. To forgive him for what he had done to me over the years. He said he tried to be a good father but he was not. I could hardly say anything. I cried. I only told him that I didn’t know if I could forgive him. Then I ran away.“

CHAPTER 4: Tarek*
When the father dies, it is Tarek’s job to keep the family together. He is the eldest of the twelve brothers and sisters. Tarek watches Mohammed carfeully, he doesn’t let him out of his sight. But Mohammed behaves unobtrusive. He studies business in Kuwait and begins to work parallel. Soon he moves into his own apartment. What Tarek doesn’t know: Mohammed continues to practise his homosexuality. Through an App he meets his first friend, a Syrian, who lives in Holland. They meet often and travel several times to Spain for the weekend.

Tarek continues to distrust Mohammed. He threatens him: „If you don’t get married and solve this whole problem, we will send you back into the clinic.“ Mohammed is afraid but he doesn’t know how to get out of the situation. Until it escalates.

Tarek and Leyla have arranged a wedding for Mohammed. He should marry his cousin. But that is not what Mohammed will at all.
He confesses to his cousin that he is gay and can’t marry her. „I didn’t want to be one of those men who are gay but still marry a woman.“ says Mohammed. „My cousin should marry another man so that she can be happy.“ He doesn’t want to pretend to be hetero his whole life.

Tarek cannot accept this. He is afraid of a scandal and calls the police. He tells the officials that Mohammed is sick and must go back into the clinic. But it was to be different.

„Tarek is so clever. My parents have always said he is a clever boy. Tarek has built up his life himself. When he has something in mind, then he does it. But he is also very angry. He and my father had a bad relationship and always fought.“

The police arrested Mohammed. They searched his apartment and his Smartphone and found photos of Mohammed and his friend. They find Apps with which Mohammed met other homosexual men and read his texts in social-network.

CHAPTER 5: Mohammed
Mohammed knows that his only option is to flee. Otherwise he has a long prison sentence ahead of him. He calls a good friend who he knows from the fitness studio. The friend works for the friend helps him to flee out of the prison and Mohammed lives with him for two weeks. Until finally, one night in the summer of 2018, he takes a flight to Malaga, Spain. From there he flies to Munich. Mohammed wants to live in freedom at last and not have to hide himself anymore.

In the meantime, he lives in Augsburg and wants to start his business degree as soon as possible.
For the next three years he is „tolerated“ in Germany. Of his family, he only still has contact with his mother. Once in a while they telephone each other. Leyla is happy for her son and is proud that he goes his own way.

„I don’t hate my family. Even if they hurt me, they are still my family. There are certain factors in Kuwait, such as religion, culture and laws. That is why my family behaves as they do. They simply don’t know better. But this impression of homosexuality must change. I want to make a contribution so that it changes.“

Text: Antonia Franz
Photos: Anne Puhlmann