Syrian refugee leads Pride March in Kelowna
A Syrian refugee, Anas Qartoumeh, was the grand marshall for the Kelowna Pride Society’s 2018 Pride March on Saturday.
According to the society’s press release, “as a gay Syrian refugee, Anas is an excellent representative of Kelowna Pride 2018’s theme: Pride in diversity.”
“Anas has been on an extraordinary journey to get here,” said Dustyn Baulkham, past president of Kelowna Pride. “He reminds us of what is still unfortunately happening to LGBT2Q+ people in some parts of the world. At Pride, we march for those who are not able to live as their authentic selves.”
Pride said “Anas had to hide his identity his whole life. He grew up in the conservative culture of Damascus, where being gay is not only stigmatized by society, but also criminalized. He would often watch Pride parades on television and dreamed of moving to Canada, where he could be himself.
“However, when war broke out in Syria, the risks of being gay escalated. Word spread that members of the LGBT2Q+ community were being thrown off buildings by ISIS. Anas fled to Lebanon and then Iraq.”
The Kelowna Pride Society said Anas arrived in Kelowna on November 23, 2017.
“I would love to deliver this message to conservative parents in the Middle East and across the world,” said Anas. “Being gay is not a choice. And some of your kids might be afraid to come out. Please learn from Canada. Embrace and accept your kids and let them choose you as the first person to come out to.”