The militant group Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip for 15 years, taking ownership of the land in less than three days. As a result, being part of the LGBT community in Gaza is a crime, and members are constantly at risk.
Abdul, whose name was changed for his safety, spoke about his experience living as a gay man in Gaza, growing up in a refugee camp under the group's rule.
Like most young boys living in the Gaza Strip, Abdul was raised in a strictly religious Islamist household, going to mosque daily with his family. But because Abdul’s father was a member of Hamas, Abdul had to be even more careful to hide his truth.
"It’s hard to be gay because I don’t feel free in Gaza," he explained.
"There are many people gay in the Gaza Strip, and they are in Hamas also. If you are gay, you should be hiding. It’s so hard. I was so scared. Scared from everything you know? Scared of getting hit, of getting kidnapped. I was so afraid. I was afraid Hamas would find out I was gay."
When Abdul was 17, Hamas caught him having sex with his boyfriend, imprisoning him for three days.
"They put me in a tiny room that was two-by-two meters. They wouldn’t let me sleep or go to the bathroom inside. There was no food. They would torture me so badly," he said.
"Sometimes, they would tie my feet up and beat them with a stick. After that, every few years, they would arrest me and torture me in the same way."
Over the course of five years, Abdul says Hamas would kidnap him off of the streets, torture him, and then rerelease him. Finally, at 22, they let him go for the last time.
He was forced to take an oath on the Quran that he wouldn't "be gay again."
For two years, Abdul lived on the streets until he managed to scrape together enough money to escape into Egypt and then make his way to Turkey.
Even though Abdul now lives thousands of miles away from Gaza, today, he lives in constant fear that somebody will identify him and he’ll be sent back into the clutches of Hamas.
“I hope to be a DJ and play music around the world," he added.
"I’m enjoying my life in Turkey, and I’m happy. I am trying to learn the Turkish language. I’m working at a restaurant. I’m just living a normal life. I can do what I want. There's no more hiding.”
The story was written by Natasha Kirtchuk and reprinted with permission from i24NEWS.