Ottawa

'I was reborn here': Gay Syrian refugee says Canada has welcomed him

Khaled was born in Syria, but his life began anew when he arrived in Canada in 2015.

Khaled and his partner faced homophobic violence before the war

Khaled works as a barista in Ottawa and is working to help other refugees on the side. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Khaled was born in Syria, but his life began anew when he arrived in Canada as a refugee in 2015.

"I was born there, but I was reborn here," he said.

Khaled is gay and he and his partner faced violence in Syria even before the country's brutal civil war began.

During the war, ISIS militants targeted gay men.

"I would say 90 per cent of the society, they want to change me," he said.

"They will beat you, that is the smallest risk, and a lot of my friends got killed."

The couple fled to Lebanon, before being sponsored to come to Canada and two months ago, became citizens.

Jailed for 3 months

This week he spoke with Ottawa Morning's Hallie Cotnam.

CBC is not using his last name, because both Khaled and his boyfriend fear for their families back in Syria.

Khaled was once arrested and jailed for several months in the country.

"I was arrested, because I was walking to a party and my T-shirt was transparent. I stayed for three months in the jail and I don't like to talk about what happened inside, one day I will talk about that," he said.

"I am planning to write a book about that."

He came to Ottawa as a refugee in 2015 after facing persecution for being gay in Syria. Now he and his partner have become Canadian citizens and they're helping other gay Syrians get asylum in Canada. 8:41

Paying it forward 

He said they feel settled in Ottawa now and able to help other Syrians arriving here.

"We feel like we are really successful and we are moving forward," he said.

He said Canada has consistently felt like a place that was welcoming him for who he was.

"The best words I have heard is that we want you to be yourself, whoever you are."