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The Search For Mr. Gay Syria

Who will go on to Mr. Gay World?!?!

Posted on May 18, 2016, at 6:44 p.m. ET

Bradley Secker captures the journey to find Mr. Gay Syria, who will go on to represent the country in Mr. Gay World in Malta in early 2016. Many gay Syrians in exile are asserting their rights and identities as they stay in Istanbul and abroad, but difficulties remain.

Syrian participants at Istanbul Pride hold both government and opposition flags, with the rainbow flag symbolizing the LGBT community's pride and fight for equality in society, June 30, 2013.
Bradley Secker

Syrian participants at Istanbul Pride hold both government and opposition flags, with the rainbow flag symbolizing the LGBT community's pride and fight for equality in society, June 30, 2013.

Hussein Sabat, the winner of Mr. Gay Syria 2016, is interviewed prior to the contest by judges Mahmoud Hassino (left) and Ayman Menem central Istanbul.

Hussein Sabat, the winner of Mr. Gay Syria 2016, is interviewed prior to the contest by judges Mahmoud Hassino (left) and Ayman Menem central Istanbul.

Sabat (right) dances with a friend at his birthday party, at a gay-friendly café in central Istanbul.
Bradley Secker

Sabat (right) dances with a friend at his birthday party, at a gay-friendly café in central Istanbul.

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Wissam Farhat practices his runway walk before fellow contestants William (left) and Sabat.
Bradley Secker

Wissam Farhat practices his runway walk before fellow contestants William (left) and Sabat.

Mr. Gay Syria contestants Omar (in red) and Farhat (foreground) listen to advice from a judge during rehearsal.
Bradley Secker

Mr. Gay Syria contestants Omar (in red) and Farhat (foreground) listen to advice from a judge during rehearsal.

Mahmoud Hassino, organizer of Mr. Gay Syria, accompanies contest winner Sabat to a barbershop in Istanbul to achieve a new look.
Bradley Secker

Mahmoud Hassino, organizer of Mr. Gay Syria, accompanies contest winner Sabat to a barbershop in Istanbul to achieve a new look.

Four of the five contestants of Mr. Gay Syria backstage during the contest in Istanbul. Isam (left), Farhat (center), and Omar (center right) are all still living in Istanbul. William (far right) fled to Greece after the contest and is currently stuck in Athens.
Bradley Secker

Four of the five contestants of Mr. Gay Syria backstage during the contest in Istanbul. Isam (left), Farhat (center), and Omar (center right) are all still living in Istanbul. William (far right) fled to Greece after the contest and is currently stuck in Athens.

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Wissam Farhat performs onstage during the Mr. Gay Syria competition.
Bradley Secker

Wissam Farhat performs onstage during the Mr. Gay Syria competition.

Sabat (right) holds the trophy after being crowned the winner of Mr. Gay Syria 2016, beating four other contestants for the title to represent Syrians for the year ahead.
Bradley Secker

Sabat (right) holds the trophy after being crowned the winner of Mr. Gay Syria 2016, beating four other contestants for the title to represent Syrians for the year ahead.

Sabat celebrates his birthday in Taksim, Istanbul. That same day, his Schengen visa was denied, barring him from attending the Mr. Gay World 2016 competition in Malta.
Bradley Secker

Sabat celebrates his birthday in Taksim, Istanbul. That same day, his Schengen visa was denied, barring him from attending the Mr. Gay World 2016 competition in Malta.

Nader (left) proposes to Mr. Gay Syria contestant Omar during Omar's birthday party in Istanbul. They hope to marry in Norway, where Nader is currently awaiting his fiancé.
Bradley Secker

Nader (left) proposes to Mr. Gay Syria contestant Omar during Omar's birthday party in Istanbul. They hope to marry in Norway, where Nader is currently awaiting his fiancé.

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Sabat during his shift at a barbershop near Taksim Square in central Istanbul.
Bradley Secker

Sabat during his shift at a barbershop near Taksim Square in central Istanbul.

Rehearsing his lines for his video message and campaign for Mr. Gay World 2016, Sabat (right) seeks support from his close friend Wissam Farhat.
Bradley Secker

Rehearsing his lines for his video message and campaign for Mr. Gay World 2016, Sabat (right) seeks support from his close friend Wissam Farhat.

Twenty-two contestants for Mr. Gay World 2016 look out at Valetta, Malta's capital city, during a tour of the nation's islands. Sabat, the Mr. Gay Syria title holder, is being represented by Mahmoud (far left).
Bradley Secker

Twenty-two contestants for Mr. Gay World 2016 look out at Valetta, Malta's capital city, during a tour of the nation's islands. Sabat, the Mr. Gay Syria title holder, is being represented by Mahmoud (far left).

The sash of Mr. Gay Syria in a hotel in Malta, where organizer Hassino represented both Sabat and Syria.
Bradley Secker

The sash of Mr. Gay Syria in a hotel in Malta, where organizer Hassino represented both Sabat and Syria.


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