كتمان / Kütmaan
Kütmaan is een verzameling intieme portretten en documentaire foto’s uit het dagelijkse leven van individuen die op grond van hun seksualiteit of genderidentiteit ontheemd zijn en/of asiel hebben aangevraagd, uit meer dan 20 landen over de hele wereld.
Kütmaan is een verzameling intieme portretten en documentaire foto’s uit het dagelijkse leven van individuen die op grond van hun seksualiteit of genderidentiteit ontheemd zijn en/of asiel hebben aangevraagd, uit meer dan 20 landen over de hele wereld. Het is een tien jaar durend project, dat in 2010 begon in Damascus, Syrië. Dit project omvat foto’s uit vier deelprojecten, een vervolg op ‘Iraq’s unwanted’, een fotoreportage over Iraakse homoseksuele mannen die asiel en hervestiging aanvragen op grond van hun seksualiteit in Damascus, Syrië in 2010. Mijn lopende serie maakt deel uit van een langlopende documentaire over het snijvlak van LGBTI+ identiteit, asiel en migratie, verteld door degenen die ontheemd raakten vanwege wie ze zijn en van wie ze houden. Een onderdeel van dit project is SEXugees, een conceptueel en in samenwerking uitgevoerd werk over wat bekend staat als “overlevings seks” voor homoseksuele en transgender Syrische vluchtelingen die in Istanbul, Turkije wonen. Ze vinden hun klanten online, op mobiele apps, in bars en clubs, en via mond-tot-mondreclame. De prijzen op de stickers bij de instax-foto’s zijn wat de persoon in kwestie rekent voor verschillende seksuele diensten. Tekst op de foto’s is toegevoegd door de personen op de foto’s, en beschrijft hun hoop voor de toekomst, hun leven in het verleden, of hun gevoelens over sekswerk in Europa’s grootste stad, Istanbul. GAYROPA is het meest recente deel van het werk dat hier is opgenomen, en het meest diverse in zijn reikwijdte. Het reisde naar negen West-Europese landen, om op intieme wijze de verhalen te vertellen van degenen die naar Europa zijn gevlucht in de hoop veiligheid en vrijheid te vinden. Deze mensen komen uit Afrika, Zuid- en Centraal-Azië en het Midden-Oosten. Dit project is opgedragen aan al diegenen die gedwongen werden hun huis en land te ontvluchten omwille van hun identiteit, en van wie ze houden, zonder dat ze daarvoor zelf gekozen hebben. Het bevat foto’s en audio-interviews, en ik hoop dit project voort te zetten in bestaande en nieuwe vormen met de hulp van de Burn Magazine-beurs.
Over de fotograaf
Nader (left) puts a ring on Omar’s (right) finger after he accepted Nader’s marriage proposal during Omar’s birthday party in Istanbul, Turkey. The couple are both from Syria, and met in exile in Istanbul, before finally being reunited once again in Bergen, Norway, where they received political asylum.
LEFT: Danial, a gay man from Iran, showing the scars on his body from when he sold one of his kidneys to pay for his passage to Turkey, where he currently lives whilst applying for resettlement to a third country through the UNHCR. Due to complications with the kidney removal, Danial suffers from several medical and psychological conditions, his hair is falling out in clumps and he has tried to commit suicide several times, the latest just a few days before this image was taken in his home. RIGHT: Ahmed, a gay Syrian refugee living in Istanbul holds the flower that his lover gave to him. Ahmed hopes to travel to Europe to be reunited with his lover. Since living in Istanbul, Ahmed has been physically attacked and beaten twice, which he put down to homophobia. Istanbul, Turkey 2016.
Members of the ‘Tea & Talk’ Arabic group holding placards during the banned Istanbul Pride of 2015. Mr Gay Syria 2016 contestant Wissam (blue shirt, left) and winner, Hussein (yellow T-shirt, right) were amongst the group in Taksim square, Istanbul, Turkey. Banners read “I’m Arab and I’m gay” and “We’re here, get used to it”.
Shayma (right) discusses the upcoming evening’s performance and hosting of a drag contest with the club manager, (left) at a popular queer nightspot in Heidelberg, Germany. Shayma identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. —/// Shayma is a Tunisian drag performer and long-time LGBTİ activist who relocated to Germany after their situation and safety in Tunisia became threatened, due to their activism and identity. —/// Having received political asylum, Shayma now hopes to improve their German language skills, build a successful career as a drag performer, and use the platform to highlight issues, such as LGBTİ rights in Tunisia, and amongst refugees and asylum seekers, across Europe.
Shahram (left) and Sina (right) are a gay Iranian couple living in the Turkish city of Denizli. The two men are awaiting news on their resettlement applications to a third country.
Arkan, 20, from Sanandaj, Iran. Chatting on Skype with his girlfriend from Kayseri, central Turkey, 2012. Identifying as transgender, Arkan says, “life in Iran was impossible for too many reasons.” After extensive waiting in Turkey, Arkan was resettled to Texas, USA, where his Iranian girlfriend also lives. Homosexuality is criminalised in Iran although being transgender is permitted, and the Iranian government provides loans to those undergoing gender corrective surgery. The social stigma of being trans in Iran drives many to flee the country.
Struggling to survive financially in exile, these gay and transgender refugees work as escorts in Istanbul, Turkey, a practice often referred to as ‘survival sex.’ They find their customers online, on mobile apps, in bars and clubs, and through word of mouth. Selling sexual services is a reality for many LGBT+ refugees, and is sometimes the difference between being able to eat and pay rent, or sleeping rough. Sex workers can face exploitation, rape, and even murder. The prices shown are what the individual charges for various sexual services. Refugees in the commercial sex industry are most often women, but the culture of sex work amongst refugees has long since crossed into the LGBT sphere. Over the past six years, Istanbul has hosted an increasing number of LGBT+ asylum seekers who arrived at the city from Iraq, Syria, Iran, and elsewhere as it became somewhat of an open-minded hub for the communities.
Hussein stands in the doorway of a gay-friendly cafe near Mis Sokak, as Turkish riot police pass by to prevent the LGBTI Pride march from taking place. Istanbul, Turkey, 26th June 2016.
Shayma (left) does final hair & makeup touch-ups before hosting a drag event at a popular queer nightspot in Heidelberg, Germany, whilst another drag queen uses the toilet (right). . Shayma is a Tunisian drag performer and long time LGBTİ activist who relocated to Germany after their situation in Tunisia became threatened, due to their activism. . Having received political asylum, Shayma now hopes to improve their German language skills, build a successful career as a drag performer, and use the platform to highlight issues, such as LGBTİ rights in Tunisia, and amongst refugees and asylum seekers, across Europe.
‘F’, a gay man from Damascus, Syria, on a rooftop above Taksim square in Istanbul, Turkey. This image is from a series of Syrian and Iraqi gay men on rooftops in Istanbul, as a sign of life and defiance against the brutal imagery by the Islamic State terrorist group, murdering those they accuse of being homosexual by throwing them from rooftops like this one. Istanbul, Turkey 2015.
Mahmoud Hassino sleeping on a friend’s sofa in Istanbul, Turkey. /// After leaving Damascus, Mahmoud lived in Turkey for around three years, from where he worked as a journalist covering the conflict in his native Syria. /// Mahmoud is from Salamiyah, Syria, and now lives in Berlin, Germany, where he was granted political asylum due to his work as a journalist and LGBTI rights advocate, and the targeted risks and threats he faced because of his identity and his work. /// Syria’s most prominent LGBTI blogger (under a pseudonym) for many, many years, and a print and radio journalist covering culture, politics, and Syria’s ongoing conflict, Mahmoud now works at a center providing support and counseling, for LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees in Berlin.
Faris, 35, is originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and now lives in Vienna. Identifying as non-binary, Faris uses they/them pronouns and is an advocate for sexual minorities. They co-founded an organization aimed at helping LGBTQ people in Ethiopia and within the Ethiopian diaspora abroad. Through performance art and online activism in English and Amharic, Faris wants to educate people about LGBTQ issues and spread a message of acceptance. Faris claimed political asylum in Austria after attending a conference for LGBTQ people in Salzburg. The offices where Faris worked in Ethiopia were ransacked while they were away, and the situation appeared to be deteriorating rapidly. They were granted asylum in Austria in July 2017, seven months after applying.
President’s Bridge, Damascus, Syria. Bissam and Abdul walk the streets of Damascus together at night when the gay community became more visible on the streets. Both Abdul and Bissam are gay Iraqi men who feared for their safety in Syria, with homosexuality being a crime. Bissam has since been relocated to the USA and Abdul to the Netherlands. Damascus, Syria, 2010.
Wael is an intersex trans man from Casablanca, Morocco. . He now lives in Bergen, western Norway, where he was given asylum and able to change his legal gender on official documents from female (assigned to him at birth) to male. . Wael prays during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, during his month-long fasting period, observed during daylight hours by observant Muslims. . Wael is one of many LGBTİ people, who’s lives I’ve been documenting across Europe over the summer. His story, along with many others, will be highlighted here, and in several media outlets soon.
Kütmaan is a collection of intimate portraits and daily-life documentary photographs about individuals displaced, and/or claiming asylum, based on their sexuality or gender identity, from more than 20 countries around the world. It is a decade-long project, which began in 2010 in Damascus, Syria. This project comprises photographs from four sub-bodies of work, a continuation from ‘Iraq’s unwanted’, a photo reportage about gay Iraqi men claiming asylum and resettlement on grounds of their sexuality in Damascus, Syria in 2010. My ongoing series forms part of a long-term documentary on the intersection of LGBTI+ identity, asylum, and migration, told by those who became displaced because of who they are and who they love. Elements within this project include SEXugees, a conceptual and collaborative work about what is known as “survival sex” for gay and transgender Syrian refugees living in Istanbul, Turkey. They find their customers online, on mobile apps, in bars and clubs, and through word of mouth. Prices shown on the stickers attached to the instax images are what the individual charges for various sexual services. Text on the photographs was added by those in the photos, and describes their hopes for the future, their lives in the past, or their feelings about sex work in Europe’s largest city, Istanbul. GAYROPA is the most recent segment of work included here, which is the most diverse in its scope, traveling to nine Western European countries, to intimately tell the stories of those who’ve fled to Europe in the hope of finding safety and freedom. These individuals come from Africa, South and Central Asia, and the Middle East. This project is dedicated to all those who have been forced to flee their homes and countries due to their identities, and who they love, through no choice of their own. It contains photographs and audio interviews, and I hope to continue this project in existing and new forms with the help of the Burn Magazine grant.
About the photographer
I’m a British freelance photojournalist, based in Istanbul, Turkey. My personal work often focuses on themes of identity, migration, social and political actions, and the ramifications of those for individuals. I regularly cover stories about how identity shapes lives in challenging and unexpected ways, particularly within sexual and ethnic minority groups.
My ongoing long-term project Kutmaan (which began in 2010) tells the stories of LGBT+ asylum seekers and refugees from around the Middle East, forced to migrate and claim asylum due to their sexuality and/or gender identity. This work has continued in several sub projects about LGBT+ migration and asylum, some looking at survival sex work, others following events such as Mr Gay Syria, and the most recent project called Gayropa, which was generously supported by both the Pulitzer Center and the National Geographic Society.
Based in Istanbul, Turkey since early 2012 but traveling often. Prior to Istanbul, I was making personal work and working menial jobs in South Asia, the Middle East, and Australia.
Alongside documentary photography, I have also worked extensively with the Indian film industry, working as a set-photographer and videographer for numerous successful Bollywood productions around the world.My work has been published widely in international newspapers, magazines, and online.Occasionally, I write features and articles or produces short multimedia documentaries on specific topics.