“MARCO”— A Queer Syrian Refugee


A Queer Syrian Refugee

Amos Lassen

Saleem Haddad’s short film, “Marco” is a wonderful addition to the gay film canon and you can enjoy it for free on YouTube or below. It is the story of anundocumented Syrian LGBTQ refugee who comes to London and becomes a sex worker in order to make enough money so that he can buy food. This is a heartbreaking story about a gay man from a mother country where homosexuality is forbidden and even punishable by death. Ahmed (Marwan Kaabour) arrives in London after escaping Syria via Turkey and a stay in a stay in a refugee camp in Calais. From there he hid in a shipping container as a stowaway. When he arrived in London, he was arrested and just recently was released from the Detention Center. He only had  £30, and an appointment with the  Home Office to plead his case.

He began to advertise online and used the name Marco. He made up a new biography claiming to be from Barcelona knowing that as a gay Syrian refugee his number of clients would be limited only limit his number of clients and perhaps put him in harm’s way.

Marco met a client named Omar (Zed Josef) who was a successful businessman from Lebanon but living in London for the past decade.  Marco leads a lonely life working most of the time, He ignores  his mother’s phone calls from Syria. However, his accent is recognized by Omar and he feels that he tell him the truth. The two men become close friends because of their common backgrounds. Omar was able to come to London legally but he is sympathetic with Marco’s being gay and Arab is a foreign culture.

I was a bit reminded of myself when I immigrated to Israel as a gay man and this was well before the laws changed. Not only was being gay considered subversive but I had to learn a new language and forget about all that we had in America that had not yet come to Israel. Gay men could be arrested and jailed and it was a very difficult life. ”Marco” reminded me of the inequities involved with being LGBTQ and in his case stateless and homeless. I at least had Israel as my state.  Many of the Arab countries still take away the basic right of people to control their own lives and live free and without hate and prejudice..  

“Marco” is the  story of two men who came together for an evening of sex but then faced the realities of how their lives had changed and it is important to remember that there are many others like them.

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