There’s a new weapon against ISIS — Mr. Gay Syria! Freshly minted pageant winner Hussein Sabat says he detests the jihadists more than he is frightened by them, so he is launching a campaign for LGBT rights in his war-ravaged country and beyond. “I want to show that Syrian gays are not just bodies thrown off buildings by ISIS; we have dreams and ideas and we want to live our lives,” he told the Daily Mail. “Of course, we were nervous, but we we’re excited — we all wanted to be Mr. Gay Syria to do something empowering.” The terror group has killed scores of gay men — including Sabat’s first boyfriend. “I was with Zakaria for four years, but three years ago ISIS beheaded him. They sent the execution video to his family. His mother almost went crazy, and I couldn’t speak for a month,” the 24-year-old hairdresser said. But Sabat remains undaunted. “Everyone is scared of ISIS, but it doesn’t stop me from living my life. I won’t let them be a barrier, and I hate them more than I’m scared,” he said.
The idea for the contest first surfaced among members of an Istanbul-based LGBT support group called Tea and Talk. “I thought it was going to be all about the looks and not just about the whole package, so I didn’t want to do it,” Sabat said. “But then, three weeks later, I saw an application form posted on Facebook. I don’t know why, but I found myself filling it.” He was crowned in February in Istanbul, getting the better of competitors such as Wissam — who paraded around in a hip-hugging mankini and Minnie Mouse ears, and William, who performed a saucy striptease. “Most of the music was cheesy Arabic and Turkish pop — the Kylie Minogues of the Arab world,” British photographer Bradley Secker, who documented the competition, told MailOnline. Most of the audience members — whose vote decided the winner — were from the Arab LGBT community. Sabat has sought sanctuary in Istanbul, but even in Turkey, with its relatively liberal attitudes, bigotry and hatred exists, he said. Nine months ago, he was viciously beaten by a group of Syrian and Turkish thugs.