How to help Syrian LGBTI refugees preserve a safe space in Turkey

Syrian LGBTI refugees in Istanbul, Turkey, have organized weekly meetings, called  Tea&Talk, that provide a safe space for LGBTI Arabic-speaking refugees.
The Tea&Talk gatherings serve as a resource where LGBTI Arabic-speaking refugees and asylum seekers can learn about housing, employment, sexual health, their legal rights, and the processes for refugee registration and/or application for resettlement abroad.
The group has launched an online fundraiser aimed at establishing the Tea&Talk meetings as a professionally run project that would include language classes.

The money will go to the LGBT organization SPoD, which will use it for the Tea&Talk project. SPoD is the Social Policy, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association, a Turkey-based non-governmental organization, founded in 2011 by LGBT activists, that works for equality and human rights for LGBT people.
Two Tea&Talk supporters explain the project in this YouTube video:
Tea&Talk seeks financial support to continue its work for Syrian LGBTI refugees in Turkey (Photo courtesy of YouTube)
Hussein Sabat, winner of February’s Mr. Gay Syria competition in Istanbul, urges support for Tea&Talk, which helps Syrian LGBTI refugees in Turkey. Click the image to see the video. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Our story

As the LGBTI community in Turkey faces obstacles and challenges of their own, LGBTI refugees run the risk of being pushed further underground, ostracised, and having nowhere to turn to without grassroots groups like Tea&Talk.

The weekly meetings provide a safe space. They also serve as a resource for LGBTI Arabic speaking refugees and asylum seekers to gain knowledge on housing and employment opportunities, legal rights, navigating the refugee registration process, sexual health awareness, and applying for resettlement overseas.

A key goal for the group is to run a series of language courses in English, Turkish and Arabic. English and Turkish so the refugee community can better communicate with the outside world, and Arabic for Turkish LGBTI activists and groups to have the ability to better understand the needs of the refugee population, to better integrate their causes and work together.

With your support we will be able to extend Tea&Talk for another 12 months, able to employ a fulltime moderator/organiser. The group has been going from strength to strength, but your generous help will raise the bar of our support considerably, being better organised, having more resources, and therefore reaching out and assisting more individuals than ever before.

For $27,672 we can run language courses for 12 months, providing teachers, the use of a study space, and supporting books and stationery.

Tea&Talk seeks financial support to continue its work for Syrian LGBTI refugees in Turkey (Photo courtesy of YouTube)
Wissam Farhat, runner-up in February’s Mr. Gay Syria competition in Istanbul, explains the importance of Tea&Talk. The group is seeking financial support to continue its work for Syrian LGBTI refugees in Turkey (Photo courtesy of YouTube.) Click the image to see the video.

The two founding members of Tea&Talk have since been resettled overseas, but the group has been managed by an enthusiastic group of volunteers since early 2016. Subhi Nahas, one of the founders, ran a fundraising campaign through social media, and managed to raise $2,000 for food vouchers given to regular attendees of Tea&Talk, and those in the most vulnerable situations. This is evidence of our hands-on approach to help, and life changing assistance.

In recent months, members of Tea&Talk, and the wider LGBTI refugee community living in Turkey have faced threats, and even murder, as in the case of young Syrian Muhammad Wisam Sankari, whose mutilated body was found in August.

Turkish LGBTI organisations have very limited access to funds because of the current hostility towards LGBTI rights movements in the country. We are a group of LGBTI refugees who have benefited from SPoD’s initiative to host our weekly meetings and providing us with the safe place we need to discuss our issues and find solutions for them. However, this safe place is facing the risk of being shut down due to the lack of resources. As we want to keep our safe place, we decided to have our own initiative and raise money for the project. (Click here for budget break down, and here for full project proposal.)

Photojournalist Bradley Secker opened his ongoing Kutmaan project as a photo exhibition in Istanbul at the beginning of October. All proceeds from the exhibition will go to SPoD to launch the Tea&Talk project. You will have the chance to own one or several photos when you donate. Check donation levels for details.


In June 2017, we will publish a video showing the progress of the project and will credit you as a sponsor if you donate 500$ or more.

All photos that are offered in the donation levels are from Bradley’s ongoing photo project Kutmaan, and will be sent to you with detailed captions telling the stories of the individuals in them, all LGBTI refugees from Iraq, Iran, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at

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