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Syrian oud player says even being an ally for LGBTQ was impossible at home

Ibrahim Saker in the Alumni Center of UBC. (Courtesy ibrahim-saker.com)
Summary

Annual fundraiser aims to bring support LGBTQ refugees through COVID-19

More than seven countries still have laws against LGBTQ rights

Syrian musician and producer lends oud skills to help queer refugees

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) — In Syria, being LGBTQ means keeping that information to yourself or within a close, trusted circle.

Even being an ally of human rights can be dangerous, according to Ibrahim Saker, aka Bero, a Syrian oud player and UBC student.

“I couldn’t express it, actually, back home, because of societal pressure and because of the people. They have a different outlook,” he says.

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He says he’s blown away at the welcoming and safe atmosphere organizer Danny Ramadan has created for Arabic people to be openly queer but also openly Arabic, something that he’s never witnessed before.

“It’s an Islamic culture back there and I’ve never been able to express that opinion just for everybody to have the basic right to live freely and to be themselves and decide to be whatever they are even if they’re not harming any other people.”

 

Saker came to Vancouver as a student three years ago and is studying political science at the University of British Columbia but doubles as a music producer. Saker also has two bachelor degrees, including one in civil engineering.

He believes music has the power to demystify other cultures and erode the fear and mistrust that accumulates when people lack connections with different cultures.

“I believe that music is a way to connect other people from different languages, from different cultures and maybe form a new genre and let those cultures interact with each other. At a concert, they would see the ‘other’ that they’re fearing, get to know them better and blend with each other. Hopefully that will contribute to the peace process around the globe.”

He’s blended his own music alongside artists from Japanese, Chinese and a number of other backgrounds to this effect.

This year marks the third in a row he’s played the oud, an instrument he’s been working with for 15 years, at An Evening In Damascus.

“They are actually fundraising to bring those amazing people from Syria and other countries and getting them out of that country they were born in which didn’t suit them. I know Syria can be a lovely place but for LGBTQ people it’s not,” says Saker.

“I’m really happy I’m going to perform and I can’t wait,” he says, describing a special live streaming studio he’s set up at home, complete with decor and atmosphere appropriate to the styles he will be performing.

“I tried to make it more Arabic style because I’m playing the oud, you know, Middle Eastern-style,” says Saker.

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He will be joined by belly dancers, Davish (another Middle Eastern style of dance) and drag queens from as far away as Lebanon.

NEWS 1130 is a proud media sponsor of the event which will take place virtually on July 24. Tickets can be purchased here.