DAMASCUS, Syria — The neighborhood of Shaalan in the center of Damascus was considered the most attractive place for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Many used to gather in front of the famous al-Madfai park or sit on the steps of Byblos Bank, which had become a popular meeting place. However, the scene has changed since the war began.
Many gays have left Syria, while those who decided to stay frequent other public places close to their homes. Any person wandering around an area far from their place of residence arouses the suspicions of the security forces deployed in the streets, especially in the Green Zone, which includes al-Rawda, Abu Rummaneh, Shaalan and al-Maliki. The regime is trying to keep the area safe as the Ministry of Defense and the residence of President Bashar al-Assad are also located there.