Falling in love in wartime Iraq

US Army interpreter Nayyef Hrebid and Iraqi soldier Btoo Allami fell in love at the height of the Iraq War. It was the start of a dangerous 12-year struggle to live together as a couple.

In 2003, Nayyef Hrebid found himself in the midst of the Iraq war. The fine art graduate had signed up to be a translator for the US Army after he couldn’t find a job.

“I was based in Ramadi, which was the worst place at that time. We would go out on patrols and people would be killed by IEDs [roadside bombs] and snipers. I was asking myself: ‘Why am I here? Why am I doing this?'”

However, a chance encounter with a soldier in the Iraqi army changed everything.

“One day I was sitting outside and this guy came out of the shower block. I saw his hair was shiny and very black and he was smiling. I just thought, ‘Oh my god, this guy is really cute.’

“I felt like something beautiful had happened in this very bad place.”

Hrebid was secretly gay. He hadn’t come out because same-sex relationships are taboo in Iraq and gay people are at risk of violent attacks.

“In Iraq being gay is seen as very wrong and brings shame on your family. You can even get killed for it so you have to be very careful,” he says.


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