Freedom, for me, is the most important thing
I couldn’t live a lie, but the alternative was truly dangerous. Being a gay man in Pakistan meant death threats, beatings and isolation. I just want to live my life.
I’m a serious, sober guy. I don’t like clubbing or going out. I work hard and I would describe myself as confident. My experiences have made me strong.
I came out to my family on a wedding stage with a microphone in my hand. I didn’t want it to be this way. But I had to live an honest life.
In my twenties, my family continually pressured me to get engaged. I offered excuse after excuse. I’m not ready, I want to finish my masters, I have ambitions before marriage.
But the truth is, I was seeing a man.
My mum and dad knew I was gay, and my dad always supported me, he is an amazing guy.
But my extended family were desperate for me to get married. The girl was chosen and the engagement was to be announced at my uncle’s wedding. Once the elders had announced it, it would be set in stone, no going back. This is how it is.
I was desperate. I needed guidance so I phoned the guy I was seeing.
He was married. He told me “you don’t want to live like me. You have to do something. You have to stand up for yourself and your future.” He was utterly devastated by his situation – untrue to his wife and hiding himself from his children. I knew I needed to choose another path before I too became caught in such a fiction.
So on the day of the wedding, before my engagement was announced, I got up on stage and addressed my whole family and community. I still get goose bumps thinking about it.
“Listen everyone, my family wanted to announce my engagement today, but I don’t want to get married to a woman.”
That’s all I said. Some people read between the lines. I was booed and cursed. I will never forget their faces. I was dejected. But I was free.
I came off that stage and spent the next three months detained at home. I was getting death threats and my dad was terrified for me to leave the house. Only him and my dog Lili kept me company in those months. I would hear people in the house watching TV, chatting and laughing. When I came into the room they stopped and scattered.
My brother and my mum cursed me, telling me I had brought shame to the family. I was told I had a disease, that I was sick. When I finally left the house I was beaten in the street. But I couldn’t face being locked up anymore. I remember saying “Even if it means you kill me, I have to live.”
Even though it was dangerous, I managed to finish my masters in Computer Science and worked for the US embassy, but I was still receiving threats. I knew I had to escape. I applied to study in the UK and was accepted which gave me a route out.
When I arrived in Britain, I claimed asylum. I was detained for two months while my claim went through. I got alopecia from the stress; I still have patches in my hair. Then I was granted refugee status. My partner, who I met in the UK, came to visit me every day and night in detention, he means so much to me. Now we can live together freely.
Life is good. The Refugee Council supported me to find work. Bahar is such an amazing lady, I love her. She was so good to me and expected nothing in return.
I’m now a night manager at Dominos Pizza, finishing work at 2 or 3am. But I am loving life.
My ambition is to get a job in computing. I don’t mind what, I’d just love to work a 9 to 5, putting pen to paper and working with computers. Freedom, for me, is the most important thing.