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World's oldest profession the only option in Beirut for some refugee and undocumented migrant men. Beirut, Lebanon - In an economically troubled, conservative country where homosexual behaviour is taboo, a growing number of men are prostituting themselves to scrape together a living. When talking about his life "Hassan" hesitates, the words coming out with difficulty as he chain-smokes cigarettes and fiddles with his sweatshirt. His work could have him arrested, beaten up and jailed.
Hassan, a year-old Sunni from Iraq, is a male prostitute and has been selling himself for money in Beirut for a year. This was not a lifestyle that he ever wanted, but something he says was forced upon him.
He insists he would have chosen another path "had I been given the choice". Hassan - who asked his real name not be used - was forced to leave his country after his family found out about his homosexuality and threatened to kill him.
Fearful for his life, he fled Iraq and was smuggled into Lebanon, along with five other refugees, by an NGO he refuses to name. After a few months, he was evicted from his flat after getting involved in a fight. Alone, still unemployed and desperate for any way to make money, he heard about bars in bourgeois areas of Beirut where men would pay high prices to spend a few hours with young men like him. A couple of days later, a wealthy entrepreneur from Turkey picked him up at a gay club located in the heart of the capital.
After a drink and a short discussion about prices, they left together. He was now a male escort. His is not an isolated story. Fouad, who also requested anonymity, gives "special" massages to any customer who asks. All of his co-workers are Syrian as well and offer the same kind of services. It's a temporary situation. As soon as I have saved enough money, I will go back to Syria to finish my studies. Like Hassan, Fouad says there was nowhere else to turn but to a life of prostitution. It is difficult to be sure whether he believes in what he says, given the ongoing civil war in his country, but like several of his coworkers, Fouad is eager to return to a normal life.