The law: Article 520 of the Syrian Penal Code of 1949 criminalized homosexuality as "unnatural sexual intercourse," punishable by up to three years in prison.
The reality: The situation on the ground in Syria, as described by one Syrian author's account in FP, is if anything, grimmer than the law suggests. In March and April 2010, Syrian police raided four separate gay parties held in private homes. "[R]eports indicated that dozens of gays and lesbians have been imprisoned over the past several years after being arrested on vague charges such as abusing social values, selling, buying or consuming illegal drugs, and organizing and promoting 'obscene' parties," stated the State Department's 2010 human rights report on Syria.
Unlike in Lebanon, Egypt, or even Dubai, there are few informal support networks for gay people in Syria. Sami Hamwi, a Syria-based pseudonymous blogger for Gay Middle East, said a few activists are trying to change that, but they face both societal and political obstacles. "There is no way for me to survive in my line of work if I come out," said Hamwi, adding that he had lost two jobs already because of his sexuality.
Hamwi feared that the "Gay Girl in Damascus" hoax would cause the Syrian security forces to escalate their crackdown against gay activists. "I think they will not wait until the blogger is famous or well-read to seek them out," he said. "[And] arrests in Syria means actual disappearing.… No one can hear or know about the arrested people, sometimes for decades."