A teenager in Switzerland is speaking out about a harrowing incident in which his father tried to kill him for being gay.
Seran, whose name is being withheld for privacy, awoke six months ago to find his father standing over him with a knife, shouting: “Are you gay? Are you gay?” The father tried to slash his son’s throat, but Seran was able to fight back and scramble across a balcony to safety at a neighbor’s house.
"Fortunately, my father missed the carotid artery by little,” he told the Swiss news site 20 Minutes. “But my trachea was affected and I had to be placed in an artificial coma.”
The boy doesn’t know how his father found out about his sexuality, as he had made efforts to hide it from his family. Until the attack, they all lived together in a rural area near Bern. Seran is now living on his own and his father has reportedly been arrested, though the father’s name and the details of the arrest have not been disclosed.
"My mother is ashamed of what happened,” he said. “As for me, I hid long enough, it's over now. … It's 2019 and my father tried to kill me because I love men. I can not accept that.”
The family is of Iraqi descent, and racist right-wing sites have seized on their heritage to promote an anti-Muslim narrative. The news has been gleefully reported by sites with names like Jihad Watch, Religion of Peace, Bare Naked Islam, as well as The Daily Star, with the family’s religion highlighted in headlines.
But Anita Streule, who monitors the Middle East for Amnesty International, says that such an attack would be considered just as horrifying in Iraq.
“In Iraq, as in Switzerland, there are progressive residents who have no problems with homosexuality at all,” she told 20 Minutes. “And then there are others in both countries who reject family members because of their homosexuality.”
Switzerland has been grappling in recent years with deeply-entrenched homophobia. In May, a group of teens attacked a booth offering support resources for LGBTQ+ people in Zurich. The next month, a gay couple was harassed and assaulted while leaving a Pride event. In another Pride incident, a gay man was beaten while attackers shouted homophobic abuse.
A helpline established in 2017 by Pink Cross received 100 separate reports in its first three months, while a 2016 study indicated that gay men in Geneva are four times more likely to suffer attacks than men in the general population.
The human rights group ILGA currently ranks Switzerland 27th out of 49 countries in Europe on LGBTQ+ equality.
Swiss authorities do not track hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Lawmakers are currently considering reforms that would establish nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in line with those afforded other disadvantaged groups.