John Calvin — a 24-year-old Palestinian expat who has been living in Edmonton, Canada for five years — may soon be deported to the West Bank by the Canadian government for having “links to a terrorist organization.” His grandfather, Said Bilal, founded the Muslim Brotherhood and co-founded Hamas, two middle east organizations connected with terrorist activity.
Although Calvin ran away from his family at age 16, he worries that if he’s returned to the West Bank, his family will either murder him in an “honor killing” for being openly gay or Hamas will kill him for being a traitor for appearing on Israeli television.
After memorizing the Quran at age 14, Calvin says that his grandfather gave him a gun as an introduction to religious extremism. He had been taught to hate Israelis and received training from Hamas as a teen, but he began questioning his family’s strict religious ties and, at age 16, he fled only to find himself imprisoned in Israel for border crossing without legal documentation.
While imprisoned, Calvin says he got sexually assaulted by a man from his village. When he told his Israeli jailers, he received compassion and empathy from them rather than the callousness he had been raised to expect.
Around this time, Calvin began studying Christianity (an interest sparked by the Christian symbology Calvin encountered while reading Dan Brown’s novel, The DaVinci Code). But when his mother overheard him discussing plans to get baptized, she started screaming and his father came after him with a knife. Calvin went into hiding, spent more time in jail after a violent public encounter with his father, and — after living a while with his grandmother — learned that his father planned to murder him in a “honor killing.”
A pastor friend of Calvin’s eventually helped him immigrate to Canada on a student visa at the Toronto Bible School, but now, after five years, Calvin may get sent back to the West Bank and into the hands of certain death. Calvin argues that as a young teenager, he had little say in how he was raised, and that being brought up by a religious extremist family is not the same as being a terrorist himself. But Canadian laws are vague enough to deport him anyway.
According to the Honor Based Awareness Network, over 5,000 people are slaughtered in honor killings each year. While homosexuality is technically not illegal in the West Bank, Palestine has no laws protecting gay citizens from violence or discrimination. Calvin told Vice News that a gay man was shot and dismembered in his neighborhood in 2005. Calvin may well face the same fate if sent back to his home country.
(featured image via Radio Canada)