Two soldiers found love in the unlikeliest of places, and their story is definitely one for the ages.
Back in 2004, Nayyef Hrebid and Betu Allami were both soldiers working together to secure a Ramadi hospital that had been taken over by insurgents. Hrebid was an interpreter with the U.S. Marines, and Allami was a soldier with the Iraqi Army.
The men spent a great deal of time in a safe house together sharing meals and conversation, and Hrebid says their bond led to something more:
“We fight. So what we talk about is our life and past, about how we feel, about where we like to be in the future. And that was very beautiful in that difficult moment.”
After just a few days, Allami professed his love to Hrebid, who returned his confession with a kiss. Though the two men found love, they were still in a very homophobic place.
In Iraq, the men faced prison or even violence just for being gay. Hrebid shared just how dangerous it is to be gay in Iraq:
“It’s losing your life. You get shame to the family. You lose your family, and you lose your friends, you lose everything almost. That is why there is other ways to be gay, just between you and maybe the other person.”
In 2009, Hrebid was given asylum in the U.S. after being targeted by insurgents for his work in Iraq, but he was forced to leave Allami behind. Even though he was working with U.S. forces, Allami’s past as an Iraqi soldier made it difficult for him to get a visa to enter the U.S., but a friend got him to Beirut and then to Canada, where Hrebid visited him weekly.
The two men were married on Valentine’s Day of 2014 in Vancouver. Nearly a year later, the couple was finally able to get an appointment with U.S. Immigration, and Allami was approved to live in the United States. Hrebid was elated:
“I lost myself. I really lost myself because this finally is happening. We could live together. I want to wake up to up see him in front me. And when I close my eyes, he’s the last face I see.”
The two were married in the U.S. in August 2015 and have settled in Seattle.
We encourage you to listen to the entire 7-minute piece. It’s quite lovely, and although Valentine’s Day has passed, we’re sure you have time for a little bit of romance.