US Army intrepreter Nayyef Hrebid and Iraqi soldier Btoo Allami fell in love at the height of the Iraq War.
Hrebid felt like something beautiful when he first saw Btoo. “One day I was sitting outside and this guy came out of the shower block. I saw his hair was shiny and very black and he was smiling. I just thought, ‘Oh my god, this guy is really cute.’ But Hrebid didn’t know that Btoo also liked him secretly.
Iraq is a highly homophobic country, so, Btoo hadn’t come out. He could even be killed for this. Hrebid and Btoo had a chance to get to know each other when they took part in a mission to clear insurgents from the city’s general hospital. One day, Hrebid and Allami found an excuse to go outside to talk on their own.
“I felt very close to Nayyef and I felt it was time for me to say something,” Allami says, “So I told him about my feelings and that I loved him. And then he kissed me and left. It was an amazing night. I didn’t eat for two days afterwards.”
When some of the other soldiers found out about their relationship, they stopped talking to them. One of them hit Hrebid with a stick which broke his arm. They knew they had no future in Iraq. So, they decided to move to US. But being an Iraqi, it was most difficult for Btoo to get an immigrant Visa. Their appliation was delayed and rejected several times. Michael Failla, a reugee activist helped him to get out of Iraq. The couple got married in 2014 in Canada on Valentine’s day.
In 2015, Btoo Allami finally got an immigrant Visa. “I could not believe it was finally happening. We were going to live together in the place where we wanted to live.” They had another wedding ceremony in the US and tied the knot in Washington State.
Today they live together in an apartment in Seattle. Hrebid, who now works as a home decor department manager is a US citizen. Allami has a green card and is due to become a citizen next year. He works as a building supervisor.
Their story has been turned in to a documentary called Out of Iraq, which premiered at the LA Film Festival last year.
“We do not have to hide. I can hold his hand when we walk down the street,” Hrebid says. Allami agrees. “It’s so different for us now,” he says. “Before we were so hopeless but now we feel like a family. It’s a gay-friendly city. I’m living the dream. I’m free.”