A gay Palestinian asylum-seeker who converted from Islam to Christianity said he faces deportation from Canada for his close family ties to Hamas, and fears he will be executed if forced to return to the West Bank. He said he feels “like a dead man walking.”
John Calvin (not his birth name) told CTV News in Edmonton, Canada, on Saturday that his family was among the founders of the Islamist terror group, but said he rejected Hamas’s extremist ideology and converted to Christianity at 18.
Calvin, 24, who was born in the West Bank in 1990, said that his family reacted angrily when they discovered his conversion, and that he narrowly escaped several attempts on his life by his father. “I ended up jumping out of the window and I escaped and was helped and headed into a different city in the West Bank,” he told Canada’s Global News.
He eventually fled to Canada, and applied for refugee status in 2011. Shortly after, Calvin enrolled in a Toronto bible college on a scholarship.
He said his refugee application was suspended in 2012, and on December 31, 2014, he received an official letter of deportation. He was given 30 days to appeal.
Five of his uncles are either currently in Israeli jails or have previously served time there for terrorist-related activity, including directing suicide bombings and manufacturing weapons, according to the deportation order obtained by the television station.
The order also states that Calvin’s maternal grandfather was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West Bank and was one of the founders of Hamas.
Calvin considers returning to the West Bank a death sentence, since he has been convicted of apostasy for deserting his religious beliefs. According to Calvin, converts from Islam are automatically branded supporters of Israel and convicted of treason. “You get shot. Where there is no court, no hearing, no police. If someone just, say, accuse[s] you of treason, [they] take you publicly and shoot you, that’s it,” he told the Edmonton TV station.
Complicating the situation further, Calvin has come out as gay to his family, and explained that homosexuality is another “crime” that could result in his death. “Being gay is absolutely unacceptable. It is punishable by death and a very, very painful and publicly shaming death,” he said.
While Palestinian law in the West Bank doesn’t criminalize homosexuality, it is socially taboo to be openly gay, and many choose to keep their homosexuality secret fearing violence and persecution.
“As soon as they put their hands on me I will be executed,” Calvin said.
Calvin’s friends have turned to crowd-sourcing to help raise awareness and the necessary funds for his legal appeal.