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As Syria leaves the control of the Islamic State, there are new legal implications for transgender Syrians in terms of state prosecution, legal gender recognition, and access to gender-affirming healthcare. For example, death penalties imposed on queer and transgender people across Syria by ISIS are no longer in place since the terrorist group’s expulsion. Despite this, criminal provisions continue to convict gay and transgender people for non-conventional behavior or sexual expression. 

There are no mechanisms for transgender people to receive the proper gender marker on their legal identification documents. Moreover, war has hindered access to gender-affirming healthcare, with limited availability or unavailability altogether. The enforcement of the mentioned legal provisions is confined to areas directly controlled by the Syrian government, as different groups may control other regions due to the ongoing civil war. It is unclear if there was access to gender-affirming healthcare before the war. 


De-facto: There is no explicit legislation specifying the criminalization of being transgender in Syria. In some situations, Article 517 can be interpreted to punish transgender people under the guise of public indecency:

 “Breaking public moral values through any means mentioned in Chapter one from Article 208 is punished by three months to 3 years of imprisonment.” 

Despite the absence of comprehensive legislation criminalizing transgender identity, the Syrian government persists in detaining and convicting transgender individuals during and after the Civil War. Enforcement primarily occurs in relation to drug offenses, prostitution, or actions that defy societal norms. Penalties for other crimes, such as involvement in anti-government protests, are heightened for transgender individuals who are perceived as deviating from societal norms. Consequently, Syrian intelligence agencies frequently subject queer and transgender individuals, as well as cisgender heterosexual individuals who unintentionally present as non-conforming, to sexual abuse as a form of punishment. Checkpoints, where non-conventional mannerisms or appearances are deemed socially unacceptable, have become the most frequent locations for abductions and arrests, often accompanied by torture and sexual violence.

In a recent development, the Syrian Ministry of Interior Affairs stated that approximately 200 Syrians are currently incarcerated for engaging in “gay sex.” This may also encompass transgender individuals who are erroneously perceived as gay due to prejudiced and underdeveloped notions surrounding queer and transgender communities.

Legal Gender Recognition:

Transgender individuals who seek to change their legal name may do so through amending legal documents such as birth certificates before the Personal Status courts. Names that may seem too socially unconventional may result in the process failing. 

No correction or modification of civil status restrictions shall be made except on the basis of a judgement of the magistrate of the area where the original registration is located.

Exceptions to the preceding paragraph may be amended on the basis of documents, certificates, and administrative procedures specified in the executive instructions.

No correction or modification shall be made to the birth or place of occurrence registered within or outside the legal period.

Requests for revocation or correction may be submitted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the trustees of the Civil Registry or by anyone interested in such correction in cases involving public order.

Material errors are corrected by the competent civil registrar by an administrative record and certified by the Director of Civil Affairs of the governorate.

There is no mechanism for Syrian transgender people to access legal gender recognition. Syrian intersex people may seek out legal gender recognition by requesting it from the court directly, but the process excludes transgender individuals. Some reported cases show that Plaintiffs claim they have Gender Identity Disorder, but it appears to be a means toward getting their legal gender recognition as opposed to evidence of their self-identification as transgender. However, the state of legal gender recognition in Syria may differ from area to area due to post-war resettlement. 

Gender-affirming Healthcare:

There is no known method for transgender people to seek out gender-affirming healthcare. Intersex individuals have been able to seek out healthcare after filing petitions with the Syrian Civil Status Court. However, the state of healthcare in Syria differs from area to area due to war resettlements. 

There are no specific fatwas pertaining to transgender individuals issued by the religious authorities in the country. However, as the country follows Sunni Islam, the fatwas issued by esteemed Sunni authorities such as Al-Azhar in Egypt and the Islamic Fiqh Council in Saudi Arabia are considered applicable. These fatwas prohibit transgender individuals from seeking gender-affirming healthcare and restrict sex reassignment surgeries to intersex individuals only.

The political and judicial systems in Syria are intricately entangled with an ongoing political conflict. The multifaceted dynamics involve various factions competing for power, resulting in a state of affairs being governed by the government in some places and armed militants governing others. Unfortunately, these militias do not consistently adhere to the principles of due process, particularly when it comes to individuals who deviate from societal norms. Due to the ongoing conflict, the aforementioned legislation is applicable within the territories under the control of the government.