BEIRUT: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger," German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, once said. His words have inspired many in life including 28-year-old Zuheir Kreidieh.
The Lebanese filmmaker and activist is a fighter. His unraveling success story has inspired many to pursue their dreams and surmount obstacles.
“Filmmaking is my life,” he tells Annahar, and it is all about freedom.
“It’s my passion and it sets me free,” he adds.
Kreidieh likes to connect with people through his artwork, which is "all about sharing and expressing oneself and connecting with the universe."
And this is exactly what he did when he discovered he was HIV positive in 2012.
The young dreamer faced a turning point in his life when he flew to Dubai for work but ended up in jail for 3 days for testing HIV positive, before being deported back to Lebanon.
Two years later, Kreidieh decides to "come out as a gay and HIV positive man” in a documentary where he confronts his mother and tells her about his sexual orientation.
The documentary went viral and attracted media coverage from international TV channels including BBC Arabic and France 24. Admiration for his work, however, was not shared by his father who kicked him out of the house shortly after.
However, it was a therapeutic experience, says Kreidieh, who wanted to break his silence and share his experience with others.
“I was the hope for too many living with the virus,” he tells Annahar, adding that on the street, "he had to deal with ignorants insulting him just because he is gay and HIV positive."
“They call it AIDS, and they don’t have any idea about the difference between the virus and the syndrome,” Kreidieh stresses.
Unlike his father, a religious Muslim, his mother was supportive, Kreidieh says, noting that she went out looking for him after his father kicked him out.
LiIVING UNDER THREAT
“I was in real danger,” he recalls, noting how he received threats on social media and how his mother was harassed. “I felt being watched on the street and I was scared all the time, but this didn’t stop me from pursuing my activism,” he says.
Kreidieh argues that the Lebanese government continues to discriminate against homosexuals, recalling the incident of the gay bar "Ghost Bar" that was closed in 2016. Kreidieh says municipal police arrested gay men and obliged them to take off their clothes before mocking them.
"Of course, not everyone discriminates against gays but until now, most HIV positive people in Lebanon are afraid to talk about their status," he says.
When Kreidieh sensed he was threatened due to his TV appearances, he thought of leaving what he called the "prison of ignorance" for the UK.
In January, he will be volunteering at "Positively UK," an organization that supports HIV positive people.
"I’m going to start helping people who are struggling to live with the virus, and as soon as I get my residency, I’m going to apply for Masters in filmmaking and I will start my cinematic life here, from the UK," he says.
Kreidieh acknowledges that he became a public figure after his film went viral, and say he is happy to give a voice to people who could not speak of their suffering.
"It is neither a blessing nor a curse. I’m just dealing with it," he says, noting that home is not a place of birth but where "you are allowed to be creative, where you feel safe, appreciated, and loved."
HIV, he adds, will not stop him from accomplishing his dream as an acclaimed filmmaker.
"I decided to move to London in search of freedom and love to achieve my goals," he says.
The following is a music video directed by Zuheir Kreidieh:
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