A PAKISTANI woman who has made her home in Hereford is hoping to raise awareness of the issues facing Asian members of the LGBT community.

Syeda Sarwat came to Britain as a student in 2010 in a bid to escape the violence, abuse and social isolation that she says she suffered as a Muslim lesbian in Pakistan, where same-sex relationships and acts of homosexuality are not only a social taboo but are punishable under criminal law.

Syeda said: "Society in Pakistan is very conservative, and if society, religion and family don't accept you, then how can you continue to live there?" 

"I have been told by scholars that my sexuality is not compatible with being Muslim but I do not agree that the Qur'an says that.

"I am a practising Muslim and my religion and sexuality are equally important to me."

Since graduating from university in Newcastle, Syeda has lived in several cities across the UK and became an active campaigner for Birmingham South Asian LGBT support group Finding a Voice before moving to Hereford in 2018.

She said: "I still have mixed feelings about my safety, but I feel good in Hereford. Life is good here.

"I have been under the care of the Hereford Crisis Team, who have been really supportive and kind.

"After a long and painful journey, I feel confident in myself and wear my orientation with pride."

However, Syeda said that even in Britain her sexuality has attracted negativity and made integrating into communities difficult.

"I am not connected with the Muslim community here in Hereford, as I feel that I might not be acceptable to them," she said.

"I tried to find LGBT groups here in Hereford, but there aren't any. I want to create a small group so the LGBT community here can come together to share experiences, support and raise awareness to change attitudes."