Dutch newspaper Het Parool broke the story on 12 September, about Tarek, a 24-year-old Syrian refugee, who has been living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for a year. He thought he was in for a treat, when he and four of his friends went out shopping on Thursday. Zara is the group’s favourite store and they used to come there regularly. Used to, because when they were in the shop on Thursday, a man began harassing them near the registers on the first floor. According to Tarek, the man, whom he thinks to be in his mid-twenties and of Turkish or Moroccan descent, started to threaten the five friends when he heard them talk to each other lovingly in Arabic.

We were bad Muslims, we deserved to die because we are homosexual and transgender. He shouted ‘Allahu Akbar!’ through the store a couple of times.

E., 42-years-old and to scared to have his name in the papers, was hit in the face hard. Two security guards noticed the row and started to direct everyone downstairs, out of the shop. There, the man noticed one of the trans-women in the group and aimed his anger at her, ripping the dress from her shoulder in an attempt to attack her. E. says:

He shouted she was a ‘kafir‘, an unbeliever who must be killed.

What made the situation worse, is that the security guards were not inclined to help them. According to Tarek:

They did nothing to protect us and laughed at us. The man tried attacking us multiple times, spat in our faces, shouted that he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and that he was going to kill us. And nobody did anything.

Not long afterwards, the friends were asked to leave and banned for a year, being threatened with a charge of disturbing the public peace if they were to enter the store again. Tarek:

We were all forbidden from entering the shop for a year. We don’t know why.

The group have reported the matter to the police, but say they feel frightened and unsafe in the city ever since the incident. E. comments:

I am 42-years-old, I am a homosexual and I feel comfortable with that. I’m from Syria and I have lived in the Gulf States for thirteen years, but I have never experienced something as upsetting as this.

When asked about the case, Anneme Menge, the Belgian spokeswoman for Inditex, Zara’s Spanish parent company, says she is unable to comment:

There was a conflict in the store, but I can’t say anything about it.

Het Parool also tried the store itself, but employees were forbidden from giving out any information, including the reasons for banning the five from the store. Emir Belatoui of Secret Garden will be involved in a new research started by Alderman Simone Kukenheim and Victim Aid into violence against refugees which is related to their sexual orientation. The incident in Zara is a new indication that the group is faced more and more with threats and insecurity, and that a new investigation into their situation is necessary.