Each night, when the guns fell silent in Iraq, Btoo Allami would invite his friend Nayyef Hrebid over for dinner.
The two first locked eyes on a dusty battlefield in Ramadi. After days of exchanging hasty glances amid gunfire, they snuck away one night to listen to Michael Jackson on shared earbuds.
The music stopped, but a love story was just beginning.
A decade ago, Allami was a sergeant in the Iraqi military when he met Hrebid, then a translator for the US Marines. Militants had seized a hospital in Ramadi, and they were part of a mission to reclaim it. When not defusing bombs, they'd talk late into the night at a pitch black lot surrounded by Humvees. Allami fell in love, unafraid of the war, yet terrified by what was happening with Hrebid.
Their love story would take them through two continents as they joined the 22 million refugees in the world, all fleeing war, grinding poverty and in their case, persecution from militants and relatives. Last year, only 14,700 Iraqi refugees were resettled worldwide, says Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. The UN does not have the number of applicants who claim asylum based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Few countries, if any, collect such statistics, he says.
Neither Hrebid nor Allami knew the other was gay. Iraq is not a country where same-sex attraction is discussed in the open.
LGBT people in Iraq risk harassment, beatings, and brutal killings -- sometimes by family members. ISIS, which held large swaths of Iraqi territory until recently, has also targeted gay men, tossing many to their deaths from tall buildings.