There is very little Internet information about gay life in Kuwait. What there is often comes from western visitors with limited knowledge and unique experiences. Listed here are numerous links to gay Muslims, gay Middle East sites, and a couple of unusual news reports about transsexuality. These are followed by a short list of blogs and information sites about gay Kuwait.
Gay Middle East Web Site: http://www.gaymiddleeast.com/
More information about Islam & Homosexuality can be found at: www.al-fatiha.org
Other articles of interest can be found at: groups.yahoo.com/group/al-fatiha-news
Queer Muslim magazine: Huriyah
Gay Islam discussion groups:
1 Kuwaiti Transsexual Asks Court To Change Legal Gender 1/03
2 Kuwait sex-change case upheld 4/04
3 Information on the situation for homosexuals in Kuwait 4/04
4 Blog run by ” a married Lebanese gay couple living in Kuwait” 4/04
5 The Kuwaiti Rapemobile-Desperate Taxi Drivers (watch your backs!) 2005 9/05
6 LGBT rights in Kuwait -Wikipedia 9/05
7 Gay-in-Kuwait blog
8 American Gay Arabs speak out
9 Another blog with a attitudes about gay life–not!–in Kuwait
10 Kuwaiti gays ask permission to get organised 9/07
11 The L word in Kuwait 11/07
12 Kuwaitis arrested for “impersonating opposite sex” 1/08
13 Gay Men Face Jail in Egypt, Kuwait in Bid to Appease Islamists 4/08
14 Kuwaiti transexuals arrested and beaten to ‘protect’ citizens 6/08
15 Transsexuals in the Middle East Await the Wave of Change 9/09
16 Kuwaiti school expels two boys for being gay 5/11
January 22, 2003 – Gay.com U.K.
Kuwaiti Transsexual Asks Court To Change Legal Gender
In the first case of its kind in Kuwait, a transsexual has asked for a legal gender change to female. The Qabas newspaper said the unnamed transsexual, 29, had submitted papers to court as proof that she had had a sex-change operation in Bangkok, changing gender from male to female. She now wants to be legally identified as female.
The newspaper said the court has yet to rule on the case, but quoted a lawyer as saying the request would probably be accepted if all the papers were in order.
April 25, 2004 – BBC News
Kuwait sex-change case upheld
A Kuwaiti court has said a 25-year-old man who underwent sex-change surgery can be officially regarded as a woman.
The unprecedented ruling came after the court was told of the plaintiff’s physical and mental torment since childhood due to hormonal imbalances.
Lawyer Adel al-Yahya told Reuters news agency the judges were guided by a religious edict allowing gender change if there are medical reasons for it. The ruling has to be approved by a higher court before it becomes final. Mr Yahya, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said he presented the court with an edict from Sunni Islam’s top religious institution, al-Azhar, in Egypt.
This allows people to change their gender if there are proper medical reasons for doing so. “We have evidence, a fatwa from al-Azhar, because we have a case of illness, not a case of switching gender or as they call it in Kuwait a third-sex case,” he told Reuters. “This is a very rare condition… and the court ruled according to that condition.” Mr Yahya said the process of getting final approval for the ruling may take up to a month.
April 2004 – From: EastGarden
Information on the situation for homosexuals in Kuwait
Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Kuwait, and may result in the death penalty. Kuwaiti law is strongly influenced by the extreme muslim sharia laws. Foreign gays living in Kuwait have been arrested and deported. A university professor faced a lot of controversy for discussing lesbianism in 1998, but she still teaches according to information I have received.
In spite of the harsh laws of Kuwait, homosexuality can be quite open, and cruising for sex is quite common, especially among men. Even straight men cruise for gay sex, as the possibility of pre-marital sex with a woman is slim. It all seems to be a matter of who you talk to, where you go and how you act. Many hotels will reportedly tolerate bringing a man to the room, whereas a woman guest is unthinkable.
Extreme caution is advised in the beginning.
Kuwait is one of the world’s richest countries, ruled in practice by one family, the Sabah’s. The ruling emir enjoys near-absolute power. Kuwait, an Iraqi ally during the Iran-Iraq war of the 80′s, was occupied by Iraq from August 2, 1990 until the Gulf War liberation in late February 1991. On November 10, 1994 the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein officially recognized Kuwait’s sovereignty and its borders.
April 2004 – From: TwoFortyEightAM.com
A blog run by ” a married Lebanese couple who are living in Kuwait”
On their blog, Mark and Nat say they are a married Lebanese couple who are living in Kuwait.
Both are “creatives, Mark in Advertising while Nat in TV”.
From this blog:
(Looking for prostitutes) So, i told my brother call them..cuz i was kind of suspicious..i thought he sold drugs or something. So when my brother called, the guy was using this whole different tone, and asked him if he wanted an iraqi women for 20 Kuwait dollars…and 2 for 30Kd..and if he didnt like women…no problem they had a few ‘jnoos’..which were 40 kd ..( i thought they’d be cheaper ) it was pretty funny.
what are jnoss? i can tell you are refering to some homos but does jnoos mean ?
omfg, sakta that’s hilarious. what the fuck- gays are more than straights???? i would have never guessed. i guess they mean liek iraqi gaimar like halla bil gaiymar wallah hahahahaa
Duh, of course they’re more! They’re in more demand in Kuwait than chicks!
hmm… guys with breast implants ….. hmmm one thing i never did understand… why is anal sex so much a craze with the guys??? i mean guys like it done to themselves….
Ron Jeremy’s Vaseline
tried ky jello???Mark
I believe the Star Lounge you are talking about is Astra Lounge. Is the logo a star with lounge written underneath? If yes then if u look carefully the star spells out the word Astra. I lika to call it ASS-trolounge bc it sux hehe. it’s in sha’ab near She’ib co-op branch hidden between buildings. And there is Hangout Lounge in the Mezzanine 1 in Galleria 2000 mall in Salmiya.
those places both suck donkey dick and are full of gays and sand nigger beauty queens.
hahahaha Holla! Bring on the hate! But honestly they are both nice places, but just dont seem to fit right around here.. .
the one in She’ib aint too bad.. they have got good food I tried it once!
What about the Hangout Lounge? Any reviews?
here is a review of Hangout by a local expert:
-sells Starbucks food
-has cover charge but it’s ok a coffee is like 2KD
-lots of gay kuwaiti and lebanese guys
-very dark so that the gays can touch you but you can’t see them.
they just do that in the dark cos they don’t want rejection for being way too unattractive. Outright blatant flirting in Marina Mall is much more acceptable and from a better class of homos.
yeah. well you know it wouldn’t be so bad if they were real gay people, not like sexually repressed/confused morons.
Hangout Lounge is a nice place
they are all nice places moey, too bad they are filled with confused fucktards and portray an image that is just not possible in kuwait.
not really, i used to take my girl to hang out, it’s cool
they aint so bad….. They are the closest we are going to get in to a bloody bar in Kuwait. Don’t slate people for actually ‘trying’ to give adults something to do at night! Ban those gays….and invite in young afluent couples…will be a much better vibe for all.
let’s add ‘ban homophobic tossers’ to that list, hey Toxy? Sorry Mooch….I didn’t realize you were one of the pink Spikey Hair Cut Crew….
Those gays are welcome to do whatever they want in private, just don’t over power a few of the only decent places to go for hetrosexuals in Kuwait….. Apart from scaring away potential clientel, it’s not very nice to have 20 of them all oogling at you when you step into a place.
I think obnoxious c*nts should do whatever they want in private too. But I don’t get a choice. Being hit on in Kuwait by someone you don’t want to is a problem, yes… but so is bad driving, poor manners, ill-behaved kids, breathing second-hand smoke, etc. If we were to keep everyone we each find offensive “in private” the streets of Kuwait would be largely empty…. sorry Toxy, didn’t mean to get heavy. I just loathe any kind of bigotry, which makes me wonder how I’ve lasted in this world so long without inflicting physical pain on someone.
Ok so I went to the Hangout Lounge, terrible service. The food was terrible, the guy making the cocktails kept sniffing the blender!!! and thanks to all you wonderful people in this forum, I kept thinking that all the guys were gay!
September 2005 – From: Andy T Geezer blogspot
The Kuwaiti Rapemobile-Desperate Taxi Drivers
I have to say that I’ve always believed that it is better to give than to receive and despite what I have said about them, the Kuwaitis believe in pretty much the same thing, though not in quite the same way as you will see.
In Kuwait the rule of law is based on sharia – Islamic law – and therefore homosexuality is banned. This makes you think it’s safe to pick up the soap in the shower but the grim reality is that in truth the Kuwaitis are probably the gayest nation on all God’s Earth. Unfortunately the residents of Kuwait live in a shagging vacuum, where any form of sexual advances on the opposite sex are frowned upon, no matter how minor.
Kuwaiti youth flirt with one another by Bluetooth in the shopping malls turning their phones on while walking around Salmiya and get messages from each other. They dare not actually talk to a girl just in case the religious police bust their asses, and you never know when the religious police may just come out of the woodwork. It reminds me of 1984 and the Thought Police. The sexual frustration of Kuwait residents led to some very bizarre incidents.
Advance warning to those with delicate stomachs: the following is sick stuff but a true account of things that actually happened to me in Kuwait. If you are easily nauseated stop reading now, but this is all the truth.
Bizarre incident 1 – Taxi to the hospital
I had done it again. Forgotten to drink enough water in a country far hotter and drier than what I was used to and was getting the same symptoms I always get when this happens on holiday. I was absolutely exhausted and had a mouth that grated like a desiccated hedgehog. Feverish I decided finally to take the advice of my friends and get myself off to the London hospital in Fintas, down the road from my Abu Halifa flat.
As a guy with yellow skin, I had discovered early in my stay in Kuwait that the locals were entirely unable to work out where I was from and so assumed I was from the Philippines. No amount of correction would ever put them on the right track and I just decided that it wasn’t really my place to educate the ignorant.
On the positive side though, their ignorance meant that they would assume I was a poorly paid slave of some sort and would charge me Filipino rates, which were infinitely cheaper than what they charged my white mates. I would travel to and from places in Hajji trucks, which are just pick-up trucks that the drivers seem to drive around aimlessly from a to b picking up stray poor Indians and Filipinos like me if they were going in the same direction.
I decided that Hajji (taxi) was the way to travel this day and hailed one down that was heading in the direction of the hospital. I was on my own and climbed in, a little disorientated from the dehydration ravaging my frame. I tried my best to strike up conversation with the Arab in the driver’s seat.
It didn’t take too long, perhaps about halfway down the road the taxi driver asked me if I had a wife. I had been in quite enough Hajji trucks to know where this was going. Within a few moments, the guy in the dish-dasha was saying how nice my hair was and saying that I should ring him and go out with him.
The thing is that in Kuwait, the sexual frustration felt by all the men only has one outlet. Other men.
In Kuwait, although it is illegal to be a fag it is only thought of as gay if you are taking it and not if you are giving it. Hence, no Arab wants to take a cock up their arse but most are more than happy to give it. As the Filipinos are seen as poor and need the money the Arabs pretty much just take them in and fuck them for small change, conveniently denying any homosexual activity on account that they didn’t bend over and take it. A Filipino getting in a car then is seen as a bit of a catch in some eyes.
See what I mean about it being better to give than to receive. He didn’t give or receive anything from me.
Bizarre incident 2 – taxi from the hospital
On the very same day, the scorching sun of Kuwait was setting somewhere over the horizon of the Arabian Gulf when I walked out of the hospital. I definitely couldn’t entertain the idea of walking home in the state I was in so I waited for a bus. But as I waited a Hajji pulled up.
In Kuwait I paid the same price for a hajji as I would for a bus (the white guys would pay the same price as a taxi for a hajji) so I thought yeah alright lets go it’s not far.
I got in and I cannot recall quite how this guy did it, but within 10 seconds of boarding the driver was asking me if I liked Indian women’s fannies.
“ Indian pussies,” he said, “are so big. It’s great to fuck Indian women. I like the way that they are so juicy and big. It’s great to slide in and out of Indian women. And they are so big it’s great if you have a BIG dick.”
At this point he was getting quite turned on and I was feeling even sicker than before. Reaching down he suddenly grabbed his cock through his dishdasha and it was clear he had a boner, which he promptly started stroking. This must have been about 30 seconds after I got in the car! Perhaps I interrupted his driving and wanking session by getting in the car in the first place and I made a mental note never to get in any more cars with guys who had only one hand on the wheel!
“Have YOU got a big dick?” He suddenly said and tried to reach over for a feel. I gave him a look that crossed the language divide. Put one hand on me and lose it, I thought. He must have read my mind and backed off which is a move that probably accounts for his still being alive today. He carried on amusing himself and talking about fannies of the world that he’d sampled in brothels in Salmiya. I can only thank god that that journey was short and that he didn’t suffer from premature ejaculation.
Bizarre incident 3
A car of Filipinos: 4 bottoms and 4 mouths! A Kuwaiti perverts dream shag wagon!
I needed to go to the Hilton Kuwait resort in Mangaf and the first Hajji to come along I got in with a bunch of Filipinos. By this time I had learnt that it was probably a good idea to make sure that there were other people around when I got in one of these things as they did seem to be driven by perverts 9 times out of 10. With the company of 3 other guys I thought I would be safe.
How wrong I wa
The guy was the most predatory faggot I have ever seen! We hadn’t even reached the roundabout outside Kuwait Magic before he started to say how much he liked my glasses (which I had bought the day before for about £200) and saying that he wanted them. Then he said how much he loved our hair and that he would love to have sex with us all.
The funniest bit came when he said “If any of you give me a kiss, I’ll give you all the ride for free”. All of the Filipinos looked around at each other and laughed at him. I decided that I could probably afford the 40p fare and gave it a miss.
This is the life they lead out there people. So watch your backs…
September 2004 – From: Wikipedia
LGBT rights in Kuwait
Kuwait is a Muslim nation and thus both homosexuality and cross-dressing are treated as crimes and signs of immorality. However, as is the case with other “moderate” Muslim nations in the Middle East, their are few recorded cases of the criminal laws being enforced.
1 Criminal Code
2 Printing and Publication Law
3 Civil Rights
4 Marriage & Family
Several Articles in the national penal code are used to prohibit hommosexuality between consenting adults in private and to restrict the public discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Article 193 of the Penal Code punishes homosexuality between men, over the age of 21, with up to seven years imprisonment . If the conduct involves persons under the age of 21, then imprisonment can be for a maximum of ten years [. .
Article 204 prohibits the public encouragment of “immoral acts” and the publication and distribution of any writing or images that are immoral.
In 1996, the Kuwaiti police arrested seven Filipino hairdressers, working in Kuwait, and jailed them for homosexuality and prositution. They were all soon deported with the Kuwaiti government informing the Philippine Embassy that it would not tolerate the existence of gay foreign workers or their sexual conduct.Printing and Publication Law
First enacted in 1961, the national law has several regulations that are used against LGBT themes.
Article 26 bans the, “publication that violates public morality or persons’ dignity or personal freedom…”. .
Article 37 gives the Office of Printing and Publications the power to ban the importation of publications that will harm “public morals” or the, “the sanctity of religions.” .
In 1997, Dr Alia Shoaib was dismissed from her professorial chair in Kuwait University for suggesting that homosexuality existed in the emirate. Her comments were printed in the “al-Hadaf” magazine, which faced charges for obscenity. The Kuwati Information Minister said the professor’s comments had “defamed the University” and that, “We know that there are gays in Kuwait, they are hidden and should remain so” . That same year the famous Kuwaiti novlist, Leila Othman, aced obscenity charges for her novel titled “The Departure” which included stories featuring same-sex relationships.
In 2000, the Kuwaiti appeals courts overturned the lowers courts criminal convictions against these two women, but upheld the heavy fines .
No civil rights legislation exists to prohibit public or private sector discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. No LGBT association or interest group is officially allowed to exist, although their is some online rumors about an underground LGBT associations with such names as “Gay Freedom” .
In 2003, Kuwait’s Civil Bench of the Court of First Instance dismissed the case of a 25-year-old woman who wanted to change her name on official documents after undergoing a sex-change operation in Thailand .
Marriage & Family
Kuwaiti law does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnership benefits.
In 1988, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Public Health published a report on HIV infections in Kuwait , especially the person’s nationality, martial status and sexual orientation. In 2004 a United Nations report on HIV in Kuwait found that about six percent of known transmission cases were the result of unprotected sexual contact between men [data.unaids.org/Publications/Fact-Sheets01/kuwait_en.pdf].
In 1992, the Kuwaiti national assembly outlawed the knowing transmission of HIV to another person. Foreign residents must prove that they do not have HIV or AIDS to enter or remain in Kuwait .
In 2007, a seminar titled “AIDS- The Epidemic of the Century”, was held by the Kuwait Medical Society (KMS). Officially the number of Kuwaiti infected with HIV is small and thus the pandemic is often seen as a problem caused by so-called “foreign” problems; i.e. homosexuality .
Gay in Kuwait blog:
…The fact is, homosexuality is banned in this god forsaken shit hole, homosexuals are jailed if caught in the act. Another fact is that homosexuality is part of nature, it’s occurence is evidenced in all species. Furthermore, homosexuality makes sense, because to put it simply (because I am tired from work and can barely articulate) homosexuality is the consequense of heterosexuality, …I wish they’d just understand that…
(not much else on that blog)
American Gay Arabs speak out:
(nothing about gay Kuwait today)
A gay blogger comments about Kuwait (nothing much about gay life)
by Anthony Monday — Kuwaiti Correspondent
(Note: the views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of DiSCORDER Magazine. They are entirely those of Anthony Monday, a bitter, young, urban, white fag experiencing a whole schwak–load of culture shock in Kuwait, a country he knows nothing about. This is a learning experience.)
Kuwait is as flat and lonely as the moon. The sand and rock stretch out like any alien landscape, dotted with clay–type houses, mosques, and water towers. My nose has been full of dust since I stepped off the plane, and so far the only word I have learned in Arabic is “chicken”—it sounds like “djajudge.” All is well.
…Kuwait seems to be a place that has just started moving on. Twenty years ago, there was nothing here. Sand and dust and the fish in the sea. Oil changed that. So much so that yesterday I sat in an Arabic Starbucks, in a giant mall, while women covered head to toe in black carried Gap, Club Monaco, and Next clothing bags under their arms. Their shoes looked sleek and expensive, thin heels and thin straps. Each one chatted on cell phones. Some carried Prada purses. In private, once the black has fallen from their bodies, they must be the best–dressed housewives in the world.
Men here are affectionate, especially at an age when most westerners pull macho personas out of their pimply faces: young men—teenagers—hold hands and kiss. They wear their long white dish–dash dresses, wear their headdresses with pride, and their upper lips are covered with a thickening black down. They link arms and talk on their cell phones, sit at coffee shops with their legs folded, revealing expensive black shoes. These are the rich ones. The poor are outside in the 45–degree heat, covered in dust. Working hard.
Sex and sexuality in Kuwait is another matter. The women are covered in black to stop other men from looking at their bodies, and it works. The women that are not covered receive the frightening blows of looks and ogles that smash them down. They are an anomaly. Advertising, films, even magazines have been censored for (against?) sex. It’s refreshing, in my eyes. I come from a place where every second word and every second picture is about sex. We talk it, we breathe it, and we cannot speak to our friends without mentioning it. It’s the first thing that hits me when I get off the plane, after being awake and flying for 45 hours, natch—sex is private here.
misc. site: IndyGayForum
18th September 2007 – PinkNews
Kuwaiti gays ask permission to get organised
by Georgina Roberts
The gay and trans community in Kuwait has approached the government requesting an official gay rights organisation. The majority Muslim country currently does not allow such groups to exist, despite a growing number of openly gay and transgender Kuwaitis. According to online news service, Al Arabiya, the gay rights request follows the recent Upholding Ethics report from the Kuwaiti National Council. The report reveals $2m (£1m) has been allocated to combat the rise of homosexuality and a proposal to criminalise “cross-dressing.”
Homosexuality and transvestism are currently prohibited in Kuwait, but this is considered a crime of morality and is rarely enforced by law. The proposed amendment to the penal code would make transvestism punishable by a 1000 dinars (£1,780) fine or a jail sentence.
The oil-rich country of three million people was invaded by Saddam Hussein in 1991, sparking the first Gulf War. It is relatively liberal and democratic compared to its Muslim neighbours. It has an elected national council and women gained the right to vote in 2006. However, homosexuality between men is punishable with imprisonment for up to ten years. People entering Kuwait must prove they are not HIV positive and the “publication and distribution of any writing or images that are immoral” is against the law.
November 09, 2007 – Kuwait Times
The L word in Kuwait
Today I will be discussing a phenomenon that is on the rise in our society. Lesbians it seems just as much as gays are more and more visible, and this is starting to cause a heated debate within our society. Last night while on MSN a friend of mine sent me a link to Youtube to a show “Sa’at saraha” (Arabic for ‘An hour of truth’) presented by a well-known preacher, Nabeel Al-Awadi. The show aired on Al-Rai and it’s a testimony to the level of freedom of speech in Kuwait, for the show was rather explicit and brought up several interesting points.
The show starts with the introduction of the problem: A rise in the number of lesbians in Kuwait’s schools. The show asks what can and should be done about this shocking situation.
The first few ideas are outrageous. The preacher claims that it is no longer safe to send girls to school because they might be harassed by aggressive lesbians who would either convert them or worse prey upon them sexually.
Al-Awadi is surprised by such behaviour, which he says has no roots in our Arab-Islamic societies. He says that even though in the Gulf, boys and girls are segregated they become sexual targets by some of their peers.
I wrote last week about the idea of having co-ed schools. One of the reasons to have co-ed schools and to mix both boys and girls is the idea that when together if anything they would perhaps fall in love and in the near future create a healthy couple.
Such a solution would not prevent same-sex relations for it seems that it is a global trend that is on the rise. However if boys and girls are together than at least the figures won’t be as high.
According to a female friend of mine, at least half the girls in government high schools have had at least one either lesbian or bi-sexual encounter. In tackling the problem, several callers suggested some very radical ideas. One solution put forward was isolation. A caller suggested that girls caught engaging in such forbidden acts be kicked out of school and barred from any decent education.
Other solutions included imprisoning the ‘lesbians’ (I personally don’t know how putting a bunch of lesbians into one cell would do rectify the situation!). Some were astonished that the parents are not doing their job as parents by not correctly directing their progeny towards the righteous path, and worse allowing them to become lesbians or even cross-dressers.
There are many points and certainly many questions worth pondering on when thinking of such a subject. For example, is homosexuality something that you are born with? Is it a defect in genetics? Or is it a preference just like some people prefer chocolate while others prefer vanilla!
Homosexuality as well as other taboo subjects such as magic, witchcraft and the sort will be topics I will discuss this week. Here is the link for all those that would want to watch the show some of you might have seen it in Al Rai TV those that missed it you can find it by typing the following link: (http://youtube.com/watch?v=MnukfbAyuiA)
by Fouad Al-Obaid Email
Source – Kuwait Times
18th January 2008 – PinkNews
Kuwaitis arrested for “impersonating opposite sex”
by Tony Grew
A leading human rights charity has drawn attention to the plight of more than a dozen people arrested and jailed under new “dress code” laws in Kuwait. Human Rights Watch has called for them to be released. The law was approved by the National Assembly on December 10th 2007. It criminalises people who “imitate the appearance of the opposite sex.”
“The wave of arrests in the past month shows exactly why Kuwait should repeal this repressive law,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East division at HRW. “Kuwaiti authorities should immediately drop all charges against those arrested, and investigate charges of ill-treatment in detention.”
Security officials have arrested at least 14 people in Kuwait City since the National Assembly approved an addition (Article 199 bis) to Article 198 of the Criminal Code. The amendment states that “any person committing an indecent act in a public place, or imitating the appearance of a member of the opposite sex, shall be subject to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or a fine.”
The only known targets of the new Kuwaiti law have been transgender people.
Kuwait allows transgender people neither to change their legal identity to match the gender in which they live, nor to adapt their physical appearance through gender reassignment surgery. The new law, coming after months of controversy, aims at further restricting their rights and completely eliminating their public presence. In September 2007, the newspaper Al Arabiya reported a new government campaign to “combat the growing phenomenon of gays and transsexuals” in Kuwait.
April 8, 2008 – Bloomberg
Gay Men Face Jail in Egypt, Kuwait in Bid to Appease Islamists
by Daniel Williams
(Bloomberg) – The young men who loitered at the west end of the Qasr El-Nil Bridge in Cairo spied the blue pickup truck, a sign they should scatter.
“They’re police,” said Ahmed A., making a two-finger gesture on his shoulder to indicate epaulets. “They park and the pigs come out and grab everyone they can.”
For three months, Egyptian police have embarked on periodic sweeps of downtown streets to clear them of presumed homosexuals. The raids, independent observers and human-rights activists say, reflect not simply official disgust. They’re part of an effort by governments throughout the Middle East to out-moralize Islamic parties that have denounced the perceived depravity of Arab societies under autocratic rule. Homosexuality isn’t illegal in Egypt, though it is a convenient target, says Hani Shukrallah, executive director of the Heikal Foundation for Arab Journalism in Cairo.
“Meaningless crackdowns have become a regular thing,” Shukrullah says. “If not gays, devil worshippers. If not devil worshippers, apostates. The government needs to outbid Islamic opponents as guardian of morals.” In January, six men in Morocco were accused of homosexual conduct, a crime in that country, after a video circulated that showed one dancing at a wedding dressed as a woman, according to Amnesty International.
`Prisoners of Conscience’
The men were sentenced to jail terms of four to 10 months. “Persons imprisoned solely on the basis of their alleged or real sexual orientation are prisoners of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released,” London-based Amnesty said in a statement. Last December, Kuwait’s parliament passed a law that criminalized “imitating the appearance of the opposite sex.” Subsequent roundups netted at least 16 suspects, New York-based Human Rights Watch reported March 31, adding that three detainees were beaten. The suppressive wave created another stir among human- rights activists in February when Egypt’s morality police arrested two men on a Cairo street. One said he was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The police threw both in jail and, by inspecting their mobile phones, found the numbers of 10 acquaintances, whom they also arrested. They forced all to submit to HIV testing, according to the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
Four were sentenced to a year in prison for debauchery, a crime under Egyptian law defined as having sex for money or with a number of partners over an extended period. Five of the remaining eight face trial April 9 on the same charge, even though they were found to be free of disease. “From a public-health perspective, this is dangerous,” says Suha Abdelati, an EIPR official. “It forces people underground.”
On April 7, 117 human-rights organizations from 41 countries sent a letter to the Egyptian Health Ministry and a government-sponsored doctors’ union condemning the crackdown and participation of medical personnel. “Doctors must put patients first, not join a witch-hunt driven by prejudice,” Joe Amon, director of the HIV/AIDS program at Human Rights Watch, said in a news release. The Egyptian government’s National AIDS Program provides testing and treatment. When asked to comment about the impact of the arrests, Zein El-Din Abedeen, an official, says, “we’re not allowed to talk about.” Ashraf El-Enany, a spokesman at the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police, declined to comment.
Against this backdrop, it’s dangerous to “come out,” a fundamental virtue in Western gay-activist thinking. Take Behaa Saber Semeda, 35. Police first arrested him at a Cairo cafe in 1997 with a group of friends. He says he was beaten into signing a confession to prostitution; a court sentenced him to six months imprisonment. He appealed and remained free while the case languished for more than five years, during which he served in the army and worked in restaurants. In 2003, he asked a court to dismiss his case on the grounds that the statue of limitations had expired. Instead, he was sent to prison.
In 2005, he became politically active, creating a double whammy. He says police found him with a Human Rights Watch report and jailed him for six days. In 2006, he was caught in a roundup of anti-government demonstrators and detained for 15 days. In 2007, he was charged with disturbing the peace at a pro-democracy rally. That case is pending.
He says he’s unemployed and lives off his family. “I don’t have a future,” he says, noting his original conviction for debauchery is still in his record. “If they don’t get me for being gay, they’ll get me for being anti-government.”
Ahmed A., a 20-year-old computer student, says he has no intention of letting his predilections become public. He meets acquaintances in homes or wanders the streets for entertainment. There are a few clandestine bath houses and movie theaters where gays gather, he says. “We don’t go to discos,” he says. “In Egypt, everyone will push you away if you are gay.” Ahmed and four gay friends decamped to Tahrir Square, a crowded spot where hanging out attracts little attention. Still, they were on the lookout when a pal rushed up and put his fingers to his shoulders. “There’s a policeman over there,” he said, pointing to a man in a loose-fitting civilian jacket.
The group walked slowly up Talaat Harb Street and disappeared into the crowd.
To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Williams in Cairo.
June 18, 2008 – PinkNews
Kuwaiti transexuals arrested and beaten to ‘protect’ citizens
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
In an attempt to ‘protect its youth’ the Kuwaiti government is stepping up a campaign to ‘rid’ the country of gay and transexual citizens. The Social Vice committee in Kuwait is in the process of organising a national conference in order to define the definition of ‘social vices’ and the ways to crackdown on them, said a former head of the committee. Talking to the Kuwaiti newspaper Alaqabs, Mr Valid Tabtabii, a Kuwaiti MP, said that it is the responsibility of the parliament to undertake this campaign, especially since the country’s constitution states that the state has the responsibility to protect its youth. Facing increasing criticism about the way they handle social issues, he labelled those criticisms as unjustified and accused his opponents of ignorance. “Mankind is against anything he doesn’t understand,” he said.
The Committee also has the support of the Parliament, as it was formed on a request from 43 out of 50 MPs. It has so far played a significant role in the Kuwaiti society in cracking down on ‘social misconduct.’ Mr. Tabatabaii said that in the past, the Committee has tried to crackdown on “girly boys” and homosexuals, who promote crime and sexual immorality in the country. This crackdown happened in schools and other public places, without violating people’s privacy.
Last December, Kuwait’s parliament passed a law that criminalised “imitating the appearance of the opposite sex.” The amendment states that “any person committing an indecent act in a public place, or imitating the appearance of a member of the opposite sex, shall be subject to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or a fine.” Subsequent roundups netted at least 16 suspects, New York-based Human Rights Watch reported, adding that three detainees were beaten. The only known targets of the new Kuwaiti law have been transgender people.
Kuwait does not allow transgender people to change their legal identity to match the gender in which they live or to adapt their physical appearance through gender reassignment surgery. In September 2007 Al Arabiya reported a new government campaign to “combat the growing phenomenon of gays and transsexuals” in Kuwait. Mr. Mohammad Haiif, the spokesperson for the Parliamentary Study Group on Social Vice, told reporters yesterday that ” those suffering from queerness are in need of medical treatment for hormonal imbalance, and by doing so, we help them, and not harm them.”
September 2, 2009 – The WIP
Transsexuals in the Middle East Await the Wave of Change
by Suad Hamada
Bahrain – Hell is what most Arabs think of when the word “transsexual” comes into any conversation since many mistake it with homosexuality, which is a sin in Islam. Most transsexuals prefer to remain anonymous since in some Arab countries they could face jail sentences for dressing or acting like the opposite sex. Many, especially men who feel trapped in the body of a woman, keep their problems hidden to avoid being punished or killed by their families. It is far easier for a woman to have a sex change to become a man than visa-versa. A man who becomes a woman is seen to have dishonored the family.
For 34 years, Bahraini Hussain Rabai felt trapped in a female body. In 2008, the courts officially declared him a man by approving his name change in official documents, from Zainab to Hussain, following sex correction surgery in 2007. Partially blind, Hussain is luckier than most – he was married this year and happy to finally become a man. “I think my wife married me because of my honesty. I told her and her family about my past and my keenness to lead my life as a complete man.”
Transsexuals in Bahrain face the burden of social misconceptions and rejection, but they fare much better than those in Kuwait who face legal sanctions and maltreatment in the prison system. According to the Qatari newspaper Al Raya, the government has allocated two million Kuwaiti dinars to combat homosexuality and transsexuals, especially those demanding the formation of a society to defend their rights. Kuwait also passed a decency law punishing transsexuals and homosexuals to a one-year jail sentence and US$3,500 fine. A group of transsexuals signed a petition to the Kuwaiti Parliament seeking public recognition and cancellation of the law after 12 of them were maltreated in detention. Arrested for wearing female clothes, the prisoners were physically and psychologically abused by guards who shaved their long hair.
In a conservative state such as Saudi Arabia, only sex correction operations are allowed. According to Saudi Daily, around 600 surgeries were conducted from 2001 to 2007, and though these individuals were accepted by the government, they are still being rejected by society and find it difficult to fit in. It might sound tough for transsexuals here, but there is more hope now than ever before of improved rights. With more public awareness through the Internet and newspapers, transsexuals have found a voice and have begun to demand respect and recognition.
Created in 2006 by Salim, a Kuwaiti man who identifies as a woman, the Arabic-language blog Transhelp is just one example of a growing community of support. Since its launch three years ago, the blog has attracted 120,000 members and has had over 200 million hits. Called a “guardian angel” by many of Transhelp’s members, Bahraini lawyer Fawziya Janahi has dedicated her career to helping transsexuals across the Arab world and says she is the first lawyer in the region to specialize in sex change cases.
Janahi became well known in 2005 when she won her first sex change case for a Bahraini transsexual and Hussain Rabai’s case in 2008. She mostly represents clients who want a sex change operation, and who need permission from the court for the surgery. The operations are mainly performed in Thailand and other East Asian countries. In the two cases that she’s won, she also sued the health ministry and passport department to change the official documents of her clients from female to male.
“I ask all my clients to go to psychiatrists to evaluate if their feelings can be corrected [without surgery] or not,” she explains. The young lawyer says that she only takes cases after a full psychiatric evaluation and only after therapy has failed. She has a heavy caseload with clients in Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where she has 50 cases alone.
“Facing criticism isn’t something that I fear – if one of my clients is emotionally a woman trapped in a man’s body or visa-versa and psychiatrists can’t help, then I will.” She also doesn’t worry about religious objections as she feels that if psychiatrists give her the green light to defend their patients, then scholars shouldn’t object.
Conservative Saudi professor and psychologist Dr Tariq Al Habeeb agrees. “Gender isn’t determined only by the genital organs, but how individuals think of themselves.” He says that since religious scholars accept sex correction operations when an individual is born with both genital organs, they should also accept operations for transsexuals who feel trapped in their physical bodies.
“I urge society to open up,” he says. “A man who has felt like a woman since childhood is a woman trapped in the body of a man and urgently needs a sex change operation.”
It took Hussain more than 30 years to convince his family to go on with his surgery and even now not all of his relatives are supportive. With Janahi’s help Hussain won the support of Bahrain’s newspapers to raise funds for his surgery, even though he was unemployed for a full year afterward until the courts recognized him as a man. But his case is simple compared to a friend. “My friend’s agony is harming him – he cannot stay in his body, but he doesn’t have the courage to face the rejection of his family,” Hussain explains.
Yet the wave of change seems like it’s finally coming to the Middle East – just ten years back no one dared debate the rights of transsexuals, let alone acknowledge them publicly. Many transsexuals are not ashamed of their situations and are fighting to be accepted in society by talking to the press or even contacting Human Rights Watch. Many ordinary people have started watching TV programs on the plight of transsexuals, no longer switching the channel fearing punishment from God.
“When I look back to what I went through to become a man,” recalls Hussain, “I remember how I lived with identity crisis all my life.” And this is what keeps Dr Tariq and Fawziya Janahi going despite heavy criticism. “I’m happy to have found my mission in life,” says Janahi. “I’m proud to be called the first Arab and Muslim lawyer to defend transsexuals.”
16 May 11 – Gay Middle East
Kuwaiti school expels two boys for being gay
by Dan Littauer, Executive Editor
Al-Watan news reports that a Kuwaiti school expelled two school boys after receiving persistent complaints from students’ parents that the two are gay. The headmaster of the secondary school in Kuwait City asked them to open their school bags, Al-Watan reports. The headmaster found, to his surprise, women’s clothes and make-up items at which point he immediately decided to expel them.
Gay Middle East notes that even if the students are gay there is no good reason to expel them as there were no reports of behaviours that put other students at risk or disturbing their ability to study.
It is worth noting that Al-Watan persistently reports events in a sensationalist, homophobic and transphobic manner. Almost all previous articles reporting on gays always include “surprised” discovery of “women’s clothes and make up”. It seems then that Al-Watan is less concerned about journalistic accuracy than whipping up hysteria with a formula and stereotypes designed to outrage the reader. From the violent comments posted in reaction to the article it is clear that Al-Watan is successful in encouraging homophobia and hatred.
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