Gay Middle East News & Reports 2010-11

The Muslim World, Edited by Michael Luongo (ch. 10 by GlobalGayz owner Richard Ammon)
See books reviews: Gay City News and Philadelphia Gay News

Also see:
More information about Islam & Homosexuality
Middle East Youth

Muslim Yahoo Group: "Queer Muslim Revolution"
Queer Muslim magazine: Huriyah, Barra

Gay Islam discussion groups:
Muslim Gay Men     LGBT muslim
Queer Jihad           Bi-muslims
Trans-muslims       Lesbian muslims

LGBT Organizations in the Middle East & Western Asia & Diaspora:
Ahbab (Online Community for Queer Arabs Worldwide)
Al-Bab (An Open Door to the Arab World)
Bint el Nas – Cultural E-Zine for LGBT Arab Women
Lazeeza (Arab Lesbians Online)
Gay Middle East – Website for Gays in the Middle East
Gay and Lesbian Arab Society
Aswat (Palestinian Arab Gay Women, Transexuals, Bisexuals, Queer, Intersexual group)

Helem (LGBT group in Lebanon)
Jerusalem Open House (LGBTQ Community Center based in Jerusalem)

Al-Qaws – Palestinian LGBT Project at Jerusalem Open House

Algerigay – LGBT Algerians
Kelma – LGBT North Africans in France
Gay and Lesbian Morocco
Kaos GL (LGBT Community Center & Organization based in Turkey)

Lambda Istanbul (First and Oldest Turkish LGBT group)
Syrian Same-Sex Society Network

1 HIV stigma stifles outreach in Arab states 7/10

1a Winds of Change 1/11

2 Laws criminalizing homosexuality conflict with international HR standards 3/11

3 Will gays be ‘sacrificial lambs’ in Arab Spring? 5/11

4 Muslim States Must Support LGBT Rights 6/11

5 Michael Lucas: Beware of the risk of homophobia arising… 11/11

02 July 2010 – Arabian Business.Com

HIV stigma stifles outreach in Arab states

Only 10 to 14 percent of the 400,000 people infected with HIV in the Middle East and North Africa get treatment due to the stigma and discrimination that has made people wary of being tested, a UNAIDS official said. The epidemic remains a touchy subject in the region’s conservative societies, due to its correlation with unprotected premarital and extramarital physical relations, physical relationships without condoms, illegal physical relationships and intravenous drug use. "Our main challenge is scaling up efforts to reach people who need our services, such as antiretroviral treatment," Hind Khatib Osthman, the UNAIDS regional director, told Reuters in an interview at a UNAIDS conference.

Patients on medication could live normal life spans, she said, and treatment was often provided by governments in the region, but many feared coming forward out of shame. The number of reported HIV cases in the region grew by 100,000 in the past two years according to U.N. statistics. However, concerns remain that more cases go undetected due to lack of systematic surveying. "We’re doubting the accuracy of reports — it’s not doubting what governments report but doubting that we have the system to actually properly report cases," Osthman said.

An unwillingness to discuss risk behaviours associated with HIV has hurt regional public awareness campaigns, she added. "What we’ve seen in the region when they want to establish a national AIDS strategy, it’s easier for them to talk about a strategy as if the prevalence is generalised (in society)… they don’t want to speak about key populations," she said. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region lacks any targeted campaign for groups living in the margins of society most at risk for HIV, such as sex workers or drug users.

Osthman warned that the low prevalence of the virus in the MENA region would not last without more openness about how the virus is spread. "Low prevalence will not continue to be low if we don’t have the right intervention," she said. Reluctance to discuss risk behaviours has often made foreigners, seen as more promiscuous, or from high prevalence HIV areas, a target in efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS while the local population is ignored. Many countries in the region test foreigners and deny those who test positive residency visas or quarantine and deport them.

"We have to admit this is home grown … Deportation doesn’t help. Just having someone with HIV doesn’t mean they are automatically spreading the virus," Osthman said. "We (UNAIDS) are calling for a change of policy," she said, adding that a new strategy in awareness efforts was needed. Entertainment media, she said, has played a role in common misconceptions of the disease. Popular Arabic soap operas often portray HIV as something that comes from foreigners or can be contracted by mouth, and as untreatable and humiliating.

Changing media portrayals is a key concern for Osthman, who brought several Arab actors to Dubai’s UNAIDS conference. "We’re educating them on HIV, we’re getting their voice, so that hopefully the wrong messages are not put in different programs and soap operas because they’re watched highly in the region … we need them on our side," she said. Public realisation of the comparatively low prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the MENA region is also risky, Osthman said, as many, especially officials in high public positions, prefer to turn a blind eye.

"I think the region did not want to face HIV …" she said. "We have to create a movement," Osthman said. "The battle is still to be won, we’re quite a ways from it." (Reuters)

January 1, 2011 – Sexuality Policy Watch

Winds of Change

by Sexuality Policy Watch Staff
Intro: As the world watches the tidal wave of revolution sweeping across northern Africa and the Middle East, the big question for the LGBT community is, how will this affect our people living there?

A democratic movement is sweeping across north Africa and the Middle East, but it’s still unclear exactly what it will bring for gays in the region

In 2009 Shiite militias rounded up, tortured and killed many “suspected gay men” in Iraq, an incident that was far from isolated; in 2010 a Saudi man was sentenced to 500 lashes and a five-year prison term for having sex with another man; in February this year police in Bahrain raided a “gay party” and arrested close to 200 people, 52 of whom are still in custody; in Turkey over the past two years more than a dozen transgender people have been murdered, with no charges laid in the majority of cases.

This is the Arab world, one of the worst places on the planet to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. As the international community watches the tidal wave of revolution and revolt that is sweeping across the region, toppling dictators and bringing democratic reforms, the big question for our community is, how will this affect LGBT people living there? Their lives have not been particularly good under the autocratic regimes they’ve endured for decades, but is democracy going to bring any improvement?

iceQueer (obviously not his real name) is a gay blogger and medical intern who was in Egypt’s Tahrir square during the protests earlier this year that saw president Hosni Mubarak driven from power. “It felt amazingly peaceful and cheerful,” he enthuses. “I love how diverse yet finally united Egypt is! I was holding a sign saying ‘secular’ in Arabic, English and French. We were all chanting that this protest is for the people and not for any party or religion.”

The chant of the protesters was “freedom, social justice and democracy” but it’s unclear yet how much of those will be given to the gay community. iceQueer is realistic about the chances of that happening in the short term. “You can’t ask for lots of changes that have different effects on people,” he says. “already asking for freedom and the fall of the regime bedazzled the whole country and its people, so imagine what would happen if we asked for LGBT rights? i believe Egypt’s LGBT community can only have its rights when Egypt becomes a real secular country.”

There’s still a long way to go to achieving that. iceQueer is out to his family and closest friends, but he has to be careful who else knows. there is no direct law prohibiting same-sex acts or relationships but the authorities still charge people under the Debauchery, Public Morals and Order statutes. “Most policemen play around a lot with words and the bugs in Egyptian law. They usually trap suspects by using words like debauchery when they ask them whether they practice same-sex sex or not, so they make suspects admit they practice ‘debauchery’.”

Of course, the situation could be a whole lot worse. Being gay in Egypt isn’t nearly as difficult – or life-threatening – as it is in devoutly Islamist countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia where the death sentence remains in place. During Egypt’s revolution a lot of commentators spoke about the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood, an avowedly homophobic islamist group, gaining greater influence. however, iceQueer plays down that possibility. “i don’t think the Muslim Brotherhood would have such an influence that would affect the majority of Egyptians.”

Read article

10 March 2011 – UN Human Rights

Laws criminalizing homosexuality are incompatible with international human rights standards and fuel homophobia

Laws criminalizing same-sex relations between consenting adults remain on the statute books in more than 70 countries. They are an affront to principles of equality and non-discrimination and fuel hatred and violence—in effect giving homophobia a State-sanctioned seal of approval. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon have both called for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality and for further measures to counter discrimination and prejudice directed at those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). In recent months, a series of incidents and developments have underscored the extent and the urgency of the challenge.

Homophobia, like racism and misogyny is a prejudice born of ignorance © OHCHRIn February 2011, Malawi enacted a law criminalizing homosexuality among women. Homosexuality is already illegal for men in that county. If convicted, a defendant could receive up to five years’ imprisonment. Responding to the Malawian decision, the High Commissioner said “I have repeatedly argued that laws criminalizing homosexuality are inherently discriminatory and incompatible with existing international human right standards, including those enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Malawi has acceded, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Malawi has ratified.”

In Uganda, on 26 January 2011, leading gay human rights activist David Kato was beaten to death in his home outside Kampala. In the months leading up to his murder, he had been a target of a hate-campaign mounted by a local newspaper, The Rolling Stone, which printed his name, photograph and address alongside those of dozens of others the paper claimed were gay or lesbian, and called for them to be hanged. “We must await the outcome of judicial proceedings to know who killed him and why. But whoever is responsible and whatever their motive, we know the fear felt by many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in Uganda and elsewhere who continue to face widespread prejudice and the constant threat of homophobic violence. Kato’s death robs them of a brave and eloquent advocate. The Ugandan authorities must act to counter this climate of hate and ensure the safety of all Ugandans,” the High Commissioner said.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and a pending Anti-Homosexual Bill would broaden the criminalization of homosexuality, imposing life imprisonment or even the death penalty for anyone who is found to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender or HIV positive. The Bill also includes a provision that could lead to a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of any LGBT individual, including members of their own family. Even where homosexuality is not subject to criminal sanctions, LGBT individuals continue to suffer discrimination and violence, fuelled by homophobia. In the United States, for example, the recent suicide of seven teenage boys in the space of a single month was attributed to homophobic bullying in schools. Homophobia also lay behind the shocking case of three young men, kidnapped, beaten and tortured in New York City in October 2010. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in the United States, 2,181 hate crimes targeting LGBT persons were recorded in 2009, including 22 murders.

In Honduras, seven transgender persons were reported murdered during a two month period between November 2010 and January 2011, bringing a total of 34 LGBT persons killed in that country since June 2009, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States. In Brazil, Grupo Gay da Bahia, a long established NGO working on LGBT human rights issues, recently reported that in 2010, 250 LGBT individuals were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—equivalent to one person killed every day and a half. The same source reports that more than 3,100 homosexuals have been killed in Brazil since 1980.

“Decriminalizing homosexuality is an essential first step towards establishing genuine equality before the law. But real, lasting progress cannot be achieved by changing laws alone. We must change minds as well. Like racism and misogyny, homophobia is a prejudice born of ignorance. And like other forms of prejudice, the most effective long-term response is information and education,” the High Commissioner said.

May 27, 2011 – CNN

Will gays be ‘sacrificial lambs’ in Arab Spring?

by Catriona Davies, for CNN
(CNN) – The uprisings bringing political change and demonstrations across much of the Arab world have given millions of people hope of greater freedom. But some gay people in the Middle East fear exactly the opposite. Homosexuality is illegal — enforced to varying degrees — in most Arab countries. A 2011 report by the International Lesbian and Gay Association reported that homosexuality is illegal in 76 countries worldwide and punishable by death in five, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Despite the risks, there are those willing to speak out and campaign for gay rights across the Middle East.

Sami Hamwi, a 35-year-old journalist from Damascus, is the Syrian editor for the website Gay Middle East, but few friends or family know his true sexual orientation. Hamwi said: "We have been trying in Gay Middle East to start a group to be able to help LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] people in Syria. It is a work in progress." However, he added: "I am very scared now. I can think of a million things they can do to me if I was ever arrested or investigated."

Hamwi wants to see reform in Syria, but doubts that any political change could significantly improve gay rights. "Sheikhs still emphasize that death penalty is the Islamic punishment for gay men," he said. "A more open society regarding sexuality needs years, if not decades, of work after Syrians get the freedom they aspire to have."

Haider Ala Hamoudi, an expert on Middle Eastern and Islamic law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, in the United States, says that while Islamic law is open to different interpretations, it is generally considered to condemn homosexuality. "Not every Muslim would adhere to this view but traditionally Islamic law would regard homosexuality as illegal," he said. "It seems commonly accepted that the foundational sacred sources (the Quran and the Sunnah) ban homosexuality," he added. "I do know there are Muslims who take exception to that, it’s not black and white, but the dominant standing pretty clearly condemns homosexuality."

Some have a more positive view of the situation in Syria. A Syrian woman who writes a blog called "A Gay Girl in Damascus" has gained international attention for her account of her father protecting her when security forces arrived at night to arrest her for "conspiring against the state." The blog’s author, Amina Abdallah, is a 35-year-old English teacher who says she returned to Syria last year after many years in the United States. In an email interview Abdallah said she believed that political change could improve gay rights. She said: "A whole lot of long time changes are coming suddenly bubbling to the surface and views towards women, gay people and minorities are rapidly changing."

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June 23, 2011 – Huffpost World

Muslim States Must Support LGBT Rights

by Melody Moezzi
Last week, in an historic and long-overdue move, the United Nations passed a resolution recognizing the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people around the world. With South Africa leading the charge, the U.N. Human Rights Council voted in favor of the resolution by a narrow margin of 23 to 19, with three abstentions. The new declaration holds that no one should be subject to discrimination or violence based on her or his sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sounds like common sense to me, something that ought to go without saying, but unfortunately, it cannot go without saying. According to Amnesty International, 76 countries around the world continue to criminalize consensual same-sex relations, and whether as a result of discriminatory legal systems or hate crimes or suicide, one thing is certain: gays, lesbians and transgender individuals are being killed, tortured and victimized all over the world, simply for being who they are.

If that isn’t the very definition of a human rights violation, I’m not sure what is. The LGBT community represents the most vulnerable and marginalized sector of nearly every society worldwide, and as such, it’s vital that international bodies like the U.N. speak up in support of LGBT rights. Likewise, because it is so often religion that is abused and misused to justify the assault, murder and harassment of gays, lesbians and transgender people, it is equally important for religious individuals, groups and organizations to stand up in defense of the LGBT community. As a Muslim, it is my moral obligation to speak out and stand up whenever I see an injustice being carried out, and if I see any particular group that is especially vulnerable or marginalized, it is my moral duty to rush to that community’s aid. So, it’s especially painful for me to see Muslim majority countries and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) voting against this historic U.N. resolution. If it was, as I suspect, some alleged affinity for Islam that led Pakistan, Malaysia, Jordan, Senegal or other OIC countries to oppose this resolution, I have some words of caution and advice for the OIC.

First, as Muslims, I’m sure you know that it is your religious duty to pursue peace and justice and that there is no sin worse than oppressing another human being. So, no matter your personal theological opinion or your interpretation of the Biblical story of Lot, it is incumbent upon you to resist oppression, and in doing so, to protect those who happen to be most vulnerable to it in any given time or place. Second, if we, as Muslims, expect our rights to be respected around the world, then we too must respect the rights of other minority groups. This includes the LGBT community. As Muslims, we know what it’s like to live in a world that can be hostile and discriminatory. Therefore, we have an even greater obligation to create the least hostile and discriminatory planet we can.

Let’s face it, my dear OIC member states, there are alarmingly large numbers of people out there who are convinced that Islam is the devil incarnate, that we Muslims are out to conquer and destroy the world, and that Islam is both "wrong" and "immoral." I know that these people exist because they love sending me emails. That said, I vehemently disagree with all of them, and I thank God that their hatred and bigotry hold no weight in any American court of law. So too, your intolerance and homophobia should hold no more legal weight than any of my pen pals’ vicious Islamophobia.

Finally, the LGBT Muslim community, along with their many heterosexual allies such as myself, will not let bigots and homophobes define our religion for us or for the rest of the world. We have scholars and imams in our ranks, and we refuse to be considered "less Muslim" because of our sexual orientation, gender identity or our choice to acknowledge that such distinctions are in fact God-given. Thus, the OIC member states that chose to oppose the recent U.N. LGBT rights resolution have not spoken for Muslims worldwide, and this is one Muslim who isn’t about to let them try.

17 November 2011 – PinkNews

Michael Lucas: Beware of the risk of homophobia arising from the Arab Spring

by Michael Lucas
Gay entertainment mogul Michael Lucas warns of the risks of homophobic Islamist governments forming after the Arab Spring.
After decades in power, a brutal dictator in a Muslim country is dramatically deposed by a massive popular uprising. Sound familiar? Of course: that’s what happened in Egypt and Libya this year, as part of what’s known as the Arab Spring. But it’s also what happened in Iran in 1979 — and that should make us pause for a moment.

It’s easy to cheer for democratic change and celebrate the downfall of tyrants like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. But what if the end of one kind of oppression brings about the rise of another? As history has shown us time and again, revolutions are often turns for the worse. Gay people should be especially wary when the forces of religious fundamentalism are involved. And nowhere are those forces stronger today than in the Muslim world. The power behind the Arab Spring came in large part from the coiled energy of Islamic groups that had been suppressed by secular dictatorships; as the old regimes crumble, hard-core Islamists are eager to take their place.

If the past is any guide, that’s bad news for gays in the Muslim world. Consider Iran. Under the Shah, Tehran had room for gay nightclubs and artists. That tolerance ended when the ayatollahs took over in the Islamic revolution of 1979 and instituted a fundamentalist form of Quranic law, or Shariah, under which gay sex is punishable by death. (Three Iranian men were hanged for sodomy in September, and hundreds of others have reportedly been executed for gay-related offenses.)

Or consider the explosion of anti-gay violence that followed the end of Saddam Hussein’s secular regime in Iraq. The powerful cleric Ali al-Sistani, who had been kept in check by Saddam, issued a 2005 fatwa calling for gay men and lesbians to be killed “in the worst, most severe way of killing.” In recent years, according to human-rights groups, scores of Iraqi gays have been abducted and murdered — often through gruesome torture and mutilation — by sectarian death squads and even by members of their own families (in so-called “honor killings”).

Iraqi authorities have mostly turned a blind eye to this “sexual cleansing.” Should we be surprised? After all, Shariah is now officially the law of the land. The 2005 Iraqi constitution includes talk about equal rights for all citizens, but its Article 2 calls Islam “the official religion of the State” and says that “no law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.” Whether by law (in Iran) or by acceptance of lawlessness (in Iraq), the increased power of Islam in daily life has been a disaster for Muslim gays. Will things be different in the Arab Spring countries?

Read complete article here