January 11, 2002 – Salt Lake Tribune
Jordanian-American Family Kidnap Case Resolved
by Stephen Hunt,
Two years ago, members of a Sandy family were accused of beating and kidnapping a lesbian relative to send her back to their native country of Jordan. But after an aggressive legal battle, and a trip to the Utah Supreme Court, the case was quietly resolved last month with a diversion agreement, under which no pleas are entered and the case is in effect put on hold.
The four Hawatmehs –the woman’s parents and two brothers–had faced possible prison terms of 15 years to life, if convicted as charged of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault. But based on the diversion agreement, signed by 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton, the cases will be dismissed in two years. All the defendants have to do is refrain from new crimes and contact with the alleged victim, Muna Hawatmeh, 25.
Deputy Salt Lake District Attorney Kent Morgan said Thursday the deal was struck due to "a lack of cooperation" by the alleged victim and her lesbian lover. But Morgan insisted the two-year prosecution of the four family members was appropriate. "Had we not done anything, she [Muna] would be back in Jordan and dead," said Morgan, referring to the practice in some Middle Eastern countries of "honor killings," where women suspected of engaging in premarital sex may be murdered by male relatives to preserve family honor.
Muna testified at a 2000 preliminary hearing that on Oct. 13, 1999, she was beaten, slapped and kicked for four hours by her mother, father and two brothers, who she said finally decided they must kill her. They spared her life, she said, only after she begged to be sent back to Jordan instead. Her brother was driving her to the airport the next morning when Muna’s lover spotted them and called police. Officers contacted the brother on his cellphone and persuaded him to miss the flight and bring Muna to the Sandy Police station. Family members insisted Muna was flying to San Francisco to visit her sister. They said she had been depressed and confused, and they hoped the trip would cheer her up.
Nevertheless, police arrested Muna’s brothers Iehab Hawatmeh, 34, and Shaher Hawatmeh, 35; her father, Jamil Hawatmeh, 66, and her mother, Wedad Hawatmeh, 55. Prosecutor Paul Parker said Muna recently became "ambivalent" about the prosecution and had "struggled" with the prospect of her family going to prison. "She does love her family and doesn’t want to inflict pain," he said. "But she is afraid of them."
Defense attorney Earl Xaiz, who represents Iehab Hawatmeh, believes resolution of the case was prompted, in part, by the December death of Muna’s father due to cancer. "The critical factor is that this is a family," Xaiz said. "They all love each other. They want to put this thing behind them, regardless of who did what, or who purportedly said what. Yes, they had problems with her sexual preference. But that’s behind them."
The case went to the Supreme Court after 3rd District Judge William Barrett ordered the Hawatmehs to stand trial for second-degree felony kidnapping, rather than harsher first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping counts. Relying on a prior appellate ruling, Barrett said the alleged beating could not be used to enhance the kidnapping counts, because the beating and death threats occurred the night before the trip to the airport. Prosecutors argued the kidnapping was still in progress on the way to the police station and was aggravated because Shaher Hawatmeh had threatened to kill his sister if she told police the truth.
November 6 – 12, 2003 – Gay City News
Passage to Islam: Brotherhood Amidst Raging War (through gay eyes)
by Michael T. Luongo
An Oasis of Peace And Calm
The Treasury of Petra, carved into the red rock cliffs, the Roman ruins at Jerash, Queen Rania at a road rally by the Jordan River. Nowhere in the Middle East have I ever felt afraid as an American. To the contrary, as a gay man who makes my living through travel writing, I have always been welcomed with especially enthusiastic love and hospitality, as most Middle Easterners separate politics from people and are happy to meet us and in turn dispel myths about their own countries. My sense about the willingness of Middle Easterners to embrace Americans has been reinforced by recent trips I have taken to Afghanistan, Jordan, and Turkey. My Mediterranean coloring no doubt allows me to blend in better than would many Americans, but I think the issue goes far beyond that.
Anyone familiar with Islam knows that hospitality is a major tenet of the religion. How else would a person survive in the desert? September 11 and the fear it spawned among Americans and other Westerners about the Middle East have decimated the tourism economy there. Remember the economic devastation visited on New York City in the immediate aftermath of September 11, and recognize that the impact in the Middle East has been far more profound. A guide at a Jordanian hotel told me that in the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington, hundreds of his friends lost their jobs, and that even working free/lance once a month, he is considered lucky. As Ramadan—the holiest month of the Muslim calendar—continues throughout the Islamic world, I begin a series of reports on my recent travels through the Middle East, with a gay twist.
As I will discuss in this installment on Jordan, and in later ones on Afghanistan, Turkey, and elsewhere, Americans need to understand and be understood in this very troubled part of the world at this very troubled time, and travel is an important key to that. Hopefully, we can work toward a climate where comfortable travel becomes the norm.
I developed a taste for traveling in the Muslim world in the mid-1990’s during more peaceful times. I visited Israel and Palestine shortly after the Oslo Accords. Crossing the borders was uplifting and joyful—the Palestinians practically hugged everyone coming in—and there were no concrete walls. Egypt was full of tourists—terrorists had not yet made their mark slaughtering Westerners at ancient temples. Turkey was physically mysterious, its fabled minarets shimmering against twilight waters of the Bosphorus on my first visit. Yet the culture was modern and open, adding comfort to new experiences.
Still, each nation was a complete change from the predominantly Christian way of life I had been used to growing up in America. Since my early travels to the Middle East, times have undoubtedly changed and most of my trips these days are in Latin America. But while attending a Brazil promotion a few months ago at the Times Square Marriott, I got an interesting request. Would I like to see some of the company’s properties in Jordan? I have no fears visiting anywhere—and I knew Jordan to be a very safe place in spite of what many Americans, many of them unacquainted with world maps, think.
Still, there was something unspoken about the trip, a reason why Jordan and the Marriott were promoting the country and the properties now. This was to be no ordinary press trip. Political issues of the moment infused it with a special urgency, and with that, a certain appeal for me. Besides, before Bush makes things worse in the world, I want to see as much of the Middle East as I can.
I consider it judgmental to use the word “progressive” when describing a country’s relationship to its religion, but I don’t know of a better way to explain the difference between Islam in Jordan and Islam in Saudi Arabia. We could of course say the same about progressive Protestant countries like the Netherlands and Denmark versus our own Bible-thumping government.
Jordan is a place where some teenage girls wear midriffs—just like Britney Spears—instead of burqas, and the country has almost always leaned toward Europe and America politically. The U.S. is allowed to keep troops here, for example. Jordan paid for that tilt to the West in the August bombing of its Baghdad embassy.
In promoting its properties in Jordan, Marriott was mindful of its own headlines that it worries about. Its hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia was bombed even though the company has “no reason to believe that we were the target,” according to Kess Connelly, who handles international public relations for the company and was on the trip with me. The Jakarta Marriott sits in a large complex of foreign owned businesses and the bomber, she argued, “was actually trying to get further.”
Jordan is a place I dreamed of visiting since childhood. Yes, it has beaches and palm trees and great food like any world class vacation destination. But it is also the most peaceful country in the Middle East, a gentle desert kingdom, offering a safe refuge to people cast out by war in its neighboring countries—Israel, Palestine, and now, regrettably, Iraq too.
Beyond the politics, it also had an edgy appeal to me as a gay traveler. Overpriced cocktails in Chelsea and South Beach get boring really quickly. I like the mystery of the unknown, especially as it regards a nearly all-male public culture that is clearly homo-social, even if not gay in our sense of the word.
Here in New York, Jordan has been recently been stirring good news. Its famous archeological site, the lost city of Petra, is the focus of an ongoing American Museum of Natural History show. The mid-October Grand Opening was presided over by Queen Rania, herself Palestinian, and considered one of the world’s most beautiful royal women. Modern and liberated, Queen Rania is the physical embodiment of the bridge Jordan tries to build between itself and the West, continuing the work of her predecessor Queen Noor, an Arab American who married into the royal family only a few short years after the OPEC oil embargo.
While here in New York, Queen Rania took time out to stump for Seeds for Peace, an organization bringing Israeli and Palestine children together. Her work on behalf of Palestinians is not merely a show of regional solidarity. More than half of her country is Palestinian, and many of them continue to live in 55-year-old refugee camps established when the United Nations created Israel and Jordan under the same edict. Queen Rania’s days in New York were a calculated peace offering to a media hungry city. You’d think the ancients must have looked to their oracles and predicted the role Jordan would play in these precarious times. The capital Amman was the original Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love William Penn named his colonial burg for, but was made a capital only with the post-war creation of the Jordanian state. Much of the city is very new, with stone and glass structures sprawling on hills cut through by multi-lane freeways.
On foot however, a different city comes into focus. Greek and Roman ruins, rebuilt and then abandoned over the centuries, are the city’s historical highlights. From many points in the city, you’ll see two columns on a high hill. These are some of the remains of the Citadel, a fortress complex built up over a period of perhaps 1,000 years by various civilizations.
From the Citadel, you can easily see the ruins of the Roman Amphitheater, another of the city’s great ruins. It has been partly rebuilt and is surrounded by a colonnade and modern souvenir bazaars. I was climbing the highest points of the arena when the Islamic call to prayer came out. It echoed through the myriad hills of Amman, beautifully reverberating against the theater’s ancient stones.
At night, the square surrounding the amphitheater, known as Al-Saha Al Hashemieh, is full of people enjoying the cafes. It’s also a gay cruising area, and many men came up to say hello. I read that I would also meet gay people at Books@Café (011-962-6-465-0457; email@example.com), a coffee shop and bookstore located appropriately off Rainbow Street. The waiter there, a Palestinian, immediately assured me how safe and open Jordan was, and as an example, volunteered that the café had a gay reputation the owner was happy to maintain.
But the waiter also spent time explaining the exiled nature of his Palestinian culture. Just getting coffee it seemed offered an education in both diplomacy and conflict. The United States is home to more than six million Muslims, but to most Americans, their religion and its rituals remain a mystery. I was in Jordan for the start of Ramadan—the holy fasting month which commemorates the time when Mohammed was given the Koran. A visit to the Islamic world for Ramadan is like traveling to New York for Christmas. It was pure magic to experience the holiday in a country where Mohammed himself once lived.
Ramadan begins the day after the new moon—or crescent moon—is seen in the Islamic world, hence the reason a crescent is the symbol of Islam. That evening, I was alone when darkness fell, so I found strangers to share the experience with. Muslims do not eat in the daylight hours during Ramadan and once the sun went down, Amman became deserted as locals went home share with their families the “iftar” or meal which breaks the fast. It was a challenge—at which I did not always succeed—to observe the local customs. Not smoking all day was a pleasure—a chance to relax my lungs. But not eating all day was tougher to bear, so I did so discreetly. I bought a small bun in a bakery and found an alley in which to eat it, away from the crowds. I felt like heroin addict when caught in the act, as someone came down the alley and stared at me.
Jordan’s Muslims are certainly better versed in Western religious traditions than we are in theirs. To visit Jordan is to relive the stories of the Torah and the Bible, as well as the Koran. Like Israel, the country is full of sacred sites, most a short ride from the capital. Among the most significant is Jesus’ Baptism Site on the Jordan River, discovered only in the last decade. You can get baptized here for an only in Jordan experience. My trip coincided with a decidedly more modern event—the Jordan Bentley Road Tour, in which British car enthusiasts drive the desert in antique cars.
The event was part of our tour, and received a royal welcome. Queen Rania dropped from the sky in a helicopter, and choosing between dunking in the river or meeting the Queen, I chose the latter.
Though it’s not as dramatic as walking on water, when you pop out of the sky, crowds will gather. The paparazzi flashed and pushed, while many in the crowd surged forward, forcing her to shake their hands. I decided I would wait to introduce myself and asked her press agent for the right time. The press agent needed to know what kind of publications I wrote for to learn if I were worthy of an introduction, so even though being gay in Jordan is technically against the law, I mentioned, with no small amount of anxiety, my work for the gay press. The queen’s aide let out a small gasped—“Oh!— of surprise. I don’t think anyone had ever said something like that to her before, but that didn’t stop the introduction.
Talking to royalty for the first time in my life, I was tongue-tied but Queen Rania gracefully carried the conversation, speaking mostly about how she enjoyed her time in New York during the Petra opening. Her final words to me were, “But now you are to see the real thing, even better. Welcome.” Then the cameras and the crowds took her away from me.
Only a few miles from the site of the road tour is Mount Nebo, where Moses died. On a clear day, you can see other important religious sites and cities, most less than an hour’s drive away. That’s when I realized how close and yet how far away from real peace in the Holy Land we are. Even Baghdad is no more than 12 hours away, but it seems another planet from this peaceful desert kingdom.
One more incredible site is Jerash, a well-preserved Roman ruin. We visited during the day, and then again at night for a Royal Ball presided over the queen’s brother-in-law, Prince Faisal, and his wife. I came away from the ball with something quite unexpected—a better understanding of neighboring Iraq.
The show presented that evening was directed by a troupe of Iraqis and when I introduced myself I found myself more tongue-tied than with the Queen. Our conversation touched on what it was like to live through the American bombing. My Iraqi acquaintances were happy that Saddam is gone, but dispirited by the ensuing mayhem. They mentioned in particular the risk women face today when they are out in public. In the ensuing days I spent with them, the Iraqis also debated the safety of returning home themselves. I wish I could get this troupe to New York, so that the U.S. could have a chance to see Iraqi culture, not just its chaos.
The Dead Sea, the legendary body of water so full of salt and other minerals it supports no fish or wildlife, is another place where Jordan’s proximity to Palestine and Israel is much in evidence. At night, from my hotel room, I saw a small line of lights close to other shore. This is Jericho, the oldest known city still inhabited. More lights on the mountaintop behind it delineated Jerusalem. One can imagine the day when ferries will run across the sea, connecting the cities, promoting tourism and peace and economic prosperity with it.
Petra is the most famous site in all of Jordan and a symbol of the country. It has only been known to Westerners for the past 200 years, fiercely kept hidden by the locals knowing, quite correctly, that this magical city might be taken from them in one way or another.
The secret to the location is the long chasm that hides it from view of invaders. Now, one walks through this corridor, cliffs soaring hundreds of feet overhead, in edgy anticipation of when the city will reveal itself. And, reveal itself it does. One is walking along and, suddenly, one of the most famous vistas in all of the world comes into view—the ancient Treasury through a split in the rock.
Though it housed no more than 20,000 people at its height, Petra occupies an enormous amount of space. We call it a city, but most of what you see are not buildings, but tombs carved into the red rock cliffs. Venture into them and you’ll see colorful, almost psychedelic swirls of color in the stones and strange long lines, so perfectly straight, you won’t believe they were done by hand. Try to stay there for at least two days and include the Petra by Night Tour in your plans. The way to the Treasury is illuminated entirely by thousands of candles. As we walked along, the stars in the clear desert sky above us were the only other light, poking their way through the edges of the dark, silent cliffs.
Bedouins selling jewelry, rocks, and camel and donkey rides will approach you throughout the ruins. The merchants are not particularly pushy, but they can be distracting. But, remember that the Bedouins once lived among the ruins until a government program put them into modern housing to make it easier for tourists to see Petra. Be respectful. You’re a visitor in their home.
Though trading is a Bedouin way of life, I was nevertheless caught off guard by the interesting way some Bedouin men entertain gay tourists. Dreaming of sex in a Bedouin tent under the stars in the ruins of Petra? The place provides.
Bedouin men have intense eyes, some of the world’s most intriguing. I found even the handsomest among them very approachable, and while taking their picture a comment on their looks easily steered the conversation toward sex. Most of the men I met professed to be straight, and bragged about their children. At the same time they claimed that their diet since childhood of camel’s milk—what they called “Bedouin Viagra”—gave them ample endowments, that are instantly aroused at a touch.
In the end, though I enjoyed time alone with one of the Bedouins, and we did more than just talk, it didn’t amount to all that much. No matter how flirty the men are, each insists that the pleasure be all his, and they expect to be compensated on top of that. Their one concession to their partners’ pleasure is that they do take credit cards.
Where to Stay: Everywhere I went in Jordan, I stayed at Marriott hotels (marriott.com). The company is working to promote its properties in the Middle East in a harsh economic climate. I usually do not recommend only American-owned properties for travelers, but the Marriott properties are well situated and beautiful, in particular at the Dead Sea Resort, and most of the managers we met are also from the Middle East, helping to keep a local flavor.
Money: The unit of money is the dinar, worth about $1.40. Credit cards and ATM’s accepted everywhere.
Electricity: 220 volts, but I saw British, European and American style outlets all over. Bring multiple adapters.
Getting there: Royal Jordanian Airlines, direct from NYC 6 times a week; rja.com.jo; 212 949 0050 or 800 223 0470.
Websites: see-jordan.com; www.amnh.org (American Museum of Natural History).
Communications: Jordan’s country code is 962 and the web extension is .jo.
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Gay Jordanian now ‘gloriously free’ in Canada-Sent to Canada to ‘straighten out,’ he founded support group for Muslims
by Marina Jimenez
When the family of Al-Hussein, son of a wealthy Jordanian politician, found out he was gay, they threw him down the stairs. While he was recovering in hospital from a broken leg and smashed jaw, his younger brother shot him in the ankle. A bureaucrat in the Jordanian government, his brother was never prosecuted for this act of public violence because it was considered a "family matter." Mr. Hussein knew that under Islamic law, he had got off lightly: He could be stoned to death for committing homosexual acts, or murdered by his family in an honour killing. In 2000, Mr. Hussein’s father agreed to send him to Canada to "straighten out."
Instead, the wayward and talented son, the "artistic" one with the flamboyant wardrobe, founded a gay support group for Muslims. He made a successful refugee claim and is now starring in a documentary by Filmblanc production company on Canada’s gay refugee claimants titled ‘Gloriously Free‘, after words in the Canadian national anthem. "I am doing the film because I want people to know what homosexuals go through in the Middle East," said Mr. Hussein, a youthful 47-year-old in cut-off shorts and a sleeveless red T-shirt, his fingers and ears adorned with silver jewellery.
"I have lost everything, but I don’t regret coming here. Now I can walk down the street without having to watch my back, wondering if I will be killed." When he left Amman, he gave up a 20-year career as a set designer for Jordan Television, and signed over all his assets – a BMW and Suzuki Jeep, a home and interior design business and his inheritance – to his brother, the one who had tried to kill him. "I don’t approve of what my brother did, but I understand why he did it. It was about preserving the family’s honour," he says, pulling down his sock to reveal several white scars and tapping his false teeth.
The documentary, to be aired on OMNI Television this fall, will also have testimonials from four more gay refugees: a Jamaican man who was beaten; a Brazilian singer whose father forced him to have an operation on his vocal cords to cure his "effeminate" voice; a former U.S. oil-drilling-company manager who is HIV-positive, and a Mexican man. "Canada has become a haven for gay refugees and we are tapping into why this is," said Noemi Weis, president of Toronto-based Filmblanc. Mr. Hussein’s life story is one of wealth and privilege, as well as secrecy and shame, as he struggled to fit into a traditional Arab culture that considers homosexuality the greatest sin.
The family moved in the same social and political circles as the royal family. His father, who served both as deputy defence minister and as an adviser to the royal family, received special permission from the late King Hussein I for his son to have the same name. Mr. Hussein was educated at the best private schools and grew up in a five-bedroom house, surrounded by servants. There were weekends at Dead Sea resorts, and summer vacations at five-star hotels in Paris. While still a teenager, Mr. Hussein began a clandestine affair with a family "slave" named Amber, a gift to the family from King Hussein’s uncle.
"Because of the strict segregation of genders in Arab culture, there is a lot of closeted homosexuality," he says. "Most men at some stage have sex with a man because they all have needs. Women are supposed to stay virgins until they marry." Rumours about his homosexuality began to spread, and his father forced him to marry in 1986 when he was 29. He told his fiancée the truth, but she accepted the match because of the Hussein family’s social cachet.
The couple had three children through artificial insemination. Mr. Hussein tried to conduct his gay affairs discreetly, but in 1996, he fell in love with the head of Jordan’s national judo team. He separated from his wife and built a house on the outskirts of Amman where the lovers could meet in secret. One night, his brother caught the two men kissing, and, enraged, threw Mr. Hussein down the stairs, breaking his leg. He underwent surgery, and spent three months in the hospital recovering, with an armed bodyguard posted outside his room. His brother later shot him in the hospital lobby after Mr. Hussein’s lover came to visit him.
When he was released, it was not to his own home, but to a tiny servant’s room with bars on the window in his brother’s home. He had become his family’s prisoner. A sympathetic aunt in Toronto persuaded his father that Canada could save him. And so Mr. Hussein gave up his pampered life and came to Toronto with $300 (U.S.).
He went on to form Salaam, a gay rights organization for Muslims, as well as Wattan, an organization that helps gay refugees. Recently, he summoned the courage to tell his 15-year-old daughter in an e-mail why he left the country. "She wrote me back and said, ‘You’re still my father and I love you and accept you,’" he said.
May 2005 – New Internationalist 378
Jordan Country Profile
by Steve Sherman
Homosexuality is legal, though some Jordanians have been granted asylum abroad due to problems at home. Amman has an identifiable gay community, in vivid contrast to neighbouring Arab countries.
A stroll along the streets of central Amman, Jordan’s capital, presents no indication that this is an ancient city, whose continuous existence spans three millennia. Over a fifth of Jordan’s population live here: 1.2 million people, from the very rich, whose expensive cars line the sides of the wealthier residential suburbs, to the very poor whose battered old cars compete with donkey carts for space on the squalid streets of the city’s Palestinian refugee camps.
This has been an Arab country since the Nabataeans arrived in the sixth century BCE. After Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Persian rulers, the Muslim Arab armies conquered it, along with the rest of the Levant, a thousand years later. Subsequent centuries saw it slide into the oblivion of a remote provincial backwater, whose administrative status was often vague, whichever empire counted it as part of its dominions – its past glories forgotten, its mostly Bedouin inhabitants left largely alone.
Not until April 1949 did the name ‘Jordan’ mean anything other than the river which the British had determined should be its western frontier. Britain’s formal control over the territory of the modern state began in April with the establishment of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. The territory east of the River Jordan was designated ‘Transjordan’, and administered separately with a king under British tutelage. In fact, Britain and France had decided on a dispensation for the Levant by 1916, when the Sykes- Picot agreement split the former Ottoman territories into two spheres of interest.
Having been elevated from the status of a neglected district of a remote Ottoman province into a fledgling sovereign state, Jordan, and Jordanians, have had something of an identity crisis ever since, tending to define themselves largely by what they were not – particularly not Palestinians. The picture has been rather confused from the outset.
The war after the establishment of Israel in 1948 left Jordan, as it was soon to become, in control of the West Bank (of the River Jordan, that is), whose population counted themselves very firmly as Palestinian. Furthermore, a large number of Palestinians who were dispossessed in the war fled to the East Bank, so that even after Israel conquered the West Bank in 1967, at least a third of Jordanians considered themselves Palestinians. The Gulf crisis of 1991 saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forced out of Kuwait, most of whom settled in Jordan, increasing their share of the population even more.
But it is the East Bank Jordanians who run the show. King Hussein was a boy when he succeeded his father in 1951. For the next 48 years he ruled the country with a firm grip, winning the loyalty of the largely tribal Jordanian population and laying down a clever and adaptable pro-Western framework for foreign policy while developing working relations with his largely hostile neighbours. He set clear guidelines for domestic policy, as well. There was never much in the way of representative politics to start with, but the imposition of Martial Law in 1967 and the dissolution of the National Assembly in 1974 left control firmly in the hands of the Palace, supported by an intelligence service which became a byword for ruthlessness even in the Arab world. Not until 1989 did democratic parliamentary elections take place. Political parties were legalized the following year.
In truth, that is about as far as democratization has got here. The King (Abdullah II succeeded his father in 1999) remains in charge, regularly exercising his right to dissolve the government, which he appoints, and effectively setting its legislative agenda. At the centre of political debate is the peace treaty Jordan signed with Israel in 1994. Never popular, it has served as a rallying point for the political opposition ever since. But it is the issue about which the regime is most sensitive to criticism. Politics, as a result, has been almost stagnant since the treaty was signed.
September 4, 2006 – Associated Press
Man kills 1, wounds 6 Jordan tourists
Amman, Jordan — A gunman opened fire on tourists at the Roman Amphitheater in Jordan’s capital on Monday, killing a British man and wounding six other people, including a police officer, officials said. Police overpowered and arrested the gunman at the scene, government spokesman Nasser Judeh said. It was the first major terror attack in Jordan since triple hotel blasts in the capital that killed 63 people, including three suicide bombers. Interior Minister Eid al-Fayez said a British man was killed, while two British women, a Dutch man, an Australian woman, a New Zealand woman and a police officer were injured.
"This is a cowardly terrorist attack, which we regret took place on Jordanian soil," al-Fayez told reporters at the scene. "This operation is considered a terrorist act unless the man is found to be deranged," he said. He said the gunman was being interrogated. Judeh declined to say if the assailant was believed to be linked to any known terror organization. "The investigation is underway and it’s still early to tell," he told The Associated Press.
Jordan — a key U.S. ally — has been the site of a series of attacks targeting Westerners and their haunts. Authorities say they have foiled a number of militant plots. The worst attack, a triple suicide bombing at hotels in Amman in November, killed 60 people, including many Arabs. The attack was carried out by three suicide bombers working for al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Authorities put more metal detectors and police patrols around tourist attractions and hotels across the kingdom after the bombings. The gunman in Monday’s daylight attack shot the tourists just outside the secured entrance of the amphitheater, a popular attraction in Amman’s bustling downtown district.
The man, clean-shaven and appearing to be his mid-30s, shouted "God is great!" before firing several shots at them, said an Iraqi witness, Mohammad Jawad Ali. The area in which the attack occurred is frequented by low-income and unemployed Jordanians and Iraqis in a district populated by conservative Muslims. In May 2004, a member of the Jordanian security forces opened fire on a group of Israelis crossing the border. No one was injured and police said the man was deranged. In November 2003, a gunman with no known terrorist links, opened fire at the southern Jordan-Israel border crossing north of Aqaba, wounding five people and killing a tourist.
October 2, 2006 – Guardian Unlimited
Coming out in Arabic–Aswat Lesbian Organization
Brian Whitaker reports on a lesbian group’s struggle for acceptance in the Middle East.
When Rauda Morcos heard there was an emailing list for lesbian Palestinians, she couldn’t believe it at first. " I thought it was a joke," she said. "Until then, I thought I was the only lesbian who speaks Arabic." The list was certainly not a joke but, in a society where same-sex relations are still taboo, its members guarded their privacy. The only way a newcomer could join was by personal recommendation. " Eventually I got in," Ms Morcos recalled, "and I found a lot of other [lesbian] women who couldn’t be out." After corresponding by email for a few months, she thought it would be good to talk with some of the invisible women face to face, so, in January 2003, Ms Morcos and her flatmate called a meeting.
" We had no expectations," she said, "but eight women turned up. The meeting lasted eight hours and I don’t think anybody wanted to go home." That, it later turned out, marked the birth of Aswat ("Voices") – the first openly-functioning organisation for Arab lesbians in the Middle East. " We realised we had a great responsibility towards other women in our community," Ms Morcos continued. "We tried to contact many organisations and sent out letters but the only reply came from Kayan ["Being"], a group of feminists in Haifa … Many NGOs don’t count it as a human rights issue or want to be associated."
Three years on, though, Aswat is firmly established with more than 70 members spread across the West Bank, Gaza and Israel (where the organisation is based). Only about 20 attend its meetings; the need to keep their sexuality secret, plus Israeli restrictions on movement, prevent others from attending but they keep in touch through email and an online discussion forum. Beyond the group itself, there are also signs of acceptance in a few places. "We do a lot of work within the community, for example with youth groups, counsellors, and so on," Ms Morcos said. "That proves to me at least that the gay/lesbian movement has started for us as Palestinians."
One of Aswat’s main goals is to provide information about sexuality that is widely available elsewhere but has never been published in Arabic. This is not simply a matter of translation; it’s also about developing "a ‘mother tongue’ with positive, un-derogatory and affirmative expressions of women and lesbian sexuality and gender … We are creating a language that no one spoke before". If women are to find their voice, the language needs to be re-appropriated, Ms Morcos explains in an article on Aswat’s website. "I have forgotten my language. I don’t know how to say ‘to make love’ in Arabic without it sounding chauvinistic, aggressive and alien to the experience."
Recognition for Aswat’s work came earlier this year when Ms Morcos won the 2006 Felipa de Souza award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The citation described her as "a true example of courageous and effective human rights leadership", but Ms Morcos is quick to point out that other women are also doing a lot of work behind the scenes. Speaking to a standing-room-only meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign during a visit to London last week, she explained that necessity has made her the public face of Aswat. Many of the women involved do not want to be identified – often with good reason. "But if we don’t want to come out as persons, let’s at least come out as a movement," she said.
Ms Morcos’s own coming-out was not entirely voluntary and proved particularly unpleasant. In 2003 she gave an interview to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot about the poetry she writes. In passing, she mentioned her sexuality – only to find that the L-word turned up in the newspaper’s headline. An article on Aswat’s website describes what happened next: " All of a sudden, the Arab population of her home town [in northern Israel], which she generally assumed to have no interest in the literary supplements of Hebrew newspapers, seemed to have read the article and had something to say about her. Local corner shop owners made photocopies and distributed it, because, after all, everyone knew it was about the daughter of so-and-so from their own town.
" The consequences of that article were far more serious than Ms Morcos had imagined: her car windows were smashed and tyres were punctured several times, she received innumerable threatening letters and phone calls, and, to top it all, ‘coincidentally’ lost her job as a school teacher, since parents of pupils complained that they did not want her as a teacher."
Arab society today is riddled with the kind of anti-gay prejudices that were found in Britain half a century ago, and persecution is common. Muslim clerics condemn homosexuality in no uncertain terms, though similar statements can be heard from Arab Christian leaders too, such as the Coptic Pope in Egypt who once declared that "so-called human rights" for gay people were "unthinkable". With a few exceptions here and there, this is the prevailing attitude in all the Arab countries, but in Palestinian society the issue of gay rights is further complicated – and made much more political – by the conflict with Israel.
Israel legalised same-sex relations between men in 1988. Four years later, it went a step further and became the only country in the Middle East that outlaws discrimination based on sexuality. A series of court cases then put the theory into practice – for example, when El Al was forced to provide a free ticket for the partner of a gay flight attendant, as the airline already did for the partners of its straight employees. These are undisputed achievements but they have also become a propaganda tool, reinforcing Israel’s claim to be the only liberal, democratic society in the Middle East. At the same time, highlighting Israel’s association with gay rights has made life more difficult for gay Arabs, adding grist to the popular notion that homosexuality is a "disease" spread by foreigners.
Linking the twin enemies of Israel and homosexuality provides a double whammy for Arab propagandists, as can be seen from sections of the Egyptian press. In an article to mark the 30th anniversary of the October war, a headline in the Egyptian paper Sabah al-Kheir announced: "Golda Meir was a lesbian." In 2001, following the mass arrest of more than 50 allegedly gay men, al-Musawwar magazine published a doctored photograph of the supposed ringleader, showing him in an Israeli army helmet and sitting at a desk with an Israeli flag.
Israel, however, is not quite the gay paradise that many imagine. There is still hostility from conservative Jews, and some of their blood-curdling statements are not very different from the more widely publicised remarks of Muslim clerics. In Jerusalem last year, the ultra-Orthodox mayor banned a pride march, though an Israeli court promptly overturned his decision. As the parade took place, a Jewish religious fanatic attacked three marchers with a knife and reportedly told the police he had come "to kill in the name of God". The gay rights movement in Israel also has a questionable history. Lee Walzer, author of Between Sodom and Eden, explains in an article that the first Israeli activists pursued "a very mainstream strategy" that "reinforced the perception that gay rights was a non-partisan issue, unconnected to the major fissure in Israeli politics, the Arab-Israeli conflict and how to resolve it". " Embracing gay rights," he continues, "enabled Israelis to pat themselves on the back for being open-minded, even as Israeli society wrestled less successfully with other social inequalities."
As part of their strategy, activists sought "to convince the wider public that gay Israelis were good patriotic citizens who just happened to be attracted to the same sex". As a general principle this may be valid, but in the context of war and occupation it leads into murky territory. Should it really be a matter of pride that openly gay members of the Israeli armed forces are just as capable of wreaking havoc on neighbouring Lebanon as the next person?
The question here is whether gay rights – in Israel or elsewhere – can really be divorced from politics or treated in isolation from other human rights. Helem, the Lebanese gay and lesbian organisation, thinks not, arguing that gay rights are an inseparable part of human rights – as does Ms Morcos.
For Ms Morcos, there’s a connection between nationality, gender and sexuality. She has a triple identity, as a lesbian, a woman and a Palestinian (despite having an Israeli passport) – "a minority within a minority within a minority", as she puts it. Her first concern, though, is to end the Israeli occupation, and she sees no prospect of achieving gay rights for Palestinians while it continues.
Nowadays, the more radical Israeli activists also acknowledge a linkage. In 2001, Walzer recalls, "Tel Aviv’s pride parade, typically a celebratory, hedonistic affair, got a dose of politics when a contingent called ‘Gays in Black’ marched with a banner proclaiming, ‘There’s No Pride In Occupation’." Later, a group called Kvisa Sh’chora ("Dirty Laundry") sprang up and began drawing parallels between the oppression of sexual minorities and Israeli oppression of the Palestinians.
The issue was further highlighted in 2002 when Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli prime minister to formally meet a gay delegation. Activist Hagai El-Ad asked: "Is this an achievement for our community, or an example of a lack of feeling, callousness and loss of direction?" He continued: "It would be unbearable to simply sit with the prime minister and, on behalf of our minority, ignore the human rights of others, including what’s been happening here in relation to Palestine for the past year: roadblocks, prevention of access to medical care, assassinations, and implementation of an apartheid policy in the territories and in Israel.
" The struggle for our rights is worthless if it’s indifferent to what’s happening to people a kilometre from here. All we get by holding the meeting with the prime minister," he concluded, "is symbolic legitimacy for the community. What he gets for sitting down with us is the mantle of enlightenment and pluralism."
This mantle of enlightenment and pluralism does not, however, extend to Israel’s treatment of gay Palestinians. For those who face persecution in the West Bank and Gaza, the most obvious escape route is to Israel, but this often leaves them trapped in an administrative no-man’s-land with little hope of getting a proper job in Israel and constantly at risk of arrest and deportation.
Meanwhile, as far as the average Palestinian is concerned, fleeing into Israel is a betrayal of the cause, and gay men who remain in the Palestinian territories also come under suspicion – not always without good reason. There have been various reports of gay Palestinians being targeted or pressurised by Israeli intelligence to act as informers. Whether or not they actually succumb to the pressure, all inevitably come under suspicion. " Gays in Palestine are seen as collaborators immediately," said Ms Morcos.
April 2007 – ammannet.net
Background on AmmanNet
AmmanNet – a Jordanian NGO established in November 2000. In its initial year it was sponsored by UNESCO and the Greater Amman Municipality. It has been supported by the Open Society Institute, Westminister Foundation and Media Development Loan Fund. AmmanNet is a leader in innovative media activism. It is the first Internet-based radio station in the Arab world. It has received wide recognition for its innovation and ability to overcome a seemingly impossible situation by being able to broadcast an independent radio station in a country that bans independent radio stations. In July 2005 AmmanNet began broadcasting to the residents of the greater Amman municipality on the FM frequency 92.4.
July 7, 2007 – Chagfeh, member of AmmanRainbow@yahoogroups.com
Review of Amman’s first gay public event ‘Blacklisted’ + opening of gay/mixed pub RBG in Amman (ceased about August 20; see below August 31)
Currently, I am nursing my light hangover, a very predictable outcome of a Friday night out in Amman. But this hangover is different than its previous siblings: Because it’s actually worth it!
It all started last night, specifically at 12:30, when I decided to trot down to club Zink on my own, and discover Amman’s first gay public event, Blacklisted. Hailing a cab wasn’t much of a hassle, got there at around 12:40. Was welcomed at the door with a smiling man asking, "Are you coming alone?" instead of the infamous Ammani catch phrase: "Clubbles only". So far so good. I enter, and quickly head down straight to the bar. At clubs, time is precious, and in my dictionary, that means that getting at least tipsy enough to make a laughing stock out of myself, should require little time. So I work on getting tipsy, get my first complimentary drink, which was alright; I had a vodka cranberry. It was alright, but I wished that the mixers were better, the cranberry was too sweet, but the vodka was poured in generous amounts. So I check out the club that was still somewhat empty by then. Action was pretty slow at first.
A couple of spiky-haired guys wearing the traditional gay outfit: tight jeans and tight shirts, with slender bodies that I would kill to have, approach the bar. This is when things start picking up. Some friends I know also come in, and we start talking. I get drink number two, which costs JD7. Jaws drop down, and I decide to have a word with the bartender: "How come drinks costs JD7? That’s too expensive", bartender fires back with a smile "Well, el ghali lal ghali (the expensive is for the precious)". Me, being impressed with how well the bartender handles this, decides to shut up and say: "Well, you are right", rather than going for: "No, I’m cheap, and I like cheap things!".
After small talk with the bartender, I head to the lounge with my friends. The lounge was pretty comfortable, but still, this is a club, these couches aren’t supposed to be here. As I start finishing off one drink after the other, the crowd starts picking up, and everybody is slowly crawling to the dancefloor, especially after the DJ falters to the request of the crowd, and started mixing Arabic music. I decide that I have no choice but to dance to Arabic music, so I start building up the courage for it.
As the crowd picks up, the token transvestite gets in: Amazingly tall with long, slim legs, the brightest shade of blonde hair you could ever see, along with a pink shirt, and pink tight pants, and pumps that could make any girl drool for. After a while, more and more young blokes start pouring in, and they’re swaying their bodies left and right, churning out dance moves that could put Haifa Wehbe herself to shame. This is too much to see and comprehend in one night. After a few minutes, the first evidently gay move comes out: Two guys start dancing with each other in a scene that Ammanis eyes feasted on only abroad, or on TV.
I march down to the bar. Arm myself with yet another drink, and decide to head to the dancefloor and get out the gay inside of me that’s dying to come out. I started dancing to what I think was Carol Smaha, which is one of my favorite Arabic singers, but certainly never thought of dancing to her music. After a couple of tracks, the DJ starts spinning Shakira’s "Hips Don’t Lie", and the crowd jumps in delirium. I catch a few glimpses around, and the lounge area is suddenly empty, I also steal a few dance moves on the way along. Everybody is happy and having unrestrained fun: Just the way clubs should be.
After a couple of songs, a guy starts dancing next to me, and tells me that I am cute. Which out of experience in Club Land, means that I am dancing like a ridiculous teenage schoolgirl. Fair enough. I yell out that I’m trying my best here, and the guy reassures me that I’m doing just fine, and then yells back: "Are you from here?", and I nod yes. Apparently everybody else is. As I continue to dance like an idiot, the rest of the guys begin to dance closer, and I notice some ass-grabbing on the dancefloor, something I only wished to happen in Amman, but never relished until last night. Even the extra macho security guys were smiling and didn’t even bat an eyelash in wonderment.
Everybody was obviously on a mission, and that was to just have a good time. Unlike other venues in Amman, no extra-possessive males were clinging tight to their girlfriends, as if Amman’s population are trying to steal her away. Not even the faintest nasty body odor, and not even one single argument or fight erupted. This is what happens when you have a gay atmosphere: People that are dancing for the sake of having a good time. The guy that approached me introduced me to what could only be his boyfriend, who was VERY cute by the way, and also a really good dancer. The guy then suddenly tucks his hands in my pockets, and my heart almost dropped: I thought I was being hustled right on the dancefloor. I even automatically remembered Sophie Ellis’ hit "Murder on the Dancefloor" for a split second.
I asked the bloke "What are you trying to do man?!", he then pulls out my phone, types in his number, and smiles, "I’m Mohammed", I introduce myself and feel content. The very reason why I love Beirut is because of the attention one gets at Acid or OM, it’s the best ego boost on earth, and now, I can actually get it, here, in Amman! After another few rounds of dancing, I notice that my friends are at the door, say goodbye to the new friends that I made, and run to the door.
As I make my way to the door, I start talking to one of the organizers, who explains to me that next week, perhaps the venue won’t remain the same. The event "Blacklisted" itself is a gay event, run by gay organizers, so the venue is most likely going to change from night to night. But the guy asked me a very valid question: "Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before?
Follow-up comments from AmmanRainbow@yahoogroups.com:
-July 8, 2007
I was there…it was gay alright..and no inhibitions. The owner is actually a Lesbian, but she kinda freaked out a bit and decided to "up" the lighting a bit…which was later turned down. I danced with everyone…and the straight couples were really into it. The organiser is Ghassan, partner in Orange Mechanique of Beirut. I will keep the group posted for the next event….lets spread the word on this and get our straight friends to endorse it as well. lets also keep our dicks in our pants and not spoil the "something" we have been waiting for …for ages!
-July 9, 20007
I wish that the Irish Pub was rennovated, but the place is already a gay place, and I always get my fix of attention there! Plus the place has been gay for ages, and without any worry of the mukhabarat. Here’s another thought. Dunno if you guys ever heard about YallahParties, but these are a groups of people, who use an old house to have BYOB parties. Sometimes, they get the drinks and charge a small amount of money in return. The atmosphere is mostly nice and they’ve even organized raves in Aqaba. What say you to a similar idea? I’ve always wanted to enter the event management business, because it mainly involves organizing; something I am obsessed about. So if you want to start something rolling, count me in!
-July 13, 2007
So the other day the Blacklisted people called me up to tell me about their next event. The next event will be on Friday at the Old Irish Pub at Dove Hotel. Doors are open as of 11:00pm, and I think there is no entrance fee. The guy told me that it would be great if each person brings at least a girl with them, so please guys. Do what you have to do.
Hope I see you all there! Cheers, Cahgfeh
-July 29, 2007
Finally I had the chance to go the blacklisted party with my boyfriend and some other friends. It was the first time for me to be in a gay club, and honestly I loved it! Although I am not a clubbing person, but I enjoyed having the option of dancing with my bf in public. I could dance close to him and sit close to him and touch him as much as I can!
The crowd were most very young guys. Most of them to the feminine side. They are really good dancers! lol! But from a feminine perspective! Agda3 men fifi abdo, mashalla 3alehom! hheheeh! Actually it was amusing seeing such crowd. Everyone seemed happy and enjoying themselves.
What I find it a bit disturbing is learning that some people dont like going there for the fear of being exposed! I can’t get it how people can be exposed to other gay people! Our gay community is very small, and most of us know each other! It is like Books@cafe! A lot of gays don’t go there so that they wont get labelled! What is ironic that no one have such fears when it comes to dating on gaydar! Those ‘very discreet’ guys seem to have sex with different partners the most! But hey, when it comes to sex, then it is okay!
Update August 22, 2007
New dance pub in Amman called RBG
Someone’s probably already told you this, but there’s a new dance pub here in Amman that has a strong gay following. It just opened last Monday, and the two owners (don’t know their names) are friends of the owner of Books @ Cafe. It’s called RBG and it’s near the Third Circle, on the ground floor of a small hotel called Roqaibat, which is just a few doors west of the Intercontinental Hotel. Very convenient for the foreigners visiting Jordan, because it’s also within easy walking distance of the Royal, Hyatt, and even the Radisson.
I’m not sure, but this club may be replacing the "Blacklisted" parties as it’s a more permanent location. When I was there last night with a few friends, there were about 40 people there, probably 70 percent gay with a few women and straights thrown into the mix. Good music on the small dance floor, too.
Second notice about RBG, from ‘Steve’:
I thought its good if i tell u this so u can put it in ur website under gay life in Jordan.
Recently a new pub was open in Amman on the 3rd circle called RGB and the 3 owners of the place they r gays.
On monday the 21 of August it was really a gay night, even it was open for everyone else.
It was great for gays we danced togther so close touch each other even kissing and licking and no one give a shit.
I am telling u what i did just so I think this will be a good place for gays to go
Feedback about second notice, from Madian:
Aug 27, 2007
If I may add my two cents…
We are all happy that RGB openned its doors to all of us. A very welcopmmed bar which i frequent.
However…we also need to watch out for our attitudes. this " kissing"…" licking" business needs to be monitored. Lets not screw up the first good thing that has happened to us. Lets also remember that Pub;ic display of sexual behaviour is against the law in this
country. RGB terrace is right on the street. I am sure we have all noticed some people prying over the fence. If any one is going to display any affection… try to control it…or , at least send it indoors where it is more private and out of the view of thiose passers by.
More feedback about second notice, from Chagfeh
Aug 28, 2007
I second Madian here, any excessive form of public display of affection could ruin a lot of things for RGB. If you don’t give a shit, others REALLY do.
Also, despite the owners are in deed gay, but I’ve been specifically told not to try to promote RGB as a gay place, but as a gay-friendly place. Which is a fair argument. The place is small (as opposed to Books@Cafe or La Calle), and the place relies only on alcohol as a source of revenue. We all know that most gay people in Jordan are light drinkers, so promoting the place solely as a gay club would damage the revenues of the owners. I’ve been told that that was the main reason for BlackListed to stop functioning: People were not ordering enough drinks from the bar, and the owners of the venue wanted heavy drinkers who would have to pay heftier bills. So, it’s either that the gay population in Amman turn into alcoholics! Or just promote the place as a gay-friendly bar; or like Books@Cafe, is welcome to all people of all colors (pun intended).
Blacklisted on hold, RGB holds on, from chagfeh
Aug 31, 2007
I was explaining that the main reasons the owners of the venue (the owners of Bodo) decided not to let BlackListed continue.
The owners of the venue are different than the the organizers of the event. The organizers would’ve loved to have BlackListed in a more upscale venue; but no venue was willing to open its doors to a mainly gay crowd. So he had to speak with venues that are lower class in order to have a place to have the party. The drinks that were expensive were at Zink and not Bodo, Bodo was actually pretty cheap; Absinthe shots were just JD3 which is a really good deal. Also, the cheap alcohol is Bodo’s fault, and not the organizers of BlackListed.
Again, the BlackListed people were not all that interested in the money itself, they just wanted to cut the bare minimum and pay for renting the venue. The venue owners are the ones that were greedy, and wanted heavy drinkers.
I’m not trying to defend the owners of RGB nor BlackListed, but I’m just trying to be fair here. You have to think of things from the owners point of view: There is no point in betting on a crowd that is not going to bring you enough money.
Although honestly, if I were the owners, I would follow Acid’s policy: Open bar for a set fee (a relatively cheap fee), girls come in for free at a certain hour (before midnight), serve cheap alcohol, and if somebody wants a specific brand of alcohol, then charge them a premium price.
Response to an Indian (GayBombay Yahoo Group) commentary from a member of AmmanRainbow
Thanks for sharing. "After all being gay is being twice blessed—once blessed for being a man and second time blessed for being able to love another man." I loved this sentence and thought of highlighting it here! We are twice blessed 🙂
Actually I loved the entire post of this man giving us an account of him becoming aware of his gayness. It is not far from what each single one of us has experienced. For me, it has been the same, I remember how much I used to like other guys while being a little kid. Guys at school, in the neighbourhood. Waiting for a guy to pass by in order for me to check him. Feeling happy when he says hi or talk to me…etc
I have never recognized that what I used to feel means that I am gay. Maybe like the man, I was first intorduced to the word gay in my 8th grade, but in Arabic they say "Looti" in reference to Prophet Loot and his assumed homosexual people! Here the world ‘Looti’ has no attachement to happiness whatsover, it indicate very bad people with bad morals! I, myself, used to think that Looti people are bad ones!
I have never associated myself with the word! and never really realized what it means. I have never imagined myself in an intercourse with another man, the idea itself used to repulse me, and then even when I started connected the dots of the word and me, I have always comforted myself that I can’t be gay because I dont think of intercourse!
Although in the back of my mind, those calls of had became stronger every day, especially at the university time where I fall in love with my straight best friend! I have never imagine him sexually, and whenever such idea crosses my mind, I used to fight it so that I dont feel that I am betraying our friendship. I have always tried to think about it as friendship love and nothing more, but obviously I was in a BIG denial phase.
I guess those strong feelings are what helped me realized my sexuality and face my fears. Once I realized it, I instantly accepted myself and knew what the kind of life I want to live. Now I am blessed 3 times. Once for being man, a second time for being able to love another man, and a third time for having the best man ever to be my bf- lover in my life.
Have a nice day.
In response to this ‘blessed’ posting GlobalGayz invited the writer to share some further thoughts about his life and sexuality as a gay Jordanian. His replies follow:
Thanks for your questions; I will answer them from my perspective below.
__1.how does your sexuality affect your life as a Jordanian?
__This is a big question. I guess that my sexuality had a huge impact on my life and the way I deal with people around me. I am not sure if it is because of the Jordanian society or it is being gay itself. I mean our sexuality dictates many aspects of our lives. It isn’t just a preference that a lot of people like to think of it because it does affect your choices in friends, your interests in people, and your relationship with them.
For me, before coming out, I wasn’t aware of the effect of my sexuality on my life. I stayed in denial for so long till I reached my 24 years old. It was a combination of not knowing what gay mean, and whether it applies on me or not, and the fear of facing those feelings of attraction I have for other men.
Now I do realize its effects. In my college years and some years after that, I was madly in love with my straight best friend. I couldn’t draw the line between whether my feelings towards him were based on strong friendship feelings or that it means much more than that although at some points it was so clear to me that I do love him. I used to tell myself "If this isn’t love, then what is it?"
Now I also realize that a big part of why I wasn’t able to mix right at school with my fellow male guys has to do with my sexuality. What really brings men togather is women and sex talk and I have no interest in that what’s so ever. I now see that my sexuality was an obstacle in me building strong relationships with my male school mates.
__2. how does it affect your friendships with people who know/don’t know about your sexuality?
__After I faced my denial, I had a big decision to make. Whether to keep it to myself and never to act on it, or share it with my best friend and let him help me. For months I kept struggling with that decision. It was so scary to me thinking of what would happen if he knew that I am gay and have been attracted to him all that long.
After a couple of months, I made the decision. It was one of the hardest moments of my life because it was the first time I say that I am gay outside my own head. He got shocked, and thought that I am confused, but did feel my fear and pain. He stood beside me, and helped me gain ore confidence in coming out to other people. Although he was against the idea because he knows how risky it is, but I wanted to share it with my other close friends.
I came out to most of my close friends. It was never easy. Everyone reacted in a different way, but all showed much love to me. What happened has only brought us closer. I gained more respect and trust from them because they knew that I gave them that by telling them.
Now I find it hard to build new friendship with staight people. It is because I don’t like to cover a huge part of my life for those who I feel close to, and it is not easy to keep on trusting new people and tell them about my sexuality in a conservative society that considers homosexuality as an immoral behaviour.
In the other hand, starting dating gay people and meeting them. I have gained many new friendships. It was like finally meeting people like me. People who understand. People who has been through the same. People who has struggled and still do because of their sexuality. Gay friends have added much value and more joy to my life.
__3. How does it affect your relationships to your family?
__I am one of the very few Jordanians who actually came out to his parents. I knew that they would never abandon me. I trusted their love. But I feared the impact of my sexuality on them. It really scared me. I knew that it would hurt them badly, and I believe it did, but I believed that it is their right to know the truth. I knew that they would handle it the same way I did.
It was so scary, but they showed me much love and support. They went into a denial phase which is common. For a year or so they barely _mentioned it. For sometime, I felt that I have done nothing by coming out to them. I thought that they just forget what happened that night.
But then they came around. They seem to be okay with it now. They know about my boyfriend, and seem to like him as well.
How does it affect my relationship with them? It gave me more confidence in their love. Now I feel more secure than ever, because I know that whenever I fall, there are 2 people who love me unconditionally and are willing to do anything to make me happy.
__4. how does it serve or restrict your authenticity/ honesty/integrity/personal freedom/emotional needs/physical desires?
__From what I said above, I guess that you can tell how it restricts my honesty and itegrity among people who don’t know about my sexual preference. I have to hide it, to lie, to cover and to pretend.
Personal freedom? As long as I practice it in secrecy, then it is _okay.
Emotional needs? They are all fulfilled now. Thanks to my loving and caring boyfriend, my family and friends.
That is all about me. I am sure others would give you different accounts.
First LGB magazine ‘M.K.’ to appear in Jordan
M.K. mag is the first gay magaziine in Jordan, written by a gay staff themselves. It’s done by the heart so it’ll recieve to yours. Local issues to concern only us and the Amman gays! This description was written by the staff of the magaxine
About the magazine (still under construction):
Is it possible to create a private room through pages? Well, every thing you feel comfortable doing, reading, or being at is considered a private space, your own zone. Therefore, what this magazine is all about is to offer you a special place in your bedroom, even more private, where you parents, friends or family could not snoop around. This magazine brings real life issues, closet cases, closeted feelings, and discuss them through pages, offering help, guidance, practical tips, not to mention picture perfect models, dazzling designs, and interesting contributors. We try to bring peace into our minds and into yours. We support safe sex, healthy habits, independence, and most of all, this magazine is personal, honest, warm and sometimes you could think of it as daily diaries. We bring what matters.
It will an electronic mag, on CDs, and will be sold thru us to keep it on the download (down low?) for now.
October 12, 2007
We’re actually in the proccess of arranging a launching party for M.K. mag. So get ready for a dance night!! Attenders of the party will be Ammani gays and lesbians and foreigners and open minded straight people. It is a name listed party, because we can’t have enough space for everyone. so only invited people will be able to buy the tickets and attend the event.
More info will be sent out to all of you guys ASAP. If any of you are interested in sharing with us the wonderful moments of the launching; please send us an e-mail with your contact info ASAP. About the publishing, the mag isn’t going to be printed or sold by in public. Only Party attenders will get a free CD copy of the mag. It’ll contain a PDF file, which can be easily read using Acrobat Reader program. and the file will be uploaded on our website after an exclusivity period from the party’s date. That way it’ll be easily spreading through jordan and the Middle East.
November 30, 2007 – Haaretz News, Israel
Eastern promises: Gay Israeli travelers frequent Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Dubai
by Yotam Feldman, Amman, Jordan
At twilight, the labyrinthine paths of the ancient Roman theater in Amman begin to fill up. Men who have come alone stand in waiting postures, impatient, casting glances this way and that. Others congregate by the wall or on benches, not letting the patrolling police bother them. Occasionally a couple disappears into a clump of bushes or into one of the niches. Many tourists might be confused by the scene, but a gay tourist will get it immediately. Most of the men who approach the tourists are selling sex for money, sometimes mediated by a pimp lurking in another corner of the theater. Relations with those who are not engaged in prostitution also sometimes have a character that makes it impossible to be oblivious to economic power relations. The tourist will invite them for drinks or dinner, for example, or will pay for the hotel room to which they will go, perhaps, at the end of the evening.
There are other places, too, for those seeking cross-border relations: Thakafa Street (thakafa means "culture" in Arabic) in the Shmeisani quarter is a cruising site for a higher-level crowd. Strolling on the well-lit street, amid the ubiquitous campaign posters for the parliamentary elections, are families with children, groups of students and also gay men (mostly young) who are trying to spot a new face in the city’s small, stifling community. The searchers can be identified by their long pauses every few steps or by their many sidelong glances. Iman, a young literature student of Palestinian origin, whose family comes from Hebron, is here with friends to cruise Thakafa Street – "Not necessarily to look for anything, but if the opportunity arises, why not?" He is not ashamed to say that he’s looking mainly for foreigners. "In a small place like Amman, people we don’t know, with whom we haven’t yet slept, are a refreshing innovation. You can find tourists here from different countries – Americans and Europeans – and also many from Arab states, and occasionally also Israelis." Just that morning, Iman relates, he met, via the Internet, a Saudi student who was in the city for a short visit. "It’s been a long time since I met someone so uptight," he says. "He didn’t stop shaking until we entered the hotel room. Anyway, I won’t see him again."
In the evening, Iman and his friends hang out at Books@Cafe, a coffee shop that is considered "gay-friendly" and whose owner acts as an adviser and mentor to his clients. He tells of efforts by the young people to create a sense of community. Two of them, he says, tried recently to put out a magazine for gays, but quickly found themselves in trouble with the authorities, who threatened them with legal proceedings. They shelved the idea. We meet one of them later in the evening, together with a group of his friends, in the gay bar RGB, a relatively new establishment. It’s not very big – five wooden tables around which two groups of young men are milling. Sitting at one of the tables are two women, a couple, who have come from the lesbian bar that opened recently not far from RGB.
Marwan, a successful young Palestinian entrepreneur, originally from Jerusalem, who is at RGB almost every evening, says he is not concerned by the implications of the ties between Jordanians and tourists. "The westernization and Jordan’s economic dependence on the West are facts of life. The tourists, on the other hand, also alleviate our distress." At the same time, he regrets the fact that forging genuine relations is impossible under these conditions. "The end is more or less inevitable – the tourist will leave and we will probably never talk again. It is also unfortunate that it is impossible to find a place for meaningful encounters – all my recent encounters were in hotel rooms or in my car. Sometimes I feel a little like a prostitute."
The anti-erotic element
"They were an instance of the eastern boy and boy affection which the segregation of women made inevitable. Such friendships often led to manly loves of a depth and force beyond our flesh-steeped conceit. When innocent they were hot and unashamed." – T.E. Lawrence, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom"
Gay Israeli travelers frequent Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Dubai. Holders of two passports also visit Beirut, which they say can compete with Tel Aviv as the gay capital of the Middle East, and Damascus, where the gay scene is more secretive. This is not sex tourism, all the travelers who were interviewed for this article emphasized, certainly not in the narrow sense of obtaining sex in return for money. The fear of being exposed as an Israeli heightens the thrill, some of the visitors say. "It’s a state of consciousness, which allows you to overcome the usual inhibitions. The erotic yearning mobilizes additional forces," says Arnon, 35, who works for a human rights organization and makes frequent visits to Arab countries.
The fantasy that lured Western travelers to the Arab world is not new. In the 19th century, writers and other creative artists, Europeans in general and Frenchmen in particular, were drawn to the Levant under the auspices of colonialism. On their return they described places where men slept with other men without being categorized as homosexuals, as in the West.
"What connected me to the East was French literature of the 19th and 20th centuries," Arnon says. "Roland Barthes connected me to Morocco, and Flaubert to Tunisia. My image was of a place where almost every man could find himself in a sexual situation with another man, because you don’t have the Catholic prohibition on sexual contact between males. That is further intensified for a Western man, for whom all the barriers are lifted, in part by material incentives. It is not confined to a bar or a park. The horizon of possibilities is far more dynamic, and it is not just about those who declare themselves gay. It can also be a married man – anyone, really."
And were your expectations fulfilled?
"Very quickly. There are always these types who approach you. For example, in Tunis – you are sitting in a cafe and someone makes eyes at you, comes over and asks, ‘What are you looking for?’ ‘Where are you from? Are you married?’ ‘Would you like to go someplace?’ You don’t necessarily go straight to the hotel. Usually they want to go out, want you to take them drinking, to a discotheque."
And it’s at this stage that the economic dependence is created?
"In the background, there is always the question of what they will get out of it in material terms. It’s not that you are going to send them a hundred dollars a month for the rest of their lives, but relations of dependence form. Some of them told me that their dream is to leave Tunis and live in the West. They asked if I could write a letter to my consul general that will make it possible for them to get a visa. They asked that after 25 minutes of conversation."
What was your reply?
"I think I left it open. I said it’s an interesting idea, maybe I will try."
Does this put a damper on the experience?
"It is the anti-erotic element that bothers me. In Tunisia, for example, someone I met invited me to his cousin’s home. I went with him, even though I did not necessarily want sexual contact. I understood that the sexual thing was the payment I would make in order to see his house.
"We got a cab and drove out to a kind of suburb. It was a large house, what’s known in Israel as an Arab villa, made of concrete, on which construction was completed but hadn’t yet been quite whitewashed or furnished, or maybe would never be whitewashed because the money has run out. The uncle was sitting in the courtyard, holding prayer beads and smoking. We said hello, and the man introduced me in Arabic and spoke with him."
Was the uncle surprised to see a Western tourist in his courtyard?
"Not in the least. Maybe he was thinking that this was exactly what he did with the French who were there 50 years ago. He was completely at ease. Inside we met the cousin – ‘ahalan wasahalan’ – and then okay, let’s go to my room. We entered a room, which may or may not have been his, where there were two wooden beds and a poster of a Hollywood star on the wall. The small talk continued, the same conversation that is repeated on every trip. At a certain point he decides to turn off the light and starts to lean over me. After our pants are lowered the cousin opens the door and turns on the light. I thought there was going to be trouble, maybe he would be appalled, or maybe he would want to join, I don’t know, but he only asked him something, took a pack of cigarettes from him, and left."
Does the political dimension make such encounters highly charged?
"From my point of view, that dimension is critical, because if you leave only the sexual core, nothing would exist. It all comes from anthropological curiosity, political power relations, attraction to him as the representation of something, through my Israeliness and Jewishness. It is absolutely a type of conquest or operation in enemy territory and a speedy withdrawal. I came, I experienced a few things, I pulled out. The moment I have collected intelligence, withdrawal back to the hotel as quickly as possible."
Every trip is political
"The association between the Orient and sex is remarkably persistent. The Middle East is resistant, as any virgin would be, but the male scholar wins the prize by bursting open, penetrating the Gordian knot … ‘Harmony’ is the result of the conquest of maidenly coyness." – Edward Said, "Orientalism"
Lior Kay, 32, one of the founders of the gay forum called Red-Pink in the Hadash Arab-Jewish party, has paid many visits to Arab states, including Iraq. He finds a direct link between his experiences as a gay man in Tel Aviv and his adventures abroad. "There is something very international about being gay," he says. "Gays have a tool that allows them to enter deep into communities that are rooted in the local culture. When you come to someone for a one-night stand, you learn about all kinds of things. You can see the house, meet the friends, have breakfast with them. There is this very deep desire to get to know, even if it is only for one night – things that don’t necessarily happen to tourists.
"I, for example, like parks more than pubs, because there is an experience of disclosure there. You meet people who are outside the mainstream. In parks there are people who have no vested interests. We forget that there are people who do not have vested interests. That’s what I do in Jordan, for example, just talk with people who are wandering around the amphitheater." Kay entered Iraq in February 2004 on a U.S. passport, eight months after the start of the occupation. "On Friday I took a bus from Tel Aviv to Beit She’an. I hitchhiked to the border and then took a taxi to Amman, where I got a taxi to Baghdad. It was a 12-hour trip. We made a night stop in the desert and waited for the dawn, because it was dangerous to enter the Sunni triangle in the dark." There were hardly any tourists in Iraq at the time, he says. He walked around the city and talked to people, but was afraid to look for men.
Are these visits also related to your political attitudes?
"For me, all the trips are political and also social, in the sense that I see up close how people live. In many places I saw the anger at the West’s pillage of resources, and of course at the Israeli occupation.
The trips lent color to my political approach. You have to read books and studies and quotes by Brecht, but you also need color and aroma and soul to determine your political identity."
What is the negative side of being political in this context?
"There is a feeling of a stereotype that is at work on both sides. The fantasy of the West that likes what’s available and hot, and the people who live there, who hope to latch on to the tourists to get out of the disgusting cycle of poverty. Sex in these countries has a very clear economic element: a relationship of exploiter and exploited. Sometimes there is a feeling that you can go with almost anyone you meet, that they want you not because of your personality but because of these relations."
Where is that reflected?
"Everywhere, and first of all in bed. Even the active and passive thing – very often they will not agree to be passive with a Jew. There is definitely a matter of honor."
Do experiences in these countries challenge some of the images of homosexuality?
"Yes. We know the Western definition of the gay person – someone like Oscar Wilde – but in the Arab countries it is formulated in different codes of their culture. There is also liberation from the usual image of the body – less of the Western worship of youth. Many of the normative rules of the West do not apply there. Here we have the gyms, the hair removal; there it is a little less orderly, there are more possibilities."
Legislation is now being formulated that will strip Israelis of their citizenship if they visit Arab countries with which Israel does not have an agreement. Is it possible that you will no longer be able to travel there?
From Egyptian writer Constantin Cafavy "In the Tavernas": "I am a law-abiding citizen, but I don’t know how far my instinct for adventure will be repressed by that. Especially when it’s a flagrantly undemocratic law which is aimed, I think, less at people like me than at Knesset members whose activity might create a chance for peace." Assad watches the men: "I wallow in the tavernas and brothels of Beirut. I live a vile life, devoted to cheap debauchery. The one thing that saves me, like durable beauty, like perfume that goes on clinging to my flesh, is this: Tamides, most exquisite of young men, was mine for two years, and mine not for a house or a villa on the Nile." (translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard)
Russell, an American who immigrated to Israel in 1982, first visited Syria in 1993, entering the country on an American passport. His first encounter with the gay community of Damascus was a chance one. "I went into a pizzeria in Damascus. There was only one empty seat. The young Syrian who was sitting next to me asked where I was from, and we got into a conversation. It turned out that he was in charge of renovating the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Damascus.
"Even though the norms are very different in Syria – for example, it is routine for men to walk hand in hand in the street, and usually it doesn’t mean a thing – he somehow tuned me in and quickly started to pour out his heart. I asked him what was happening and where it was happening. He said it was done with a very low profile, a very traditional approach. The fear is less of the authorities, who monitor everything that goes on in the country, including gays, than of family and friends. He told me that people got together in homes, that there was a kind of group of gays who met every so often, and that there was sometimes sex with married men, too, but that there was no true gay life."
And besides the homes, are there other meeting places?
"In contrast to other Arab states, nothing happens in the hamams [public baths], but there are parks."
Russell’s host took him to a park. "He told me it was the cruising park of Damascus and that everyone went there, of all ages, for money and not for money. In the middle of the park there is a huge statue of Assad, who seems to be watching all the men. We walked around a little, said hello to a few people, and left."
What was the atmosphere like?
"Dark and not very pleasant, not friendly. I didn’t feel that I could have hooked up with someone if I had found anyone. I also drew a lot of attention – suddenly there was this new face, white with blue eyes. A tourist in Independence Park [in Jerusalem] might be an attraction, but not a big deal."
Did you get an unpleasant economic feeling from your encounters with men in Arab countries?
"Not necessarily. I’ve been to Jordan 200 times. If you go to Book@Cafe and want to meet someone, you can put out feelers immediately. If it is someone who speaks English and is well dressed, you know he is not after your money. People who are after money will go to the theater area, where the refugees hang out and where there are more needy people. Of course, it differs from one country to another – Dubai is one big brothel, filled with foreign workers, most of the population is not Arabic, and you don’t walk three meters without someone stopping you, whether it’s in a mall or in Starbucks, it makes no difference."
No consideration for Edward Said
From: Gustave Flaubert, "Flaubert in Egypt": "Here it’s quite well accepted. One admits one’s sodomy and talks about it at the dinner table. Sometimes one denies it a bit, then everyone yells at you and it ends up getting admitted. Traveling for our learning experience and charged with a mission by the government, we see it as our duty to give in to this mode of ejaculation." (translated by Francis
Yair Kedar, who was the editor of the travel magazine Masa Aher from 2003 to 2005, first visited Egypt in 1991, when he was 22. "I went with a gay French friend and an Italian-speaking Korean clergyman who joined us through a travel agency," he says. Kedar started to look for the gay scene where he had been told it was happening: hotel lobbies.
"You are in a very large hotel lobby, in the Hilton, say, and you sit down on a sofa and scan the place. Someone sits down next to you and you start to talk about the weather – ‘It’s really hot today.’ ‘Where are you from?’ ‘What do you do?’ ‘Have you been to the pyramids?’ And then he asks you if you would like to have a cup of coffee, and adds, ‘Just the two of us.’ And from there things develop.
"There is also the boardwalk along the Nile, which is a good catching place, these liminal places along the water, where culture ends. You wander around in the evening, there are groups of two-three guys and they start to talk to you, and suggest that they go with you and visit the room."
Do you feel guilty because gay tourism is also sex tourism, in the negative sense?
"That is a moral dilemma, because the visits also derive from good reasons. Is there a conflict between what they are selling and the regimes in these countries, and the economic dimension that permeates the sexual relations? There is a big contradiction.
But I see these contradictions in other places, too. There were travelers whom I spoke to as editor of Masa Aher, and at first they would tell me, ‘I was at the volcano, I was on a trek, I was here and there,’ and then, when things warmed up, they would tell me what they did at night: 12-year-old girls in Colombia and Thailand."
Is there something distinctive about the gay experience in places like this?
"There is a similarity between gay cruising and tourism: you are sold something that looks terrific from the outside by hiding the moral problem it entails – in that something is promised that cannot be fulfilled. In both cases there is a large dimension of guilt. On the other hand, I always thought that homosexuality is a great treasure that enables you to meet people and embark on new voyages with them. It’s intriguing, and you acquire experiences, until at a certain age you discover that you are becoming less patient and less inquisitive."
Benny Ziffer, the editor of the weekly Culture and Literature supplement of Haaretz (Hebrew edition), has written a great deal, in books and articles, about his erotic experiences in Arab countries. He says he chooses to ignore the feeling of guilt that accrues to the economic relations.
"You walk in Alexandria and people offer themselves to you in return for shawarma. If I were political and Marxist, I would not do anything. If someone offers you something like that, you have to cry out to the high heavens. I am doing something bad: I am fulfilling a desire at the expense of these unfortunates. These relations of power are ancient, you know, it was the pattern in the colonial period. People who were nothing in France became great lords in these countries, because they could control the people."
How do you justify it to yourself?
"Maybe in my writing I purify myself, maybe by saying it now. I always travel in order to write, and I have always written; I can’t bring myself to travel just like that – and I am not original in this, I did not invent it. I go to Egypt with the official goal of writing about bookstores, but the real inner goal is for something to happen from the erotic point of view, otherwise I will be very disappointed."
Don’t political relations interfere, in a period when there is critical talk about the East that was created by the writers you read?
"I immerse myself in the erotic and literary East alike, without taking account of orientalism and without taking account of Edward Said. I have my life and my experiences and my things
December 3, 2007 – ukgaynews.org.uk
Gay Muslim Outs Himself to Muslim Scholars at Conference: Doors of tolerance start to open for gay Muslims?
Johannesburg (PlusNews) – Suhail AbualSameed looked calm, yet he was shaking inside. He was seated before a row of ulama, distinguished Islamic scholars, from Afghanistan to Yemen at the International Consultation on Islam and HIV/AIDS, organised by the charity, Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), in Johannesburg, South Africa, last week. The previous day, several of them had denounced homosexuality as un-Islamic and evil. Today, AbualSameed had something to tell them.
“As a gay Muslim, I feel unsafe, unloved and unrespected in this space,” he said. “Were I to become HIV-positive, the first thing I would lose is my Muslim community. I couldn’t come to you guys for support.” You could cut the tension the room with a knife. AbualSameed continued: “I wish you did not refer to gays with the (Arabic) words ‘shaz’ and ‘luti’ – perverts and rapists – because we are not.”
Two men in keffiyas, the gingham headcloth worn by men in many Muslim countries, waved their arms to silence him but the chairman nodded for him to continue. Spellbound, the audience listened as AbualSameed, a Jordanian living in Canada, did the unthinkable: outing himself. The groundbreaking consultation brought together Muslim community leaders, academics, doctors, relief workers and HIV-positive activists to rethink the Islamic response to HIV and AIDS. One key issue was HIV prevention among hard-to-reach vulnerable groups like sex workers, street children, injecting drug users, and men who have sex with men.
Jaffer Inamdar, the HIV-positive founder and programme manager of the Positive Lives Foundation in Goa, India, told IRIN/PlusNews: “Lots of sex, drugs and gay activity take place during the high season from September to April in this popular tourist destination. Harsh, condemning language make them [gays] run away, hide and continue to spread HIV.”
Homosexuality is forbidden and considered a crime in most Islamic countries. Six officially Islamic countries (Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the 12 northern states of Nigeria) invoke sharia – Islamic religious law – and maintain the death penalty for consensual same-sex sex, according to human rights watchdog Amnesty International. Other countries punish homosexuality with fines, jail or lashes, coupled with social stigma and blaming Western culture for introducing gay lifestyles.
Not surprisingly, AbualSameed was fearful. “I saw their gaze, their body attitude, and my memory told me there could be a physical reaction,” he said. But he had nothing to fear. “Afterwards, veiled women, bearded men, the most religious types, came to me and apologised if they had said something offensive, if they had made me feel unloved or unsafe.” Each friendly gesture signalled belonging. “This is us: our culture is intimate, warm, based on relationships. When I outed to my family, they did not turn on me,” a relieved AbualSameed told IRIN/PlusNews.
The following morning, the ulama had a surprise.
Conference spokesperson and IRW head of policy Willem van Eekelen read their collective statement, saying that although Islam does not accept homosexuality, Islamic leaders would try to help create an environment in which gay people could approach social workers and find help against AIDS without feeling unsafe. “This first time ever that a high-level religious forum has talked, acknowledged and accepted gays,” said AbualSameed. “This will open the door to talks with the Muslim gay community and help other gay Muslims to come out in a safer space.”
To see theologians from Egyptian and Syrian universities, and imams – Muslim community leaders – from India, Sudan and Pakistan defy official Islamic homophobia is “definitively a first,” said sheikh Abul Kalam Azad, chairman of the Masjid (mosque) Council for Community Advancement, in Bangladesh. “Homosexuality is a sin but we should not be cruel. They [gays] suffer a lot in the Muslim world.” Inamdar welcomed the statement. “There are many gays in my group [in Goa]. Islam says it is a sin and we have to follow Islamic rulings, but we are all human and deserve respect.”
An unlikely ally for gay rights turned out to be Sudanese sheikh Mohamed Hashim Alhakim, dressed in a white robe with gold trimmings and a white turban, and his wife, clad in a black hijab, with their baby just behind him. Alkahim runs the S-Smart Training and Consultancy Centre in Khartoum, which also runs AIDS awareness programmes. “I used to be very hard against homosexuals and sex workers,” he said. “But I learned to respect their humanity. I advise them to change, but if they are going to continue they must practice safe sex so they don’t harm themselves and their partners.”
During the weeklong consultation, AbualSameed, who is coordinator of the Newcomer/Immigrant Youth Programme at the Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto, had endured homophobic statements. Just the day before, one scholar had ranked homosexuality with bestiality and adultery as evils to avoid. “The harshness of the comments made me passionate; I had to do something for my own identity and dignity, and of other gay Muslims,” said AbualSameed.
His decision to speak out was nurtured in his conference working group, made up of Muslims from Iran, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania. South African psychologist Sabra Desai spoke about care and solidarity, and recalled the Prophet’s words: “‘If one part of my body hurts, my whole body hurts’,” she said. “I take this to mean that if one member of my community hurts, we all hurt.” Then she squeezed AbualSameed’s hand under the table and passed him the microphone. Slowly, he started: “As a Gay Muslim …”. And with every word, the doors of tolerance opened wider
September 18, 2008
Closing of Books@Cafe
by Madian al Jazerah, co-owner of Books@Cafe
This is about where we stand in hypocrisy and bigotry…and where we will be if we remain quiet. Books@Cafe and many other establishments have been closed this week. Here is what I witnessed and what happened to us at Books@Cafe:
The night before Ramadan, the police violently stormed into the café and asked us to close down. “This is the holy month of Ramadan!” they barked. Since we are officially licensed and they could provide no official papers, we refused to close. This is the third year we operate, fully licensed by the Ministry of Tourism and the Hotel and Restaurant Association. This is very important, because we are categorized as 3-star tourist, with recent faxes from the Ministry endorsing the permit to operate all day with regular food and drink service, including alcohol.
Last Wednesday, we hear that a security committee (Al lajna al amnia) has been formed and comprises of 3 groups: The Hotel and Restaurant Association, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Governate. All three must be present when this committee goes out to inspect. That Wednesday night, the new committee barged into Books@Cafe (making sure every one saw them) and bullying everyone with their looks and comments.
They then walked into the kitchen while many of us including my brother were standing and witnessing. One person proceeds to tell our chef that there are cockroaches, insects, mice in the kitchen. Every one was baffled and were telling him to show us what he was talking about! Of course there was nothing, but with every accusation, he ordered one of his committee members to write it down and then adds, “let them get what they deserve for serving alcohol in this holy month.” Our chef kept asking the guy to show him where he saw cockroaches, mice, however the inspector was not there to listen; he was just there to write us up and penalize us.
Despite the fact that only representatives from the Ministry and the Governate were there – no one from the Hotel and Restaurant Association. The guy then tells us we should not be serving alcohol on the terrace; we immediately pulled all liquor sales indoors. Sunday night, we get shocked with the visit from the police with an order to close. There was no reason within the order. Of course, they only come at night so that there is no one to call or anything to do. When we showed them our papers, they kept calling us a night club. We are licensed as a restaurant. To them, if alcohol is served, then it is a night club. This is the logic we encountered, regardless of the fully accredited and legal license.
To our shock, the order started with the same Ministry of Tourism representative who received us like we were dirt at the ministry. He had sent a document with 18 accusations at us including the basic cockroaches, insects etc. Including another accusation “jalsat 7ameema wa tabadol al qubal.” Roughly translated into “intimate gatherings and exchange of kissing.” He also mentions that someone told him to go and form his prayer ablutions with beer! The document stated that this was all happening on the terrace, in public and in front of us and everyone! The guy was lying through his teeth! For now Books@Cafe is closed. We are trying to get the license to reopen and have to send a “ister7am” as in begging for mercy for something we were legally doing and licensed by our ministry to do. To date the Ministry of Tourism and the Hotel and Restaurant Association have done nothing. The star rating system they have created has no value or protection.
Any comments on our system? Do we pay a rashwa to get things done or do we fight to make Jordan and our system fully protect our rights? Or do we just close up and leave the country and lose all our love and loyalty to Jordan? I prefer to fight for a better Jordan and I think everyone should do the same. This is my country and I live in it and I will contribute to a better Jordan.
The Situation Facing Jordan’s LGBT Population Today
Amman, Jordan – Jordan is a complex and fascinating – but ultimately depressing – place to explore how same-sex relationships are playing out in the Arab and Muslim world. To the traveler, Jordan, and particularly the capital Amman, can appear as a modern, open country where men and women (especially young men and women) mix more freely than in some neighboring countries, Western fashion predominates, familiar and even upscale brands like Starbucks and Bang & Olufsen are spreading, most women drive, and fewer women wear headscarves. Many families in Jordan have become quite rich, particularly as an aftermath of the war in Iraq and the subsequent increase in the demand for Jordanian products and services and a real estate boom caused in part by an influx of Iraqi refugees. This wealth is constantly on display in fancy wedding parties, expensive cars, haute coiffure and couture, exclusive clubs, and a growing list of trendy restaurants, nightspots, and vacation destinations.
In spite of the increased wealth and openness to the outside, made even more accessible by ease of travel, satellite TV, and the internet, social attitudes are changing very slowly in Jordan. Jordan remains a deeply conservative and conformist country, in which everyone is expected to get married and have children, and few are allowed to leave the family home until this “marriage imperative” is fulfilled. This imperative, more than anything else, creates a negative environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) persons. (It also creates a negative environment for non-LGBT Jordanians who, for whatever reason, wish to remain single, whether they move out of the family home or not.)
Reinforcing the negative environment for LGBT Jordanians created by the marriage imperative is the so-called “culture of shame.” It is said that in Western societies, individual behavior is constrained by feelings of guilt (negative messages originating from within), whereas in Eastern societies behavior is constrained by feelings of shame (negative messages originating from outside). The “culture of shame” is a powerful constraint on individual behavior and attitudes in Jordan, and affects not only the sphere of intimacy and privacy (such as dating and sexuality), but also selection of friends, educational and career choices, work-life balance, and the dynamics of the workplace itself. (For example, one is not allowed to have friends that are perceived by the family to belong to a lower social class.) The most immediate source of shame heaped upon the hapless Jordanian who displays nonconformist behavior or attitudes is usually the nuclear family, but extended family members, friends, and colleagues can also contribute to reinforcing conformity.
This culture of shame, which is especially pronounced where LGBT matters are concerned, keeps most LGBT Jordanians in a state of morbid fear that their families will discover their sexuality. Even if the immediate family members of an LGBT Jordanian have liberal attitudes, the pressures from extended family members or the community at large can be overwhelming – the constant “cluck, cluck, cluck-ing” of gossipy relatives, neighbors, friends, and colleagues can turn even the most liberal-minded parents into enforcers of the established social order. Indeed, it is often said that in societies such as Jordan, the most effective method of controlling sexual behavior is by talking about it.
Some examples may illustrate. Two gay Jordanian friends of the author, unknown to each other, one from a very poor family and the other from a very rich family, are both in their mid-30s and have never been married. Both face immense pressures from their families to marry, and family weddings have turned into intolerable experiences for both. Both have mothers with serious illnesses who have blamed their conditions on their sons’ “unresolved” marital status. Both face annoying speculation by others about their virility and manhood, and both are considering marrying a woman just to shut everyone else up. Another gay Jordanian friend of the author would not reveal his real name or place of employment to the author until the author credibly threatened to end the friendship. Foreigners living and working in Jordan often remark that the first question they hear upon inviting a gay Jordanian to some event (whether or not it has a gay theme and whether or not any known gays will be present) is “Will there be other Jordanians there?” and the invitation is almost always refused if the answer is yes.
Notwithstanding these obstacles, LGBT Jordanians have made enormous progress over the last few years. The situation facing Jordan’s LGBT population today is comparable to the situation facing LGBT persons in the United States 40 years ago. But Jordan’s LGBT population will undoubtedly progress much faster of the next 40 years than Americans did over the last 40 years. The internet has played a huge role in this acceleration process, bringing Jordan’s atomized LGBT population together into something of an embryonic community. For example, in July 2007, about 1200 Jordanian men had profiles on Manjam (an international gay dating site), with 40 or 50 online on a typical evening. By November 2008, that number had increased to more than 2800, with 120 typically online at any given time. Through the internet, Jordanians have anonymous access to thousands of sites containing unbiased LGBT information and entertainment with positive messages, and the ability to form online relationships with LGBT friends from all over the world. Over time, this increased access to information will also change attitudes of non-LGBT Jordanians toward LGBT issues, leading, it is hoped, to a less conformist, more enabling environment.
The importance of access to unbiased information should not be underestimated. Jordan has a relatively sophisticated media by the standards of the Arab world, yet journalists are seriously ignorant on LGBT matters. When they cover LGBT concerns at all, which is rare, the tone is universally negative and journalists imbue their stories with their own prejudices. A recent example concerned the brave efforts of a few young Jordanian men to increase HIV prevention awareness among gays. Although this valuable initiative had the support of the Ministry of Health, journalists seized on it and turned it into another opportunity to blast the “spread of homosexual culture” in Jordan and warn parents about this “scourge” that was threatening to “influence” their children. In another example, almost laughably absurd, a paper affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood asserted that “World Homosexual Day” (a holiday strangely unknown to the LGBT community in San Francisco, New York, Berlin, Taipei, Sydney and hundreds of other gay hot spots around the world) would be celebrated in Jordan on November 21, 2007.
Even more recently, the media seized on the arrests of a few gay sex workers in a cruising area of Amman and, conflating prostitution with same-sex desire, railed against the “sin, disease, and corruption” of homosexuality, claiming it is caused in childhood by the absence of an effective father figure and triggered by sexual abuse. Interestingly, one article boldly stated that there were 600 homosexuals in Jordan (the actual figure is probably more like 600,000). (This story, written by Muwaffaq Kamal in Al Ghad newspaper near the end of October, is only one of many anti-gay stories by that newspaper.) Those arrested were put in administrative detention by the head of the Amman Governorate (political entity similar to a U.S. state). It was also reported in JO Magazine (see “Crackdown?” by Serene Al-Ahmad in the December 2008 issue) that a policeman said he “had received orders to arrest ‘overly effeminate men’.”
In a positive development, two dance pubs with a strong LGBT following (RGB and Fab) have opened up in Amman since August 2007. As of this writing (December 2008) the clubs had been opening and closing unpredictably, but current information is available from local LGBT persons. The latest closures were as a result of threatening messages received by the owners, who insist that their clubs are operating entirely legally, with all the necessary permits. At both clubs, many non-LGBT persons — even some married couples – enjoy the relatively open and democratic atmosphere. Dozens of men (and a few women) are packed onto the dance floors, gyrating to a mix of Arabic and Western dance music, although shows of affection and “dirty dancing” are not allowed. Face control is practiced (according to the owners) primarily for security reasons but has led some local LGBT persons to complain of discrimination. Foreigners, however, are always admitted.
The crowd at these pubs is more mixed than one would find in Western Europe and North America and is about 90 percent male and 95 percent local and young, with an interesting combination of students, young professionals, “club-bunny” types with unusual hairstyles and makeup, and a few “muscle boys.” Local lesbians, some local straight women, a smattering of straight men and a few foreigners round out the mix. Alcohol flows freely and is consumed by both Muslims and non-Muslims. Well over 50 percent of the crowd is smoking at any given time, creating an intolerable atmosphere for nonsmokers especially in the chilly months when the outdoor terrace is unusable. Jordanians usually go to pubs and clubs in groups, and these pubs are no exception. This tendency puts a damper on cruising, as people do not stand alone and there needs to be a link between groups in order for someone from one group to be introduced to someone he/she likes in another group.
Although only a small fraction of Jordan’s large LGBT population has ever attended these pubs, they do represent a breakthrough of sorts. For the first time, significant numbers of LGBT Jordanians have allowed themselves to be seen in public together, accepting the risk that someone untrustworthy might recognize them and spread rumors that might eventually reach their families. Private gay parties are also springing up around the city of Amman and in the spectacular desert scenery of Wadi Rum and Wadi Musa. In the summer months, local gay men enjoy going in groups to the outdoor swimming pools of the many 5-star hotels in Amman, joining families and young non-LGBT professionals.
Clearly, generational change is having its effect in Jordan, and many young people, LGBT and non, are casting aside the antiquated beliefs of their parents’ generation. Progress will not be steady, and there probably will be backlashes by more conservative elements of society as LGBT persons become more assertive of their rights to individual dignity and self-determination. The backlashes are a normal part of the advancement of any marginalized group and have been observed in many countries with regard to LGBT issues. The important thing is that the general trajectory of movement is forward.
April 22, 2009 – Newsweek
Hiding in Plain Sight – Arab gays are under siege in societies that want to pretend they don’t exist. But a new biography of an Arab artist offers another view.
by Christopher Dickey – Newsweek Web Exclusive
At a dinner party among close friends in Jordan in November 2002, one of the guests was missing. Ali Jabri, then 60, was an artist with a temperament, and we’d gotten used to his no-shows. But still, it seemed odd that he wasn’t there to be, as ever, the life of the party. The next day passed and then the next as I focused on reporting about the impending invasion of Iraq, and then one of our friends called to say Ali was dead, murdered in his apartment. The main suspect was his Egyptian lover, a man none of us knew, who disappeared back across the border.
My wife and I and our Arab friends mourned the death of a passionate esthete who brought great wit and discernment to the arid confines of Amman society. But one of Ali’s circle, Amal Ghandour, did more. She began to pore over the journals that Ali had sometimes let a few of us glimpse. Their illustrations were extraordinary: pages upon pages of sketches, pastels, clippings, collages. And woven through the images was densely written script full of perceptive, sometimes poisonous aphorisms chronicling the life and sentiments of this tall, blond, blue-eyed Arab who moved among so many cultures.
Ali was a scion of the ancient and decaying aristocracy in Aleppo, Syria, who sometimes styled himself, improbably and ironically, "the last descendant of Saladin." His elementary education in the early 1950s was at Victoria College in Alexandria, Egypt, the alma mater of Jordan’s King Hussein, among others. In the 1960s, Ali tuned in, turned on and dropped out in California, then, in the early 1970s, plunged into the art-and-drug-and-sex scene of England. (He called that green and pleasant land his "juicy citadel of chlorophyll.") But many of his most revelatory writings and paintings come from his experiences among Arab homosexuals in his native Middle East where, until recently, people did not ask or tell, and many gays, like Ali, learned to hide in plain sight.
As one of Ali’s friends told Ghandour, his was a life of "parallel universes." He found in these contrasting worlds ecstasy and inspiration, but also injury, frustration and fear. And it’s sadly ironic that Ghandour’s amicable but unflinching work of nonfiction, “About This Man Called Ali: The Purple Life of an Arab Artist” (Eland: London), should be coming out in Britain just now, only weeks after Amnesty International denounced the murder of dozens of homosexuals in what the Bush administration used to refer to as liberated Iraq.
"Over the last few weeks at least 25 boys and men are reported to have been killed in Baghdad because they were, or were perceived to be, gay," Amnesty wrote on April 9. "The killings are said to have been carried out by armed Shia militiamen as well as by members of the tribes and families of the victims. Certain religious leaders, especially in the Sadr City neighborhood, are also reported in recent weeks to have urged their followers to take action to eradicate homosexuality in Iraqi society."
Had Ali lived long enough to see it, he might well have clipped that report and worked it into his journals along with the usual caustic commentary. A romantic of Arabia often disappointed by the realities of Arab society, he could have written on that page, as he did elsewhere, about the frustration and disappointments of an "Arab milieu that’s finally destructive; desultory; chloroforming; amnesiac."
Of course there is nothing new about homosexuality in the Middle East, even if, every so often, fundamentalists act horrified to discover it. And Ali tended to see himself as tied to a long tradition of notable gay sensibilities. He loved the exquisite work of C. P. Cavafy, the Greek poet of luxurious Levantine Alexandria a hundred years ago. There was also part of him seduced by the idea of Britain’s T. E. Lawrence, who became a desert warrior in World War I, not least, to honor the memory of a presumed lover. "I liked a particular Arab very much, and I thought that freedom for the race would be an acceptable present," wrote Lawrence, the empathetic Orientalist. And Ali had several long-term relationships. But he also sought out anonymous encounters, which he sketched with finesse and wrote about in rugged detail.
Some of his most vivid descriptions are of his assignations in the vast Cairene cemetery-become-slum called the City of the Dead in the 1970s, where he came across Egyptian soldiers "hungrily waiting for it … on a darkened plain by a tin statue of a defunct poet staring into oblivion … more money changed hands … and here I sit in the night café watching the same sharp excavational mind go by in all sorts of luscious shapes. Hustle!" As Ghandour puts it, "every word and drawing from that time evokes the humanity that lives and sings and steals and prays and plays and makes love in the deep fissures of that ruptured society."
There is this sense of discovery, disappointment and decay as the abiding themes of Ali’s life. In the 1980s and 1990s, when I first got to know him in Amman, he had built a reputation as a difficult man who painted accessible works. (Queen Noor commissioned several large canvases for the palace.) He also had become a kind of gadfly conservationist, fighting an all but futile battle to protect such ancient sites as Petra and the Aqaba waterfront from bureaucratic despoliation. "History to Ali was always very personal," writes Ghandour. "A record of things past, unearthed artifacts of bygone lives, offered tangible proof that names like his, families like his, people who have a feeble claim on the present, once defined it."
Indeed, there are moments when a reader may feel he’s stumbled into an Arab "Grey Gardens," watching fading nobility decline into lives of utter futility. For most of Ali’s later years, he remained financially and to some extent emotionally dependent on his aunt, Saadiyeh. Her husband, Wasfi Tall, had been Jordan’s prime minister in 1970 during the bloody crackdown on Palestinian militias known as Black September. Eventually the Palestinians murdered Tall or, as Jordanians at the time were wont to say, martyred him. So by descent, by marriage and by widowhood, Saadiyeh was part of little Jordan’s highest society. But Ali found himself alternately embraced as a dear companion and attacked as a sycophant until, as Ghandour says, Saadiyeh succumbed in the early 1990s "to the serenities of Alzheimer’s." When she died, she left Ali nothing.
As for Ali’s own death in 2002, none of his old friends really know what happened. Probably it was a crime of passion, perhaps a fight over money. There has never been an arrest or trial. But that seems, oddly, a very small lacuna in the fascinating narrative of Ali’s life. And what our good friend Amal Ghandour has given us in the telling of it is an account of love, loss, art and history in the Arab world as we’ve never really seen it before.
1 November2010 – Gay Middle East
Homophobic attack in a gay night club in Amman!
by Dan Littauer, GME Editor
Every Thursday night, there is a gay friendly party at the Marmara hotel, Amman. At last Thursday’s Halloween party (28/10/2010), around 3am, the two bouncers suddenly pulled out a gun and a knife announcing: “Get out of here within two minutes; otherwise you will be shot with this gun! Don’t ever come back here again or you will be beaten up!” Then they started to vandalise the place and cursed gays with abusive and derogatory terms. Everyone ran out of the club thankfully no one was shot. The people that run the parties know exactly who was responsible and a report was given to the police. However, until this evening (Monday night) no arrests have been made.
One party goer who was present during the attack said to GME: “The whole incident was awful and very scary. We barely have a handful of places to go. We really need to feel protected in such venues!” Unverified reports/rumours say that one man was beaten up by the bouncers when he was discovered in the bathroom.
Gay Middle East calls upon the Jordanian authorities to follow up the information, investigate and arrest the people responsible for this crime.
7 December 2010 – GME
Raid in Jordan or homophobic press hysteria?
by Dan Littauer, GME Editor and My.Kali Editorial
Last Thursday, around midnight, the second of December 2010, a gay party on Mecca St, in Amman was raided. It was run by the same people whose party had an incident Halloween. When the police arrived they asked the party goers for their id cards and immediately released everyone except those who did not have the identification on them. They were questioned and then released. The police apparently wanted to know who hosted the party in an unlicensed hall. The whole thing was over by 03:00AM.
Reading the related article in the Jordanian online tabloid portal “Ammon”, you would have thought something entirely different! The journalist used highly offensive terms in arabic ?????? (perverts, which could include pedophilia) and the article’s tone was deeply negative and homophobic. Firstly the party was portrayed as problematic: “it included very loud music, alcohol drinking, public display of dancing and kissing, a matter that reportedly disturbed nearby residents and passerbys.” Furthermore the article insinuated the age old implicit link between pedophilia and homosexuality, the old man tempting the younger narrative: “Police sources said that the crowds included men ranging in age between 15-30 years old, and a number of older men were also seen.” The paper also alleged that the police claimed the party “violated the Public Assembly Law.” Interestingly the article claimed that “Police managed to convince the crowds to shut down the party and disperse to their homes by 3:30am, nearly an hour after police arrived at the scene after receiving complaints from the neighbors.”
Thanks to a careful research by My Kali, Jordan’s LGBT magazine, some interesting facts have been revealed. Let’s deal with the article’s claims one by one. As we noted the incident was over by 2:30am; My Kali editor observed that the article was published at 2:00am and a comment was posted on the article already at 2:07am! A My Kali reader stated in an email: “as soon as I got out of the club, which was around 2:30 am, my friend, has already sent me a link to my blackberry, of Ammon’s news around 2:00 am! I mean how could a news-report be published before the incident while we’re still among the event?” This wasn’t the only thing that is odd about the article; another reader wrote: “The police just came in, they wrote our names and we were video-taped, which was weird. “ Another email described a suspicious guy who attended the party post the raiding-time and had a hand held video camera. Another witness reported a guy secretly filming the dancing crowd; “He was standing on the police’s side the whole time, with his camera. He showed some footage to my friend when she was questioned and confronted by the police. I did see him earlier hovering around in the party!” He added: “I bet [the video will] be published in the coming few days.” The Ammon article also included a picture taken of people dancing in the party… Leading both GME and My Kali writers to suspect that this was, in fact, a media fabrication…
OK, but what about the “loud music” and complaints from neighbours and “passerbys”? Firstly the party was held in a private hall. RGB held weekly parties for a couple of years right in front of the police station, and no one said a word… It was closed because the party was unlicensed, not because of complaints, which is most likely the reason in this case. In any case, there are many other private parties where heterosexuals drink, kiss and are affectionate with one another – no one is offended or complains. The whole point is that the party was held in private and thus could not possibly violate the “Public Assembly Law”; there are no neighbours or “passerbys” – the whole way this is articulated is false and misleading. If anything, the party was unlicensed and was ordered to close – end of story, the police did not cite any other reason. It could be argued, however, that the paper did something unlawful, the Jordanian “Press and Publication Law" demands that the press must avoid encroaching into people’s private lives – something the Ammon online news portal clearly did violate and not respect if it sent an undercover journalist who took photos and videos in a private function without permission!!
So what exactly is the Ammoun paper up to? One of the commentator nicknamed Maher (no.312) attracted the editor’s attention: “ … I would love to tell you that you are a shame on all the media and propaganda in the world. Claiming to be honest and conduct the correct image to the reader. I’m one of those… I always go to these parties, and proud. But the problem is that you do not know what you are talking about. You are not even close to that! … the comments you publish show the ignorant class of the Jordanian population. And I shall not even lower my self to such ignorance. And since you are agreeing to grab tighter on the hands of those ignorants, I shall be proud to declare you, my dear Ammoun, the most ignorant and steered news network. Shall God Bless every human being”
The editor response sheds light into what may be the darker agenda of the tabloid Ammon: “Maher, we have no problem publishing your comment or any other. As long as it does not contain profanity” Profanity means: Abusive, vulgar, or irreverent language (really!). Unlike many homophobic comments, death threats, hateful words blaming LGBT citizens for the draught afflicting Jordan… There were quite a few like No.17: “My brothers, where’s the police? I swear those who are failing our society. It’s necessary to shoot them down the line without trials, and if their fathers are part of the officials and authorities, shoot them too, because they didn’t know how to raise their children. Come on brave hearts, lend your hands and grab your guns!” Profanity? Why examining the distortions and the stirring of hate the article actively incites it seems that it is exactly what Ammon was trying to achieve! Is Ammon trying to make a sensationalist homophobic hysteria in order to sell papers, or worse?
If Ammon really does stand for honest reporting and against profanity, surely it would apologise immediately to the LGBT Jordanian community for its inaccurate reporting and clarify if their journalist was embedded in the party taking illegally photos of a private function.
2011 November 15 – PubMed.gov
Reflections on sex research among young Bedouin in Jordan: risks and limitations.
by Al-Shdayfat NM, Green G.
a Faculty of Nursing , Al al-Bayt University , Mafraq , Jordan.
Research about sexuality is characterised by silences and invisibilities. This is particularly evident in some Islamic Arab societies where discussion of sexuality in general is not encouraged and practices such as homosexuality or pre-marital sex are not acknowledged. This creates a barrier to carrying out sex research and also means that much of the research-based knowledge and methodologies developed in a Western setting may have limited applicability. This paper uses research recently carried out among Bedouin young women in Jordan to examine these limitations and the extent to which research approaches and findings from relatively liberal Western cultures are appropriate and relevant. Following a description of the cultural context in which the study took place, the paper identifies potential risks of conducting sex research in this setting and the research limitations related to this risk. Finally, it addresses the question of whether doing sex research has any value given these restrictions.