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December 04, 2002 – The Cornell Daily Sun, Inc.
Qatar’s Gay Rights Policy Under Scrutiny
by Freda Ready
Renewed concern is arising around the Cornell Weill Medical College-Qatar (opened October 18, 2002) because of the country’s recent record on lesbian and gay rights. According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association’s (ILGA) world legal survey, "Article 201 of the Qatari Penal Code punishes sodomy between consenting adults (irrespective of sex) with up to five years of imprisonment."
Qatar’s sodomy laws hardly make it unique, especially in the Arab world. According to Amnesty International, 83 countries explicitly condemn homosexuality in their criminal codes. 26 of those 83 countries are Muslim. Most convictions in those 26 countries happen in the Sharia courts, which use the Koran, Sunna and Ijma as sources for law. In the Sharia courts, "Law is not a product of human intelligence and adaptation to changing social needs, but of divine inspiration, which makes it immutable," according to H.A.R. Gibb in Mohammedanism, An Historical Survey.
What makes Qatar’s laws unique, however, is how they are put into practice. In most countries, foreigners, especially Westerners, are often immune to punitive action based on sexuality. In 1995, while the country’s government was still under Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Thani, the father of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, with whom Cornell has been largely negotiating, an American citizen in Qatar was sentenced to receive 90 lashes during a 6-month prison term for "homosexual activity," according to the U.S. Department of State’s report on human rights practices for 1996.
In October of 1997, 36 gay Filipino workers were deported, according to the Manila daily newspaper, Today.Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin, however, remains confident that the University will be able to protect those students, faculty members and staff of the medical school who may be affected by Qatar’s sodomy laws. "The Qatari government has agreed to abide by Cornell University’s standards for admissions and the status of students. The criteria for Cornell University medical students are all academic," she said.
But, one student worried that it is the gesture itself that is important. "I think it’s outrageous that Cornell would consider opening a school in a place where its students could be arrested for what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms," said Jake Lazarus ’05.
Qatar currently has no medical schools of its own, a fact that has consistently been given as one of the important reasons for opening this branch of the medical school. But such arguments are of little comfort to Lazarus. "If they want access to our education, they can get a student visa and come to Ithaca. Cornell shouldn’t disregard its commitment to inclusiveness and diversity just because they want to make a few quick tuition bucks off rich Arab oilmen sending their sons to med school," he said.
Martin agreed that the Qatari laws in relation to Cornell’s commitment to diversity was an important issue. "It’s certainly worth my mentioning it directly to the Board of Trustees," she said. Martin also pointed out, however, that there are "a lot of provisions in the agreement [between Cornell and the Qatar Foundation] for protection of people in any emergency situation."
08 August 2003 – Gay Middle East Web Site
From Jordan to Qatar
It’s not easy to have a gay life in an Arabian Moslem country. In spite of this, gays in Jordan have come a long way toward creating their own society. I spent several years in Jordan before moving to Qatar. I was shocked when I realized the difference between the gay life in Jordan and Qatar. In Jordan I used to hang out everyday with gay fiends, go to gay places, and make new gay friendships.
In Qatar, the situation is different. There are no gay places here, except one – and in my opinion, we can’t say that it’s really gay because it’s the only place where guys can enter without girls, and a lot of straight guys go there as well. Another big difference here is the lack of gay relationships. After living in Qatar for quite a while, and talking to a lot of guys in the net, only one or two guys have told me that they have boyfriends. And it’s not only love relationships, but friendships are also rare in Qatar among gays.
In Jordan, I knew many people and 90% of my friends were gay, but here, after a long time, I have succeeded in finding only one gay friend whom I have met and stayed in touch with by the phone. I think that the the reason for this is the lack of gay places in Qatar. I’m sure that if there were a gay cafe and everyone went there every week, the bond between guys here would be stronger. I really would love to talk more about these issue of "relationships & friendships" but I need to know if there is anyone who is interested.
Footnote from GME: This letter was sent to us by a reader in Qatar. The English has been corrected from the original in order to make it more understandable – but we have not changed the meaning of the content in any way. At his request, we have not mentioned his name.
The Crown Prince of Qatar should be stoned to death for being gay, according to Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim fundamentalist scholar who is based in Qatar.
These allegatons appear in the Middle East news magazine Aljazeera. Dr Qaradawi was defended by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, in a Guardian comment article only yesterday, Thursday 4 August. Aljazeera quotes Dr Qaradawi as saying: "The scholars of Islam, such as Malik, Ash-Shafi`i, Ahmad and Ishaaq said that (the person guilty of this crime) should be stoned, whether he is married or unmarried." According to Aljazeera, this is the verdict of Dr Qaradawi in response to allegations that Qatar’s 25 year old Crown Prince Tameem Bin Hamad Al-Thani was spotted at the popular London gay night club, G.A.Y. The prince and his male partner, Michael Heard, were allegedly banned from G.A.Y. for a month following a fight.
"Dr Qaradawi appears to be encouraging the murder of a person in the UK, which is a serious criminal offence," says OutRage! "We are astonished that Mayor Livingstone is still supporting him." Dr Qaradawi’s support for the execution of the Crown Prince was reported by Aljazeera.
The Aljazeera story states it was based on a report on the IslamOnline.net website. Aljazeera has effectively outed the Crown Prince to a worldwide audience. It puts his freedom and life in danger. Aljazeera reports that other scholars from Islamonline.net, have also endorsed the execution of the prince, citing the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad to justify the death penalty for the heir to the Qatari throne: "Whoever you find committing the sin of the people of Lut, kill them, both the one who does it and the one to whom it is done." (At-Tirmidhi: 1376)
Dr Qaradawi’s comment to Aljazeera reiterated his "gays should executed" opinion delivered in the fatwa "Homosexuality and Lesbianism: Sexual Perversions" issued last year (17 May 2004), shortly before he was welcomed to London by Mayor Ken Livingstone. Dr Qaradawi’s recommendation that the prince be stoned to death far exceeds the current penalty for homosexuality in Qatar, which is 5 to 10 years in prison. " This is a clear example of how fundamentalist clerics like Dr Qaradawi incite the execution of lesbian and gay people," said Aaron Saeed, Muslim spokesperson for the LGBT human rights group OutRage!
"Dr Qaradawi’s apparent endorsement of the death penalty endangers the freedom and life of the Crown Prince. The actions of Aljazeera in outing Prince Tameem put him at risk of arrest, imprisonment and so-called honour killing. "We are appalled that Dr Qaradawi continues to be supported by fundamentalist organisations such as the Muslim Association of Britain, and by far left groups like the Socialist Workers Party and Respect. "These people are betraying lesbian and gay Muslims. They are appeasing a fundamentalist cleric who believes that queers should be put to death. While we deplore Islamophobia and defend the Muslim communities, there can be no collusion with those who sanction the murder of lesbian, gay and bisexual people," said Mr Saeed.
NOTE: OutRage! has been unable to establish whether the Crown Prince was involved in a fight at G.A.Y. According to the club’s management, they do not keep a record of ejected patron’s identities. The police say they have no record of any charges. We cannot discount the posibility that the story was put out by the Prince’s political enemies in a bid to discredit him and to destabilise the government of Qatar. It is suspicious that IslamOnline.net, which Dr Qaradawi supervises, has been cited as the source of the story and that the story seems to have disappeared from that website. Whether or not the fight at G.A.Y. occurred, Dr Qaradawi’s fatwas have endorsed the execution of gay people. He should be asked to clarify his views on the death penalty for homosexuality.
December 13, 2008 – asianews.it
In Doha, first Arab conference on human rights
Qatar – The summit is organized by the Arab League and by the committee in Qatar that deals with human rights. At the center of the work, the Arab convention and the means for guaranteeing its respect. Recognition for personalities who have distinguished themselves in the battle for human rights.
Doha (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The first Arab conference on human rights will begin tomorrow, December 14. The summit is the result of a joint initiative of the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) of Qatar and of the Arab League; the date selected is also intended to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights, celebrated last December 10. The conference, scheduled at the Four Seasons hotel in Doha and lasting two days, will see the participation of the justice and human rights ministers of Arab countries, of the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, and of representatives of local and international institutions, associations, and organizations that deal with human rights.
Ali bin Simaikh al Merri, secretary general of the NHRC in Qatar, the country hosting the event, emphasizes the value "of the human rights of each individual," which must be "protected on the local, regional, and international level," and "in the Arab world in general." The conference is intended to promote "the Arab convention on human rights" recently ratified in Qatar, and "to discuss the strategies that the League intends to adopt in order to guarantee respect for human rights in Arab countries." Over the course of the two days, there will be recognition of personalities in the Arab world who have distinguished themselves in the battle for human rights: these include Sheikha Ghalia bint Mohammed bin Hamad al Thani (in the photo), the health minister of Qatar, for the "work that she has done as a member of the UN committee for children’s rights."
The Arab convention on human rights was promulgated in 1994, and reformed in 2001.
December 17, 2010 – On Top Magazine
FIFA’s Sepp Blatter Apologizes For No Gay Sex At World Cup In Qatar Joke
by On Top Magazine Staff
FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter has apologized for joking about Qatar’s laws against gay sex. When asked what he advised gay fans attending the 2022 World Cup tournament in Qatar, a mainly Muslim country which forbids gay and lesbian relationships, Blatter responded with a joke. After a long pause, Blatter answered: “I would say that they should refrain from sexual activities.”
But on Friday, Blatter apologized for the joke, the AP reported. “It was not my intention and never will be my intention to go into any discrimination,” Blatter told reporters in Abu Dhabi. “This is exactly what we are against. If somebody feels that they have been hurt then I regret [it] and present apologies.”
Former NBA basketball star John Amaechi was among those who criticized Blatter. Writing at his blog, Amaechi, who came out gay in 2007, said that FIFA “has endorsed the marginalization of LGBT people around the world.” “Blatter’s words aren’t really about sex, as I can’t imagine that many gay football fans would be bold enough to do it in public in Qatar,” Amaechi wrote. “Rather, what he is really saying is ‘Don’t be camp, don’t hold hands, don’t look into each other’s eyes, don’t book rooms with one bed, don’t have candle-lit dinners in the restaurant …’ and on and on.”
“He’s really saying don’t even ‘look’ gay, re-closet yourself and pretend the ties and love and affection you have for your partner or even a random bloke you might meet on your travels are gone for the whole time you are in Qatar.”
February 11, 2011 – AfterElton
Dear Pigeon Guts: Can "It Get Better" If You Live in Qatar?
by Brent Hartinger
Dear Pigeon Guts: I’m a transfer student in the U.S. from a tiny little country called Qatar. Lots of GLBTQ online media is blocked by our government (I was sad when I went home last summer and couldn’t access AfterElton.com!), but I’ve been a good follower of it since I’ve been able to. My question is mainly towards the type of "it gets better" talk that takes place. Most of what I hear is "high school sucks, stick it out, it will get better after that and your family/friends may or may not be okay with it eventually."
That really says nothing at all to someone from a similar culture as mine, because: 1) Though high school still sucks, there is no "going off to college" or making your own life: most kids aren’t expected to move out until they’re married, and some don’t move at all even after that. Very few people actually get their own place before marriage (and even fewer without ever getting married) but those are "oddballs" everyone stares at, talks about, and stays away from (and isn’t an option for single women either). 2) It’s a family-oriented culture. My family, direct or distant, would almost always use "we" when they mean "I" – everything we do has to always be viewed from a full family perspective, not an individual’s. It’s rarely an option. At the same time, your countless amount of cousins are your friends as well as family, so to come out or pretty much do anything out of the norm is, almost literally, to lose everyone you know. For someone who has grown up under such a perspective of "family first," it’s really difficult to even consider going off on my own. In all honesty, it just sounds selfish to me, especially knowing my siblings sacrifice a lot of who they are as well for the sake of family. During a conversation when my brother visited a few weeks ago, I had told him I marched as a "straight ally" with my friends. His response was that "if a photo of that gets home, you’ll give dad a heart attack and I’d kill you." (Neither of that would happen, but that’s the general reaction towards coming out/being gay.) Deep down, I know he knows I’m gay, but neither of us can admit it. We’re supposed to suppress that and countless of other things for each other. Being gay is forbidden in Islam and unfathomable to people. It might change in the future, but this isn’t that future.
I graduate this December, and though I’ve been able to be me, meet amazing people and have endless amounts of experiences, I have to go back home to all of the above. So my question (finally) is how would you say "it gets better" to someone in this situation? Or even to someone who is from such a culture? Because all the options to me sound like it gets worse. – P. M., Qatar/Ohio
25 May 2011 – GME
Qatar Gets the Red Card on Human Rights
by GME Qatar Editor
The US State Department’s 2010 Human Rights Report on Qatar has been released, and it shows that Qatar is still failing miserably when it comes to LGBT rights. Same sex relations continue to be illegal and come with heavy penalties. As outlined in the report:
“The law prohibits same-sex relations between men but is silent concerning same-sex relations between women. Under the criminal law, a man convicted of having sexual relations with another man or boy younger than 16 years old is subject to a sentence of life in prison. A man convicted of having sexual relations with another man older than 16 years old is subject to a sentence of seven years in prison under section 285 of the criminal law. There were an unknown number of cases before the courts during the year. There were no lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) organizations in the country. During the year no violence was reported against LGBT persons, but there was an underlying pattern of discrimination towards LGBT persons based on conservative cultural and religious values prevalent in the society.”
Although the report states that the law is silent on same sex relations between women, it is no secret that Qatari lesbians (or for that matter, females who are deemed too “masculine” often referred to as Boyat’s) have been sent for “rehabilitation” and “re-education”. The fact that there are no LGBT organizations in the country able to offer support, to advocate for the LGBT community, or to collect meaningful information and data makes for a situation that lacks transparency on the issue.
Also suspicious is the claim that there was no violence reported against LGBT persons in 2010. Of course, as with most groups who are discriminated against, and in this case deemed illegal, victims of violence and abuse are almost guaranteed not to step forward, therefore an accurate understanding of what LGBT persons are facing in Qatar is almost impossible to figure out. Furthermore, on the issue of HIV, Qatar has again fared poorly. It is their policy to deport migrant workers who are discovered to be HIV positive, which is often diagnosed in medical screenings needed to get a resident’s permit. Last year, 135 newly recruited foreign workers were diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, were deemed “unfit” and were deported.
The report also outlines the grim situation faced by migrant workers who are often discriminated against and have their ability to travel freely greatly limited. Women also face a tough time which is preventing full involvement in work and society. The internet is governed and sites are frequently blocked. And much progress is still needed when it comes to freedom of the press, with most news organizations in the country taking part in self-censorship to avoid running afoul of authorities, or rocking any boats and putting jobs as risk. The recent arrest of a Qatari blogger is also troublesome.
All in all, compared to many of Qatar’s neighbours, it is fair to say that the country is more progressive. By making headlines with winning the host duties for the World Cup in 2022, the purchasing of London’s famed Harrods, and taking a leading role in the Arab world when it comes to Libya, it is clear that Qatar is trying to create an image for itself in the world as not only a player, but a leader. However, this report shows that the country has plenty of work to do at home before it can be taken seriously on the world stage.