Gay Saudi Arabia News & Reports 2000-05

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1 Saudi Arabia executes men for sexual assault 7/00

2 Saudi executes three for molesting boys 1/02

3 Who the clerics hate and why 3/02

4 When in Saudi Arabia, Do as Americans Do 1/02

5 Saudis and human rights 1/02

6 A Few Saudis Defy a Rigid Islam to Debate Their Own Intolerance (2002)

7 Saudi Arabia censors gay website 6/03

8 Saudi Arabia unblocks gay website 7/03

9 Saudi gays flaunt new freedoms 2/04

10 Saudis suspected of’gay wedding’–quiz guests 3/04

11 Saudi Arabia Executes Two Gay Men 3/05

12 Arrests at Saudi ‘gay wedding’ 3/05

13 Police to Free Detainees from Alleged Gay Gathering 3/31

14 ‘Gay’ Men Sentenced to be Jailed and Flogged in Saudi Arrests 4/05

15 Appeals requested–Fear of Flogging/Possible prisoners of conscience 4/05

16 Amnesty International decries Saudi gay arrests 5/05

17 Saudi Arabian Authorities Continue With Arrest of Gay Men 5/05

18 Gay Muslims in Canada and USA Denounce Escalation of Arrests 6/05

19 Saudis jail, deport foreigners with HIV and refuse them medications 8/05

20 Saudi Arabia Police Break Up Gay Beauty Contest 11/05

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July 11, 2000

Saudi Arabia executes men for sexual assault

Dubai – Saudi Arabia on Tuesday executed three Saudi men convicted of homosexual acts and raping children, the Interior Ministry said. In a statement carried by state media, the ministry said an Islamic court had found the three men guilty of "committing the extreme obscenity of homosexuality and imitating women,” in violation of Islamic ethics which ban homosexuality. The three men, who were put to death in Saudi Arabia’s southern city of Abha, were also convicted of raping children and photographing them naked with the intention of blackmailing them.

The executions brought to at least 67 the number of people put to death in the conservative kingdom so far this year. Last year, Saudi Arabia executed at least 99 people for various crimes. In a separate statement, the Interior Ministry said a Yemeni man convicted of robbing a house had had his right hand amputated in the city of Buraida in northern Saudi Arabia. The kingdom applies strict Islamic sharia law, executing murderers, rapists and drug smugglers, usually by public beheading. Robbers are punished by having limbs cut off.


January 1, 2002

Saudi executes three for molesting boys

Dubai – Saudi Arabia executed three men on Tuesday for engaging in homosexual acts and molesting boys, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

An Islamic court found Ali bin Hattan bin Saad, Mohammad bin Suleiman bin Mohammad and Mohammad bin Khalil bin Abdullah guilty of engaging "in the extreme obscenity and ugly acts…of homosexuality, marrying among themselves and molesting the young," in violation of Islamic teachings, it said. They were put to death in the southwestern city of Abha. At least 122 people were executed in 2001 in the kingdom, which implements Islamic law, putting to death murderers, rapists, homosexuals and drug smugglers, usually by public beheading.

orking For Change

January 9, 2002

Who the clerics hate and why

by Laura Flanders
Months ago, the question on many media lips was, "Why do they hate us?" Why did the Islamic world seem to be so hostile to the United States? After three months of war, ABC’s Nightline revisited the topic Tuesday night. "Do they still hate us?" What a turnaround it would be if Koppel, et al, would take "us" out of the picture. Hostility to the United States is not the only kind of hate worth talking about.

Three Saudi Arabians were beheaded New Year’s Day. The story got precisely no U.S. media attention, as far as a Nexis-Lexis database search could reveal. Ali bin Hatan bin Saad, Muhammad bin Suleiman bin Muhammad, and Muhammed bin Khalil bin Abdullah were executed for "committing acts of sodomy." The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior issued a statement announcing that the three were convicted of homosexual acts.

The trial proceedings were secret. By way of explanation, the Associated Press, which ran a five-line account on its wire the next day, offered the following: "Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam and also imposes the death penalty for murder, rape, drug trafficking and armed robbery." (This stock sentence appears in all AP reports on Saudi executions.)

The public executions in the resort city of Abha were only the latest in a frightening pattern of human rights violations and abuses in Saudi Arabia under the country’s cleric-run legal code. Predictably, those who are "different" are the most frequent victims. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has documented a pattern of violence against persons "stigmatized for their consensual sexual conduct or gender identity." And the victims aren’t only queers.

In addition to a number of amputations and floggings, 123 people were executed in Saudi Arabia in 2000, according to Amnesty International. Of the 123 killed, most of them – 71 – were foreign workers from India, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Philippines, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq . . . Which is to say, 58 percent of the executed were foreigners, a group which constitutes 25 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population.

Why do Saudi clerics hate queers and foreigners and who knows who else?
Alone in the United States, the good folks at The Gully have solid analysis of the New Year’s Day’s events: "Like the Christians thrown to the lions by the fading Romans, the deaths of Ali bin Hatan bin Saad, Muhammad bin Suleiman bin Muhammad and Muhammad bin Khalil bin Abdullah were not about religion, but about politics. About power. And the House of Saud’s increasingly tenuous grasp on it."

There’s a deepening financial crisis in Saudi Arabia and an increasingly embarrassing political collapse. The House of Saud’s hold on the House of Bush is firm as ever, but domestically, the Saudi royals’ grasp on power is fading fast. A state in crisis is a scary place for potential scapegoats. It has ever been thus. Sadly, the victims of bigotry know the history most "mainstreamers" forget: "The social distraction of queer-baiting has been used to great effect historically," writes The Gully’s Kelly Cogswell, "from Franco’s Spain and Castro’s Cuba, to more recently, Egypt and Zimbabwe, and the Christian Right’s U.S.

Who cares about poverty or political instability, when you can incarcerate a queer, firebomb a gay bar, or electroshock a lesbian?" Cogswell could have added Hitler’s Germany, to the list. There’s no better way to assert supremacy than war against Jews, or queers, or foreigners – pick your "other" of choice.

Does the corruption that is the crumbling, U.S.-supported Saudi government explain why "they" hate "us" or the "United States" or, most broadly, "the West?" Not entirely, of course. As Ted Koppel’s guests on Nightline said recently, unless the United States looks at the root causes of terrorism – economic exploitation, U.S. arrogance and hypocrisy, the treatment of the Palestinians, the hegemony of U.S. force – the future looks very bleak. Some have woken lately to the realization that women were the "canaries in the coalmine" of Taliban repression. If we’d paid more attention before, many have said, the "evil-doers" of September 11 might not have found such a cozy place to roost. A more helpful way of looking at it would be to reconsider our approach to human rights. Human rights are indivisible.

It’s like justice – the denial of rights to one group is a violation of the rights of all. States in crisis scapegoat; that’s a good way to tell what’s going down. But American policy makers don’t care about the queers, the women, the economically vulnerable foreigners. They – and for the most part, we – don’t care until it’s far too late.

World War II and Pastor Martin Niemoller produced a poem we’d do well to teach again. Remember? It starts, "First they came for the Communists and I did nothing because I was not a Communist…" For a long time, the United States has allied itself to rulers who come for Communists, for Jews, for minorities, for queers, for intellectuals, for the outspoken and critical . . . It’s not any religion’s fault if "they" now come for "us."

Washington Post, Washington, DC ( )

February 2, 2002

When in Saudi Arabia . . . Do as Americans Do (Editorial against Saudi repressiion)

by Colbert I. King
Remember the national revulsion at the murder of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who, in 1998, was lured from a bar, tied to a fence near Laramie, beaten with a pistol butt and left to die? His two killers are now serving life sentences. No one should be treated that way, we said at the time. Anyway, that’s the way most of us saw it in America.

On Jan. 1 of this year, three men accused of "ugly acts of homosexuality," were taken to a public square in Saudi Arabia. Under sentence of a religious court, they were forced to kneel and bend over. Their heads were chopped off with a sword. That’s the way gays can be treated by America’s oil-drenched friend in the Arabian Gulf. Around about now, someone out there is shouting: "A prime example of American arrogance. It is unjust for America to try to spread its morality to the rest of the world. You have no right to demand that Saudi standards match ours. Many nations are proud of their culture, values, mores and standards. They deeply resent, even fear, the Americanization of their societies."

I heard similar reactions in the early 1980s when, as the U.S. representative to the World Bank and under instructions, I raised my voice and cast my vote against loans to countries accused of human rights violations. For many anti-U.S. observers at the time, it was anathema that America, warts and all, should hold itself and other nations to the highest standards – that the United States should be preoccupied with human freedom and human rights.

And guess what? It is anathema now, especially to those foreign rulers who believe their citizens have no rights that they are bound to respect. A strong stance on human rights even turns off some on these shores who, in the name of "cultural sensitivity," argue that we shouldn’t worry ourselves about the second-class treatment of women or care if there are no elections or free press in Saudi Arabia. It’s not our business, they say, if human rights are about as welcome in Saudi Arabia as the Holy Bible. Why should we care if, as one wag puts it, "the only form of mass entertainment is the weekly decapitations down in Riyadh’s ‘Chop Chop’ Square"?

To hear them tell it, accommodating the whipping and beheading of gays and institutionalized discrimination against women is a sophisticated way for westerners to show respect for "cultural differences." Not so, says Keith Roderick, of the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights. He’s been working in the field for the past 20 years, often in behalf of individuals who have been deprived of basic rights in Saudi Arabia. Roderick has looked on with frustration as U.S. officials have appeased autocratic Saudis for the sake of showing respect for a "foreign culture," and maintaining "stability" in the Middle East.

"When is it ever acceptable to diminish basic universal human rights for cultural/political concerns?" he asks. Sounds like the right question to me. But those who airily dismiss the way Saudi women are treated, think otherwise. Wrote one American woman who teaches English to Saudi women as a second language, "They seem confident that their husbands love them. . . . Perhaps love is more important than freedom."

Maybe. But I wonder if those warm and fuzzy feelings toward hubby extend to the rule requiring a woman to obtain a male relative’s permission before she can have surgery, travel, work or do just about anything important in the kingdom besides bearing his children? Consider this eyewitness experience of an American registered nurse who worked in Riyadh in the 1990s. "One young Saudi woman could not visit her aunt in another city because she needed a ‘travel letter’ giving her permission from the head of her family (her older brother) in order to travel, and he was in a bad mood and wouldn’t give it to her." She also told of an elderly Saudi woman who came in for surgery and couldn’t sign her own permit for an operation "and we had to wait for her 15-year-old nephew to come and sign it because he was her closest male relative."

"Another time," the nurse said, "I witnessed two young Saudi females get smacked by a mutawa [religious police] with a stick because the wind blew their face veils briefly off their face." Is that called tough love? Another Western health provider currently working in Saudi Arabia said this week: "I have looked after many mothers or daughters who have NOT wanted to have surgery and a male relative, their husband, father or son has insisted that they have the surgery, and so the surgery is performed."

When there are complications with these cases, she said, the guilt the family experiences after surgery is inevitable, and often the aggression is directed at the staff, usually the nurse. And the kind of surgery? "Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts and Valvular Surgery (usually Mitral Valve repair/replacement, or Aortic Valve repair/replacement)," she said. "I have seen women who against their will have undergone these two types of surgery."

Ah, but condescending Western sophisticates would admonish: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." So what if Saudi men marginalize women? "Do as the Romans do." So what if they finance the promotion of their official religion in the United States but are totally intolerant with respect to the religious practices of others on their soil?

"Do as the Romans do." Had we done just that, says Gerald Rose, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer and retired Army colonel, there would still be apartheid in South Africa. "Having been posted to South Africa during 1983-87," he told me, "I can attest that the U.S. Embassy personnel did not ‘Do as the Romans.’ We represented American values.

We were an Equal Opportunity Employer in South Africa and no function we held was racially segregated. We flouted the system in place." The congressionally enacted Anti-Apartheid Act, by forcing American companies to divest their holdings in South Africa while apartheid was in place, also brought pressure on the South African government, he noted. "No, we should not act like the Romans – we should act like Americans," Rose declared.

We have a vital role in this interactive world, he said, and our government and businesses can be an important instrument for change, as was proven in South Africa. So why not in Saudi Arabia? Last week an American woman from the Washington area went to Starbucks in Riyadh with a group of women. They had to be seated in the "family section." The door was on the side of the building, rather than the front, the "men’s entrance." She went shopping. At Saks Fifth Avenue she had to get refreshments at a "women only" coffee shop.

This discriminatory treatment of women is reportedly rooted in cultural practices, not authentic Islamic teachings. Congress, why not an anti-apartheid act for American businesses in Saudi Arabia? American female officials banned from driving cars. Gays beheaded. Freedom of press, religion and speech suppressed. State Department, why aren’t we acting like Americans? . e-mail:

San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, CA ( )

January 7, 2002

Saudis and human rights

by Carolyn Lochhead
A little story slipped out of Saudi Arabia the other day. It arrived almost as an afterthought and caused hardly a ripple. No, it wasn’t front-page news about the women veiled head-to-toe by a conservative Islamic regime. This was just a passing item on how the Saudis beheaded a few homosexuals in a public square. The story – such as it is – comes from Arab News, "Saudi Arabia’s First English-Language Daily," datelined Riyadh, Jan. 2: "Three Saudi men convicted of sodomy and marrying each other were beheaded yesterday in the southwestern city of Abha, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

"Ali ibn Hatan ibn Saad, Mohammad ibn Suleiman ibn Mohammad and Mohammad ibn Khalil ibn Abdullah were found guilty of engaging in the extreme obscenity and ugly acts of homosexuality, marrying among themselves and molesting the young. The statement said the three men repeated the acts several times and assaulted people who told them to stop. "A Shariah court sentenced them to death and the judgment was confirmed by the high court and the Supreme Judiciary Council."

No further information is available because the theocratic Saudi state, ruled by the Saud royal family, declined to elaborate. Only the most assiduous reader of the Washington Post would have spotted the one-sentence mention of this event buried at the bottom of page nine and citing Reuters as a source. Reuters in turn cited the official Saudi Press Agency, adding only that 122 people, including murderers and rapists, were executed in the kingdom last year, usually by a public beheading.

But no one outside the Saudi government knows exactly how many people the Saudis execute or their alleged crimes. All media are censored and Internet, satellite and other forms of outside communication are restricted. The country is all but closed to foreign tourists, although the regime, torn between its lust for tourist dollars and fear that its pristine culture will be defiled, has begun permitting small groups of Western tourists, sponsored by museums or universities, to visit cultural sites. (One of these potential tourist destinations is Abha, the provincial capital where the gay men were beheaded and where the government sees opportunities for ecotourism, given the proximity of the Red Sea and its famous scuba diving.)

The beheadings were conducted under Islamic law, which Saudi Arabia, our dear friend, ally and major oil supplier, uses as its legal code. More specifically, the Saudis have adopted the religious code of a fundamentalist Islamic sect known as Wahhabism. The Saudis have been diligently funding mosques and installing clerics to spread the fiercely anti-American, not to mention gay-hating, Wahhabi word throughout the world. The Saudi government’s official Web site does not state its gay policy, but it does explain that "the Holy Koran is more suitable for Saudi Muslims than any secular constitution" and that "the entire Saudi population is Muslim; the only non-Muslims in the country are expatriates engaged in diplomacy, technical assistance or international commerce."

Nor does the regime tell us what they do with lesbians, although they do say that "the position of women in Islamic society and in Saudi Arabian society in particular is a complex and frequently misunderstood issue."

We do know that women are required to wear full-length veils. In addition to beheading, common forms of punishment include torture by cigarette burns, nail-pulling and electric shocks. Public lashings with bamboo sticks are also favored, along with amputations of hands or feet. The Saudi regime, terrified of internal dissent and prickly about international criticism, exercises power through a clever combination of brutal oppression and generous oil-funded welfare. The U.S. government, dependent on Saudi oil, helps prop up the regime. The world, quick to condemn oppression elsewhere, turns a blind eye. "The international community’s response to human rights violations in Saudi Arabia can best be summarized by one word," says Amnesty International. "Silence."
E-mail Carolyn Lochhead at

New York Times

July 12, 2002

A Few Saudis Defy a Rigid Islam to Debate Their Own Intolerance

By Neil MacFarquhar
Jidda, Saudi Arabia – Prompted by the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, a cautious debate is taking place in Saudi Arabia’s closed society over intolerance toward non-Muslims and attitudes toward the West that are now viewed by some as inspiring unacceptable violence. The debate appears to represent a significant shift in a society whose Wahhabi branch of Islam tends to make such questioning taboo. Mention that 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in attacking America were Saudis to almost any room full of people here, and denials still pour forth. There is no concrete evidence, people will argue, adding that even if Osama bin Laden, a native son, was somehow involved, he was led astray by his rabid Egyptian coterie.

But cracks are beginning to appear in this facade of disavowal. A small group of intellectuals, academics, journalists and religious scholars are quietly suggesting that change is needed. "We have to confront a lot of things that we thought were normal," said Khaled M. Batarfi, the managing editor of Al Madina, a daily newspaper pushing the limits of what can be published. "We have to examine the opinions that resulted in these bad actions and see if they are wrong, or people just took them out of context."

"Before Sept. 11, it was just an opinion, `I think we should hate the others,’ " he said. "After Sept. 11, we found out ourselves that some of those thoughts brought actions that hurt us, that put all Muslims on trial." Such positions remain controversial. After scores of Saudi religious scholars and academics issued a manifesto this spring suggesting that Muslims might find common ground with the West, they were subjected to withering rebuke by those who accept the Wahhabi notion that Islam thrives on hostility toward infidels.

"You give the false impression that many people condemned the war against America," read one such denunciation on a popular Web site, "But the truth is that many people are happy declaring this war, which gave Muslims a sense of relief."
In another, Sheik Hamad Rais al-Rais, an elderly blind scholar, suggested the manifesto writers showed too much sympathy for the victims of Sept. 11 and debased Islam by neglecting to mention that jihad, or holy war, remains a central tenet.

"You cry for what happened to the Americans in their markets and offices and ministries and the disasters they experienced," he wrote, "and you forget the oppression and injustice and aggression of those Americans against the whole Islamic world."

A number of factors have spurred such debate. Since Sept. 11, the monarchy has eased some suppression of free speech. In addition, a deadly fire at a girl’s school in Mecca exposed some of the domestic costs of extremist opinion when trapped students reportedly died because enforcement of modest dress codes kept male rescuers away. In June, the government announced the arrest of a Qaeda cell after months of royal denial that there were any local supporters. But open discussion of the effects of Wahhabism faces daunting hurdles, not least that hard-line clergy and other scholars with significant influence instantly attack.

The austere teachings of Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab, who rejected the worship of saints or idols, have been prevalent in Saudi Arabia for more than two centuries. The ruling Saud dynasty owes its very control over the peninsula’s once fractious tribes to the fact that their ancestors championed his teachings.

Saudis abhor the term Wahhabism, feeling it sets them apart and contradicts the notion that Islam is a monolithic faith. But Wahhabi-inspired xenophobia dominates religious discussion in a way not found elsewhere in the Islamic world. Bookshops in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, for example, sell a 1,265-page souvenir tome that is a kind of "greatest hits" of fatwas on modern life. It is strewn with rulings on shunning non-Muslims: don’t smile at them, don’t wish them well on their holidays, don’t address them as "friend."

A fatwa from Sheik Muhammad bin Othaimeen, whose funeral last year attracted hundreds of thousands of mourners, tackles whether good Muslims can live in infidel lands. The faithful who must live abroad should "harbor enmity and hatred for the infidels and refrain from taking them as friends," it reads in part. Saudis in general, and senior princes in particular, reject the notion that this kind of teaching helps spawns terrorists. "Well, of course I hate you because you are Christian, but that doesn’t mean I want to kill you," a professor of Islamic law in Riyadh explains to a visiting reporter.

Prince Sattam bin Abel Aziz, at 61 one of the youngest brothers of King Fahd and the longtime deputy governor of Riyadh, holds audiences in a soaring office half the size of a football field. The walls are of white stone and the carpeting a sort of modern Bedouin – bands of triangles and other geometric shapes executed in pink and blue. When asked about such fatwas, the courtly prince responds, "You cannot say those people represent Islam," and mentions that he attended a Roman Catholic university in San Diego.

"I am not saying Saudi Arabia has no extremists, but not as many as people think or the press shows to people," he said, eventually bringing the conversation back to Sept. 11. "They say the 15 people who have done this are from Saudi Arabia. But those people were in Afghanistan, they took their ideas not inside Saudi Arabia, but outside Saudi Arabia." That is undoubtedly the prevailing view here, despite the widespread perception outside Saudi Arabia that Osama bin Laden tries to justify the violently anti-Western views of his Qaeda organization partly by using Wahhabi teachings. Some Saudi businessmen, intellectuals and religious figures, however, believe that the clerical establishment does foster intolerance.

A Jidda business executive says of the Saudi clergy: "If you are against them, you are against Islam. If you criticize them, you criticize Islam." Hence no one dares argue directly against the teachings of bin Abd al Wahhab. "He is a larger-than-life figure in Saudi Arabia, like George Washington," said Mushairy al-Zaidy, who writes about religious issues for Al Madina newspaper. "Some scholars in the kingdom try to write that he lived through unique circumstances and since times have changed, practices could be changed in some ways."

The royal family has started to encourage limited discussion. Men jailed during the 1990’s for attacking the government on everything from corruption to inviting in American troops have been given license to speak, for example. Mohsen al-Awaji spent four years in jail and lost his job as a professor of soil sciences in Riyadh. Freed in 1998, his passport was only returned after Sept. 11: This gave him the ability to appear on Al Jazeera satellite broadcasts recorded outside the country.

He broached the topic, radical for Saudi Arabia, that the way other schools of Islam look at issues be more widely discussed. "Wahhabism looks at every situation as black and white, there is no `in between,’ no gray area," said Mr. Awaji, who now works as a lawyer. "We have to be more open and more tolerant inside our sects. If we solve that within our sect, then we can be more tolerant than others."

Mr. Awaji was among some 160 scholars and intellectuals who signed a manifesto this spring suggesting more dialogue with the West. But the outcry was such that a few of the signatories withdrew and others issued a clarification suggesting that they were not ignoring crucial concepts like jihad. The outcry from the more unbending clergy was believed to be particularly fierce because they were already feeling under assault in the fields they dominate, especially education.

The first two private universities have been authorized, and starting next year English will begin in Grade 4. Religious conservatives complained that the emphasis on Arabic needed to read holy texts is being diluted. But the most controversial change followed the fire at a Mecca girls’ school, which was housed, like many, in a converted apartment building of dubious construction. Press reports said 15 girls had died after men from the country’s religious vice squads blocked male rescuers from entering and girls from fleeing because they lacked their enveloping cloaks. The government denied the reports. But during the ensuing outcry it shifted responsibility for women’s education from a special presidency supervised by the clergy to the Ministry of Education, which calls it merely an administrative shift. The kingdom’s newspapers, however, announced the change with eight-column banner headlines, "as if Jerusalem itself had been liberated," as one editor put it. U.K.

20 June 2003

Saudi Arabia censors gay website

The Government of Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive regimes in the Middle East despite receiving US and UK backing, has forbidden its subjects from accessing the only gay Arab news and information site on the Internet. This draconian measure, by the Internet Services Unit, only affects those computers inside Saudi Arabia.

Users who attempt to access from within the Kingdom have said that instead of accessing the site a message is posted on the screen stating ‘Access to the requested URL is not allowed!’ GME have issued a statement saying that attempts to contact the ISU have not been successful and that they have yet to receive a reply from them. The statement said: "The management and writers of GME feel that this move on the part of Saudi Arabia’s authorities is a violation of the right of free speech."

GME is affiliated to Canadian based website, carrying their newsfeeds. The site contains no pornographic material, as its purpose is to provide local news coverage within the Arab community and to offer travel information. The owners of GME believe that the Saudi government’s actions are in violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The statement concluded by calling on the Government, in the most respectful yet strongest terms to unblock access to the GME site. U.K.

3 July 2003

Saudi Arabia unblocks gay website

The Saudi Arabian government has removed its internet blocks that prevented access to a website for gay people in the Middle East. Last month, the kingdom’s Internet Services Unit blocked entrance to from computers in Saudi Arabia. Emails and faxes sent from the website’s management to Saudi Arabian authorities, respectfully asking for the blocks to be lifted, received no reply.

The only news of the block’s revocation came when users emailed the website to tell them they had access once again. A.S. Getenio, Manager of said, "It seems that Saudi Arabia was concerned from the bad publicity blocking the site would bring them at the very same time that they are involved with a multi-million dollar advertising campaign in the United States whose aim is to improve the image of Saudi Arabia. "The ad campaign is designed to portray the Kingdom as a peace loving, modern and enlightened state. We at GME hope that the Saudi authorities will leave the site unblocked and accessible to our readers, and that this is not a temporary move that will be reversed as soon as their ad campaign is over."

The Independent, London

via Huriyah Publications: Afdhere Jama, Editorial Director
San Francisco ( (

20 February 2004

Saudi gays flaunt new freedoms: ‘Straights can’t kiss in public or hold hands like us.’

by John R Bradley in Jeddah
In the glass and marble shopping malls of this cosmopolitan and comparatively laid-back city on the Red Sea, young Saudi Arabian men are taking advantage of the emergence of an increasingly tolerated Western-oriented gay scene.
Certain malls are known as cruising areas, and there are even gay-friendly coffee shops. A big gay disco takes place at a private villa in the north of the city once a week. And young Saudis who frequent these venues, many returnees from the United States after the 11 September 2001 attacks, say that they get to know one another through the Internet.

The paradox of Saudi Arabia is that while the executioner’s sword awaits anyone convicted of the crime of sodomy, in practice homosexuality is tolerated. "I don’t feel oppressed at all," said one, a 23-year-old who was meeting in one of the coffee shops with a group of self-identified "gay" Saudi friends dressed in Western clothes and speaking fluent English. "I heard that after 11 September, a Saudi student who was going to be deported on a visa technicality applied for political asylum because he was gay," he added, provoking laughter from the others. "What was he thinking of? We have more freedom here than straight couples. After all, they can’t kiss in public like we can, or stroll down the street holding one another’s hand.

"Saudi Arabia’s domestic reform initiative, combined with the kingdom’s eagerness to shed an international reputation for fostering extremism and intolerance, may even have some benefits for this strict Islamic society’s gay community. Shortly after the attacks on America – most of the suicide-hijackers were Saudi nationals – a Saudi diplomat in Washington denied that the kingdom beheads homosexuals, while openly admitting that "sodomy" is practised by consenting males in Saudi Arabia "on a daily basis". Even the head of the notorious religious police has since acknowledged the existence of a local gay population.

The treatment of gay men here received international attention when an Interior Ministry statement reported in January 2002 that three men in the southern city of Abha had been "beheaded for homosexuality". The report provoked widespread condemnation from gay and human-rights groups in the West – and a swift denial from an official at the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC. Tariq Allegany, an embassy spokesman, said the three were beheaded for the sexual abuse of boys. He said: "I would guess there’s sodomy going on daily in Saudi Arabia, but we don’t have executions for it all the time."

A Riyadh-based Western diplomat, aware of the details of the case, confirmed the men were beheaded for "rape". "The three men seduced a number of very young boys and videoed themselves raping them. Then they used the recordings, and the fear the boys had of being exposed, to get the youngsters to recruit their friends," he said. While homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia, doubt surrounds specific punishment for it. Some gay foreigners were deported in the 1990s, "but no Saudi has ever been prosecuted for ‘being a homosexual’. The concept just doesn’t exist here," the Western diplomat said. Since the uproar over the beheadings, the kingdom’s Internet Services Unit, responsible for blocking sites deemed "unIslamic" or politically sensitive, unblocked access to its home page for gay Saudi surfers after being bombarded with critical e-mails from the US.

A S Getenio, manager of, said Saudi Arabia seemed concerned about the bad publicity blocking the site would bring, "at the time it was involved in a multi-million dollar advertising campaign in the US to improve its image". Ibrahim bin Abdullah bin Ghaith, the head of the religious police (the Committee for the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue) acknowledged, in unusually tempered language, that there are gay Saudis, while also speaking of the need "to educate the young" about this "vice".

But he denied media reports that gay and lesbian relationships were the norm in the strictly segregated schools and colleges, that homosexuality "is spreading". In an unprecedented two-page special investigation, the daily newspaper Okaz said lesbianism was "endemic" among schoolgirls. It justified the article with a saying of the Prophet’s wife Ayeshathat "there should be no shyness in religion".

The article told of lesbian sex in school lavatories, girls stigmatised after refusing the advances of their fellow students, and teachers complaining that none of the girls were willing to change their behaviour. Mr Ghaith dismissed a suggestion that he should send his "enforcers" to investigate. Armed with sticks, they routinely hunt down men and women in public they suspect may not be directly related. "This perversion is found in all countries," he told Okaz. "The number [of homosexuals] here is small …"

That assessment is contradicted by teachers and students who say that, in the absence of other outlets, a "gay" subculture has inevitably flourished among youth. "A particularly beautiful boy always gets top marks in the exams because he’s some teacher’s favourite," said Mohammed, an English teacher in a government high school in Riyadh. "On the other hand, I know many older boys who deliberately flunked their final exams so they can stay … with their younger sweethearts.

"Ahmed, 19, a student at a private college in Jeddah, said there was no shame in having a boyfriend in his private high school. Although he firmly rejected the label "gay", he admitted that he now has a "special friend" in college, too. "It’s those who don’t have a boy who are ashamed to admit it. We introduce our boy to our friends as ‘al walid hagi’ [the boy who belongs to me]. At the beginning of term, we always check out the new boys to see which are the most ‘helu’ [sweet] and think of ways to get to know them."

BBC News

2 March 2004

Saudis suspected of’gay wedding’–quiz guests

Saudi investigators are grilling some 50 people for allegedly attending a gay wedding in the city of Medina, a newspaper reported on Monday. The suspects deny they were attending a gay marriage and say they took part in a ceremony to mark the wedding of a Chadian friend, Arab News said. The accused Chadian told the police he was rehearsing for his legal marriage, which was planned for last Friday. The incident has shocked Saudi Arabia, where gay marriage is banned. An initial newspaper report last Friday claimed that police arrested guests at the wedding of an all-male couple from Chad.

Different stories Police raided a rest house where the ceremony was under way after advice from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or religious police, Arab News reported. Investigators say that invitations to last Wednesday’s ceremony indicated it was a gay function and point to the suspicious behaviour of guests. They fled the venue at the sight of police cars and left some 30 vehicles behind, according to security sources. But one of the two Chadians involved told the police that he was rehearsing for his legal marriage, to be held at a wedding hall last Friday. His Saudi sponsor confirmed the man’s story and said he had given him money to meet the marriage expenses.

March 14, 2005

Saudi Arabia Executes Two Gay Men

by Ben Townley
Two gay men have been executed in Saudi Arabia, according to news agency reports, after the government accused them of killing another man. Ahmed al-Enezi and Shahir al-Roubli, who were apparently in a relationship, were reportedly beheaded over the weekend. The government claims that they had killed Malik Khan after he saw them together and threatened to “expose” their relationship. Homosexuality is still a criminal offense in the country, which is considered one of the most oppressive in the world.

Mail and Guardian
Guardian Unlimited

March 18, 2005

Arrests at Saudi ‘gay wedding’

The Saudi Arabian security forces have arrested 110 men at a "gay wedding" party in Jeddah, according to a Saudi online newspaper. Al-Wifaq, which has connections with the interior ministry, said the authorities had raided a wedding hall on Monday night after a tip-off and found the men — all Saudis — dancing and "behaving like women". Eighty men were later released, but 30 appeared in a Jeddah court on Wednesday to face charges, the paper said. Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and is punished by flogging, jail or death.

The raid was made a day after two men described as gay lovers were executed at Arar, in the north of the kingdom, for allegedly murdering a Pakistani who had found out about their relationship. The interior ministry said Ahmed al-Enezi and Shahir al-Roubli, both Saudis, ran over Malik Khan in their car, beat him on the head with stones and set fire to his body, "fearing they would be exposed, after the victim witnessed them in a shameful situation". Last year the Saudi police raided another event described as a gay wedding party for two African men from Chad at a hotel in the holy city of Medina. About 50 people were arrested.

One of the Chadians later claimed that the party was a rehearsal for his wedding to a woman
, and this was supported by a Saudi who said he had provided money to meet the marriage expenses. But according to the daily Arab News, investigators said that party invitations "indicated it was a gay function". The investigators also found it suspicious that many of the guests had fled at the sight of the police and left their cars behind. It is not known whether anyone was prosecuted.

Despite the heavy penalties for homosexuality, most Saudi cities are said to have underground gay networks which organise parties in private villas,
and sometimes in hotels. Saudi executions are not systematically reported, and officials deny that the death penalty is applied for same-sex activity alone.

The Washington Times

March 21, 2005

Police to Free Detainees from Alleged Gay Gathering

by Rasheed Abou-Alsamh
Jidda, Saudi Arabia — Thirty-one men arrested at a party for homosexuals last week are scheduled to be released today after what appears to have been a bungled police raid. The online Saudi newspaper Al-Wifak first reported that 108 mostly Saudi men had been arrested at a “gay wedding” on March 10. Seventy-seven of the men used influential connections over the following days to win their release.

A friend of four of the arrested men told The Washington Times that the event was not a “wedding”—which would have been particularly shocking in the conservative kingdom—but a birthday party. “ There was no wedding. They were not drinking alcohol or using drugs; they were just dancing and having fun,” said the friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “ My friends told me that plainclothes policemen and special-forces soldiers with weapons raided the party and arrested everyone present. They were really frightened by this overwhelming show of force,” he said.

He noted that security forces a few days earlier had clashed with suspected terrorists not far from the villa where the party was held, and speculated that the police may have thought they were raiding a terrorist hide-out. Thirty-three of the arrested men appeared last week before a judge, who reportedly was annoyed when police could not satisfactorily explain why the other men had been released. Both regular police and the mutawwa (religious police) regularly raid homosexual gatherings in the kingdom, where homosexuality is illegal and is often punished by flogging and prison terms. According to a Western diplomatic source, three French diplomats were scooped up in a Jan. 13 raid on a homosexual party and have since left the country after claiming diplomatic immunity.

Although there is the death penalty for homosexual acts under Shariah, or Islamic law, it is seldom enforced owing to the requirement that four male, adult witnesses must testify that they saw the homosexual act. Bakr Bagader, a member of the National Society for Human Rights in Jidda, said that his group would be willing in theory to help those arrested on March 10, depending on the circumstances of the incident. “ If it was a gay ‘wedding’ party, that is far too progressive for us because … we have taboos against this, especially religious ones,” Mr. Bagader said in an interview.

Although Saudi society by and large remains extremely conservative and religious, many Saudi homosexuals say there has been a growth in the number of younger homosexual men, and that the new generation feels freer to experiment with their sexuality. “ Their families can’t control them,” said the friend of the arrested men. “They take what they like from the West and don’t think much about the consequences.”

April 8, 2005

‘Gay’ Men Sentenced to be Jailed and Flogged in Saudi Arrests

by Patrick Letellier
More than 100 men in Saudi Arabia were sentenced this week to imprisonment and flogging after being arrested in March for “deviant sexual behaviour”, the Human Rights Watch confirmed today.

The men were arrested for dancing and “behaving like women” at a private party in a rented hall, according to Al-Wifaq, a government-affiliated Saudi newspaper. The paper claimed the men were attending a gay wedding. “ Prosecuting and imprisoning people for homosexual conduct are flagrant human rights violations,” said Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program. “Subjecting the victims to floggings is torture, pure and simple.”

Two weeks after their arrest, 31 of the men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to a year, and to 200 lashes each. Four men were sentenced to two years imprisonment and 2,000 lashes. Seventy others, initially released without sentencing, were summoned back and sentenced to a year in prison. Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and is punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment or death. Last month, two gay men, Ahmed al-Enezi and Shahir al-Roubli, were beheaded after government officials claimed the men had killed a third man who had threatened to “expose” their relationship.

“ Gays are often the canary in the mine,” said Human Rights Watch deputy director Widney Brown. “They tend to be the first group governments often go after because so few people are willing to stand with them and defend their rights.” Brown believes the recent crackdown on gay men in the country is a part of a strategy by the Saudi government to distract citizens from critical issues that have a broader impact.

Human Rights Watch sources reported that the men were arrested at a birthday party, not a wedding. “Calling the event a ‘gay wedding’ has become a lightning rod used to justify discrimination against gay people,” Brown said. He also noted it is unlikely that the four men sentenced to 2,000 lashes would survive unless officials break up the punishment into smaller instalments.

From Amnesty International –

27 April 2005

Appeals requested–Fear of Flogging/Possible prisoners of conscience

Saudi Arabia – At least 35 men At least 35 men are to be flogged after they attended a "gay wedding" in Jeddah in March, according to an Agence France Presse (AFP) report. The men may be prisoners of conscience, punished solely for their sexual orientation. Four of the men (two Saudi Arabians, a Jordanian and a Yemeni) were sentenced by a court in Jeddah to 2000 lashes and two years’ imprisonment, and 31 others to 200 lashes and six months to one year in prison.

The report did not give any names or any further information as to the identity of the 35. The information was apparently provided by a source close to one of the defendants. Amnesty International has written to the Minister of the Interior seeking clarification of the report, expressing concern that the men have apparently been sentenced to flogging, and appealing for any such sentences to be commuted.

Background Information Flogging is mandatory in Saudi Arabia for a number of offences, including sexual offences, and can also be used at the discretion of judges as an alternative or addition to other punishments. Sentences can range from dozens to thousands of lashes, and are usually administered 30 or 50 lashes at a time, at intervals ranging from two weeks to one month.

Recommended Action: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language,

-expressing concern at the AFP report that 35 men are to be flogged, and, if it is true, calling for the sentences to be commuted regardless of the offence for which they have been handed down;

-expressing concern that the men appear to have been punished solely for their sexual orientation, and stating that, if so, they are prisoners of conscience, and should be released immediately and unconditionally;

-asking for details of the exact charges against the 35 men, together with details of any trial proceedings and the evidence against them;

-stating that you consider the use of flogging as punishment to be cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment amounting to torture, contrary to Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

Appeals To:
Minister of the Interior

His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz,
Minister of the Interior, Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road,
Riyadh 11134, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: + 966 1 403 1185 (it may be difficult to get through, please keep
Salutation: Your Royal Highness

Minister of Justice
His Excellency Dr. ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al-Sheikh
Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice
University Street,
Riyadh 11137, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: + 966 1 401 1741
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Foreign Affairs

His Royal Highness Prince Saud al-Faisal bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud,
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Nasseriya Street,
Riyadh 11124, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: + 966 1 403 0159 (it may be difficult to get through, please keep
Salutation: Your Royal Highness

Copies To:
diplomatic representatives of Saudi Arabia accredited to
your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International
Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 8 June
2005. U.K.

May 13, 2005

Amnesty decries Saudi gay arrests–Gay Saudis sentenced to jail, flogging

by Ben Townley
Gay activists will protest outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in London next week, as part of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). The demonstrators hope their appearance at the embassy will help increase pressure on the Saudi government to lift the ban on homosexuality and improve its current human rights record. It comes as the country is being labeled the "most homophobic in the world." As well as gay campaigning groups across the United Kingdom, human rights body Amnesty International has called on the country to improve its treatment of minorities and to loosen its tough regime.

In recent months, the Saudi government has arrested and executed gay prisoners because of their sexuality, while gay Iranian refugees who were refused asylum in the U.K. committed suicide rather than return to their home country. The protest is part of the IDAHO event, which will see cities across the globe unite and campaign for an end to homophobia for the first time. Events are expected to take place in as many as 50 cities, with London gay bars being urged to hold a minute’s silence in memory of those who have been persecuted in other countries. Organizers of the IDAHO event have drawn up a petition ( that will be delivered to the United Nations next week.

May 26, 2005

Saudi Arabian Authorities Continue With Arrest of Gay Men

by Ross von Metzke
Despite an outpouring of criticism from human rights campaigners around the world for its anti-gay legislation, authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested more gay men, over the weekend. According to press reports from the Al-Wifaq news website, as many as 92 men were arrested for being “deviants.”

Many of the men are thought to be from other Arab countries, including Bahrain and Kuwait. Homosexuality is still illegal in Saudi Arabia, with those found guilty often subjected to torture, imprisonment or execution. The arrests come after the recent killing of a gay couple accused of murdering a man who had apparently blackmailed them with threats of outing them to authorities. As reported on Gay Wired last month, more than 100 men were arrested at an apparent gay wedding earlier this year, although those attending it rejected the accusation, saying it was just a social gathering.

Last week, a protest was held outside the Saudi embassy in London, with gay rights activists calling on the government to update its policy on sexual diversity. Demonstrators also criticized the UK government for its strong ties with the regime. " Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most homophobic countries," Brett Lock from Outrage!, the London based group responsible for organizing the protest, said at the time. “Gay people are routinely arrested, jailed, tortured, flogged and sometimes executed.”

UK Gay News

June 7, 2005

Gay Muslims in Canada, US Denounce Escalation of Arrests in Saudi Arabia

Toronto – Queer Muslims in the United States and Canada united today in denouncing Saudi Arabia’s recent increase in arrests of suspected gay men. Salaam, a Canadian-based organization for queer Muslims and Al-Fatiha, a US-based organization for Muslim sexual and gender minorities, called on people of conscience in both countries to write to Saudi officials to condemn the arrests. News of the recent arrest of more than 90 men in Riyadh came on May 22 from a news report on Al-Wifaq, an online news agency with apparent close ties to the Saudi Interior Ministry. This follows only two months after the arrest of more than 110 men in mid-March in Jeddah.

“ While President Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah were holding hands walking in the gardens of the President’s Texas ranch, Saudi Security forces continued to raid private gatherings while arresting hundreds of suspected gay men,” said Faisal Alam, founder of Al-Fatiha.

Salaam and Al-Fatiha called on the United States government to uphold international law and to denounce the arrests, subsequent torture and the inhumane punishment of these men. “ The American government is complicit with the actions of Saudi Arabia," said Suhail Al Sameed, a coordinator with Salaam in Canada. “From Uzbekistan to Pakistan and now Saudi Arabia, the United States continues to turn a blind eye as the assault on human rights continues around the world,” he continued.

A Saudi-American gay man residing in the United States, Ahmed Mansour commented on the reports by saying: "Rather than focusing on their education system, helping the poor and needy (a rich recruitment base for fanatics), and generally enhancing the people’s quality of life, the government of Saudi Arabia focuses on trivial matters like wedding rehearsals and parties that are supposedly fronts for ‘gay weddings’. The status quo must be questioned by Saudi citizens and we must hold our government accountable for their actions. These arrests are symbols of the old guard trying to control a people seeking change.”

International human rights organizations have already condemned the first round of mass arrests in mid-March. In April, after the sentencing of more than 100 men to be flogged, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists denounced Saudi Arabia and saying that “Saudi Arabia has advertised its contempt for the basic rights to privacy, fair trials and freedom from torture.”

In April Amnesty International also declared that the men sentenced to be flogged “may be prisoners of conscience, punished solely for their sexual orientation” Salaam and Al-Fatiha called on Saudi Arabia to respond to inquiries by international human rights organizations and to clarify reports of mass arrests and reports of flogging.
Further, the organizations demanded that the government of Saudi Arabia uphold international human rights treaties that it has signed and to also obey its own Islamic Shariah laws as they apply in these cases.

Islamic Shariah in Saudi Arabia declares that: Sodomy is proved either by the culprit confessing four times or by the testimony of four trustworthy Muslim men. If there are less than four witnesses or one of them is not trustworthy, they are all to be punished with 80 lashes (a slave 40) for slander (source: ILGA)

Salaam Canada urged its supporters and allies to contact the Saudi Embassy in Ottawa and Canadian government officials to express outrage about the increasing crackdown on private social gatherings and on members of civil society in general. And Al-Fatiha called on the Bush administration and the State Department to condemn these arrests and to call on the Saudi government to increase its efforts towards democratization and the promotion of a free and open civil society

Globe and Mail

August 9, 2005

Saudis jail, deport foreigners with HIV

by Mark MacKinnon, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Mohammed spends his days in a crowded cage, dying of a treatable disease for which the richest country in the Middle East won’t provide medicines. The Palestinian is HIV positive and has been kept in a cell at the King Saud Hospital for Infectious Diseases for three months, along with two roommates who also are infected with the virus. They live behind a brown steel door with barred windows, victims of a closed society that would rather deport people, such as Mohammed, than talk about sex, drug use or AIDS.

Saudi Arabia can afford the antiretroviral medication that slows the spread of HIV and often prolongs the life of those infected, and does give the drugs to Saudi nationals who have contracted the illness. It refuses, however, to extend the same treatment to the more than 4,200 foreigners in the country who have tested positive for HIV.

Foreign workers, many of whom hail from South Asia and come to Saudi Arabia looking for better-paying jobs than they could find back home, make up 25 per cent of the country’s population, and 54 per cent of those known to have HIV. Advertisements Burly and hale-looking despite his illness, Mohammed said the only medications he has received in the past three months are basic pain relievers and anti-allergy pills. He says he was allowed out of his cell — which is bolted and padlocked from the outside — just once in recent weeks. That time, he said, he was put into an ambulance and taken to finish his deportation proceedings. When it was determined the necessary documents were not yet ready, he was driven back to the hospital and again locked up. "We are prisoners here. They treat us like animals,"

Mohammed said during a short discussion of his circumstances through the bars of his cage before hospital security guards arrived and ended the interview. There was another, gaunt-looking African man in the caged hospital room — who also has AIDS — and Mohammed said all foreigners with AIDS were treated the same way. There are often six people in the caged ward at the same time, he said. "They say we’re dangerous, so we can’t go out. We get no medicines at all." When The Globe and Mail returned the next day, it was impossible to speak to Mohammed.

The wing of the hospital where the caged foreigners with AIDS are kept, which was open to visitors the day before, was suddenly under guard by triple the number of security guards. Mohammed said one of his former cellmates, a man named Ismael who was born in Saudi Arabia to illegal immigrants and thus considered a non-citizen, was deported to Myanmar (formerly called Burma) recently after being kept under lock and key for a year without access to antiretrovirals.

One doctor at the hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ismael and Mohammed were both lucky and have survived thus far because they are young and arrived at the hospital while still relatively healthy. Many others, he said, died in front of him while awaiting their deportation, an infuriating experience for a medical professional who knew he could do more to help them. Like Mohammed, he said foreigners with AIDS who arrived at King Saud were treated like "prisoners, not patients." "They get no medicine, no care, nothing. I tried my best, I talked to the director of the hospital about this many times. They told me: ‘These are the rules of the country. You cannot change this.’ "

The doctor said since Saudi Arabia treats its own citizens who contract HIV reasonably well, the lack of care given to foreigners with AIDS can be attributed to racism alone. Doctors say the antiretroviral medication costs the equivalent of about $1,500 a month a person. The country views AIDS as an imported phenomenon, and in a 2004 report the Ministry of Health said Saudi Arabia’s policy for dealing with foreigners with AIDS is to treat them until they are stable enough to be deported. The low number of AIDS cases in the country is frequently attributed to the kingdom’s strict Islamic laws, which prohibit premarital sex, relations outside marriage and homosexuality. Penalties for adultery and drug use include imprisonment, public stoning or beheading. Saudi Arabia’s economy is heavily reliant on foreign labourers, who nonetheless have few rights and are treated as an underclass.

The largest number have settled in Jeddah, a vibrant port city of 2.8 million people near Islam’s holy sites of Mecca and Medina. Unknown thousands live in rundown neighbourhoods and makeshift refugee camps where intravenous drug use and prostitution — almost unheard of in the rest of the country — have become rampant. Over half of the country’s reported AIDS cases are in Jeddah. Many of those who end up at the King Saud hospital work in the country for years beforehand and only discover they have AIDS when they’re brought to hospital after a workplace or traffic accident.

There, they receive a mandatory HIV test. After that, they’re forcibly taken to hospital and confined there to await deportation or death, whichever comes first. Wealthier foreign workers, such as oil-industry specialists and education professionals, are unlikely to use Saudi Arabia’s public health-care system and thereby avoid the scrutiny of the government. How long those locked up with AIDS remain inside the hospital often depends on their nationality.

Some countries, such as the Philippines, move relatively quickly to take their nationals home for treatment. But in cases like Ismael’s and Mohammed’s, where the patient hails from a country with little or no diplomatic presence in Saudi Arabia, the wait is much longer. Christoph Wilcke, Saudi Arabia researcher for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said this was the first time he had heard about the practice of jailing and withholding medication from the country’s foreigners with HIV and AIDS. He called the practice "despicable."

Global Information Gateway

November 7, 2005

Saudi Arabia Police Break Up Gay Beauty Contest

Riyadh, (AKI) – Police in Saudi Arabia have broken up a beauty contest for gay men at al-Qatif on the east coast of the kingdom, arresting five men previously arrested less than six months ago for the same offence. The men were preparing to stage the competition on Thursday night, the first day of the Muslim festival Eid al-Fitr, when police raided the hotel they were in, forcing many contestants and guests to flee, leaving behind shoes and head scarves.

Some 80 people had been expected to attend the pageant, and police found large numbers of evaluation sheets, used to assess the contestant on attributes such as their height, weight, hip contour and skin colour, Saudi newspaper Al-Watan reported this week. They also found large quantities of beauty products and make-up, lingerie, sex toys and aphrodisiacs.

Four Asians, thought to be the event’s organisers, were arrested in the raid, along with a Saudi national. Police are reported to have been tipped off about the contest months ago. Several months ago police arrested 92 people in a raid on a gay party in al-Qatif. Many were wearing women’s clothes and make-up, and some wore wigs. So far none of them have been sentenced in court