1 April 2011 – PinkNews
Gay British man arrested and beaten in Saudi Arabia
by Jessica Geen
A British man was arrested and beaten in Saudi Arabia by religious police when they discovered he was gay. Stephen Comiskey, a 36-year-old nurse, was threatened with beheading and thrown in a cell, the Sun reports. He says he was tricked by religious police who sent him a text message pretending to be a friend. Homosexuality is a capital offence in Saudi Arabia. After his arrest, he was throttled until he signed a confession in Arabic and had his passport taken away.
He spent six months in the country, unsure whether he would be killed. Mr Comiskey, who had been working at the King Fahad National Guard Hospital in Riyadh, was allowed to fly home this week after diplomatic talks. His case was the subject of a media blackout until now. The nurse, from Airdrie, Lanarkshire, told the Sun he took care not to break the country’s strict anti-gay laws.
It has been suggested that Mr Comiskey was targeted as revenge for the case of a gay Saudi prince who was jailed in Britain last year for murdering his servant. Saudi authorities allegedly lobbied for Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser al Saud’s sexuality to be kept secret but British judges refused the request.
May 3, 2011 – NGO Delegation
Saudi Initiative to Combat AIDS in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries
by A. Coulterman
Nadia Rafif (NGO Africa Alternate Delegate) and Sara Simon (Programme Manager, Communications Facility) attended a ground breaking conference from 16-18 April 2011 in Saudi Arabia. In a rare event, the Saudi Ministry of Health hosted a conference to bring together health officials, UN agencies and civil society in the region to talk about the situation of HIV in the Gulf countries. The conference showed the lack of information there is regarding HIV in this region as well as the challenges to addressing key populations most vulnerable to HIV transmission in the area.
Some areas of frank discussion included:
Is HIV a national problem or is it ‘imported’ via the high level of migrant workers?What should be done when ‘guest’ workers test positive? (Note: Deportation is the current response and testing remains mandatory before departure to the Gulf and once living in the Gulf)How should HIV be addressed in an Islamic culture and how can religious leaders play a role in disseminating correct information about HIV?How should key vulnerable population groups – men who have sex with men, people who use drugs and sex workers – be addressed when none of these populations are recognized?How can media be used for education and against stigma and discrimination?Stigma and discrimination are rampant, so what needs to be done to protect human rights?
The representatives of the NGO Delegation took part in some of the conference’s panels. Nadia spoke about the use of media and shared some best practices. She focused on ALCS experiences working with media in the field of HIV, including the production of guidelines for HIV and journalists, as well as the organization of a major awareness campaign on Moroccan TV entitled “Sidaction Maroc”. Sara spoke about the role of civil society at the global level on the UNAIDS board. She talked about the 2010 NGO report and its focus on stigma and discrimination, which is a reminder to everyone that the fulfillment of human rights is fundamental to stopping the transmission of HIV.
Copies of the presentations are available. The Saudi Initiative to Combat AIDS in the GCC Countries’ website in Arabic and English.
24 May 2011 – GME
A Lesbian Saudi student protests against being expelled!
by Dan Littauer, Executive Editor
A Saudi girl from Turaif, nicknamed Sarah, spoke on a recent radio program and said she was expelled from her last year of studies at Abdul-Aziz University, for having a lesbian relationship with her hostel supervisor. While she was expelled, no action was taken against the supervisor “who sent more than 1,000 love texts to my mobile in addition to written letters,” she told the program. Sarah admitted to the relationship to an investigating committee by swearing on the Qur’an, but the supervisor denied it.
Sarah protests that the committee expelled “me while I was in the final year of my studies. It is a harsh punishment. They should have imposed a softer punishment so that I could continue my studies.” Abdul Qader Tankal, supervisor of safety and security at King Abdul-Aziz University, said the committee should have dealt with the issue more sensibly and provided the girl with necessary counselling with the help of educators and psychologists. He said expelling the girl created a new problem instead of resolving the issue. In other words he would have preferred the student to lie while taking oath on the Qu’ran! Following the statement, there is no other way but for the action to now also be taken against the supervisor by college authorities. He also commented that lesbian relationships are increasingly common due to the influence of “satellite channels and the Internet.”
“When we observed a few cases in our university we dealt with them by providing necessary counselling. We also hold a number of lectures and other programs to protect girls from having such deviant relationships,” he said. Gay Middle East calls on the Saudi Authorities to allow the student to continue her studies immediately and leave the supervisor alone. We further call upon International and National Psychological Associations to condemn such generalisations and policies based on homophobic psychological assumptions. King Abdul-Aziz University’s position in various International projects should be reconsidered if they fail to comply.
Source: Arab News
28 May 2011 – GME
Saudi gay man entrapped by the religious police
by UAE Editor for GME
Ta’if, Saudi Arabia – Sabq reports that a man who wrote his mobile number on the walls of a local Mosque’s toilet, asking to meet for gay sex, has been arrested by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice”, the religious police known also as the mutaween (or hay’ah). A case is now being prepared against him in court. According to Sabq, the Imam of a mosque in Ta’if, a city near Mecca, noticed a mobile number written on the toilet wall of the mosque, with a message about meeting for gay sexy. The Imam erased the message only to find it reappearing each time (five times in total). The imam proceeded to inform of this incident to the Mutaween who coordinated a plan to entrap the man.
The Imam and the mutaween coordinated a phone call to the man asking him if he wanted to meet for sex at his home. An arrangement was made for meeting upon which the mutaween proceeded and arrested the man. He is said to be a 35 year old married man with children. His mobile phone was also checked and found to have gay porn. The case has been referred for prosecution and Sabq news ominously wrote that the “necessary procedures and actions will be taken against the man.”
If the mutaween learn that a person is homosexual or engaging in homosexual activity they are likely to be subject to lifelong harassment (including sexual) and blackmail. This often leaves the person extremely vulnerable and subject to a life of fear, misery and in some cases leads to suicide. The number of people falling victim to the mutaween is thought to be very significant but information, understandably, is very difficult to gather. We have recently reported two stories about similar issues, one of a British Citizen, another of a Saudi who got entrapped via the internet.
Sami Al Ali, an activist from the region, commented that “unfortunately such cases are quite common in the Gulf States and in particular, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” He added that “many men and women, and in particular gay men, are blackmailed for sex and money”, making their life very difficult if not intolerable. GME notes that in some cases it is the agents of the mutaween themselves blackmailing gay men or just attempting to entrap them.
Saudi Arabia is a deeply gender segregated country which therefore exacerbates sexual tensions that have been, for centuries, channelled discretely into same sex acts. Such acts are common place but publicly disavowed and frowned upon. Many men, for example, who engage in such acts are not necessarily primarily “gay” in their object choice, nor are they likely to ever identify as such. Publicly being identified as a homosexual is seen as deeply offensive, nicknamed Makhaneeth or Luti a faggot, effeminate, sinner and even scum.
GME calls upon the Saudi authorities to release the man and take steps to decriminalise homosexuality.