The United Arab Emirates (also the UAE or the Emirates) is a Middle Eastern country situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia on the Persian Gulf, comprising seven emirates:
Abu Dhabi: (Information 1), (Info 2), (Info 3), (Info 4), (PBS-TV Report)
Ajma¯n: (Info 1)
Dubai: (Info 1), (Info 2), (Info 3), (Info 4), (PBS-TV Report)
Fujairah: (Info 1), (Info 2), (Info 3)
Ras al-Khaimah: (Info 1), (Info 2), (Info 3) ,(PBS-TV Report)
Sharjah: (Info 1)
Umm al-Quwain: (Info 1), (Info 2)
It borders Oman and Saudi Arabia
Dubai blog comments on homosexuality:http://localexpatriate.blogspot.com/2006/12/homosexualityits-sinhow-dare-you-even.html
Gay Middle East Web Site: http://www.gaymiddleeast.com/
More information about Islam & Homosexuality can be found at: www.al-fatiha.org
Other articles of interest can be found at: groups.yahoo.com/group/al-fatiha-news
Queer Muslim magazine: Huriyah
Gay Islam discussion groups:
3 Few want vote in booming Dubai 7/05 (non-gay background story)
The Internet in the Middle East and North Africa: Free Expression and Censorship: UAE
The United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s wealthiest and most technologically modern countries,(130) can also claim to being the most wired state in the Arab world. As of October 1988 it had 52,000 subscribers and 143,000 users, according to one estimate.(131) The country has numerous cybercafés, and, according to the Middle East Internet Directory for 1998, the largest number of corporate web sites.(132) Government ministries maintain sophisticated web sites and a public-sector think-tank, the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (<www.ecssr.ac.ae>), hosts international conferences on the information revolution in the region.(133)
The U.A.E. has at the same time been the regional leader in advocating censorship of the Web through the use of high-tech means. An official with Etisalat (the Emirates Telecommunications Corporation), which is the country’s state-controlled telecommunications monopoly and sole Internet provider, was quoted in 1997 as saying, "Singapore has succeeded to a great extent in its drive to control harm done by the Internet. Why cannot we?"(134)
Dial-up users in the U.A.E. do not access the Internet directly. They dial in to a proxy server maintained by Etisalat. The proxy will refuse access to web sites if the URL requested is on a list of banned sites, or if a content check of the site by the proxy server turns up objectionable material. Government officials, who acknowledged that this censorship regime was administered by the state telecommunications company, insisted that its sole purpose was to block pornographic sites. A senior official in the Ministry of Information and Culture, who was interviewed on condition his name not be used, told Human Rights Watch in a telephone interview on June 10, 1998:
There is no restriction on the political, social, economic side. Politically, in the U.A.E., we do not hold value for censorship, especially political or censorship of ideas: we don’t believe in that. You can access on the Internet any material, from Israel or anywhere. The whole idea [of the proxy system] was to block X-rated materials. You can see the first pages [of sexually explicit sites], but not whatever is after that.
The official added that although Etisalat blocks attempts to access proscribed material, authorities do not track individual users’ online activities. However, such monitoring, if it ever were to be conducted, would be facilitated by the fact that all dial-in users are channeled through a proxy server operated by a public utility.
The same official acknowledged that the proxy filtering system was not foolproof. "You can get to porno," he said, "because you can always just dial a foreign server. We try our best to limit x-rated material, but you can never really build a wall." Other officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch concurred and added that the proxy server prevents access only for users with dial-up service. Users who connect via a dedicated line–found primarily in workplaces–access the Internet directly, bypassing the censorship imposed by the proxy server.
An official at Etisalat, who also asked not to be named, told Human Rights Watch in a June 18, 1998 telephone interview that the proxy system is maintained in collaboration with a U.S. firm that is contracted to maintain and update the filtering software that is run by the proxy server. The Etisalat staff reviews web sites, sometimes responding to complaints or tips from users, and informs the U.S. company of material they wish to block. The official refused to disclose the name of the U.S. company, or provide the criteria used to determine which sites are blocked. Etisalat provides the U.S. company with "broad guidelines," he explained, for rooting out objectionable sites. Denying that this included political or cultural sites, he said the "guidelines we’ve passed along are fairly basic." They focus on the "sexually explicit."
An information systems manager who worked for Etisalat when the proxy server system was being developed in the mid-1990s told Human Rights Watch in the telephone interview that the system was set up in response to concerns that "there was a great deal of misuse [of the Internet] among teenagers." To complement the filtering done by the U.S. company, Etisalat "got a program running with parents, or with whomever finds [an objectionable] site, so that the person will inform Etisalat and then Etisalat restricts it. There’s a committee of technical people at Etisalat who look at the site, and verify it has nude pictures, and then they stop it."
While all of the Emirati officials we interviewed insisted that the proxy server exists only to block pornography, Human Rights Watch identified at least one blocked site that is cultural and political in nature. It is the site of the Gay and Lesbian Arabic Society (<www.glas.org>). When asked about the site, the Information and Culture Ministry official quoted above acknowledged that it was blocked, explaining, "We got complaints about it."
GLAS describes itself in its web site as:
a networking organization for Gay and Lesbians of Arab descent or those living in Arab countries. We aim to promote positive images of Gays and Lesbians in Arab communities worldwide. We also provide a support network for our members while fighting for our human rights wherever they are oppressed. We are part of the global Gay and Lesbian movement seeking an end to injustice and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The GLAS web site hosts a chat-line, and reports and editorializes on such topics as AIDS, asylum cases involving gays and transsexuals, civil marriages in Lebanon, and the imprisonment of political dissidents in the region. In May of 1998, GLAS proclaimed on its web site:
We are also keeping track of flagrant human rights violations in Gulf countries and particularly in the U.A.E. where recent deportation of HIV patients has made headlines….Such activities need to be denounced at every occasion. The U.A.E. puts a lot of effort at presenting itself as a major business center in the area. The message should be sent that human rights violations will not be ignored and that we will make sure their image continues to be tarnished and their violations denounced. Human Rights Watch is unaware of web sites belonging to governments or political movements that are blocked in the U.A.E. However, the blocking of the GLAS site indicates that Internet censorship in the U.A.E. exceeds the proclaimed goal of restricting pornography.
The U.A.E. government did not reply in writing to the list of questions submitted by Human Rights Watch to all governments of the region. It did however invite Human Rights Watch to the U.A.E. Embassy in Washington to discuss Internet issues. In addition, officials in the Ministry of Information and Culture and another at Etisalat proved willing to answer some questions during telephone interviews with Human Rights Watch; they are cited above.
At the embassy meeting, held on July 10, 1998, political counselor Abdullah al-Saleh and legal advisor Mohamed Mattar explained that Internet users enjoyed considerable freedom in the U.A.E., and pointed to constitutional guarantees of free expression and of privacy. Article 30 of the U.A.E. Constitution states, "Freedom of opinion and expressing it verbally, in writing or by other means of expression shall be guaranteed within the limits of law." Article 31 states, "Freedom of communication by post, telegraph or other means of communication and the secrecy thereof shall be guaranteed in accordance with the law." Mattar suggested that the references in these articles to "other means" presumably extended to the Internet. Similarly, the 1991 law on telecommunications, which affirms the application of criminal law statutes (such as with respect to fraud) to the realm of telecommunications, would apply to conduct on the Internet. He stated that the U.A.E. had no Internet-specific legislation.
Al-Saleh added that the U.A.E.’s only intervention with regard to Internet use concerns the blocking of web sites. He said the state does not interfere with or conduct surveillance of e-mail. There have been no arrests, he said, of persons for any kind of "misuse" of the Internet. Human Rights Watch has received no information that contradicts his assertions. However, Maj. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, the Chief of Police of Dubai, one of the seven constituent emirates of the U.A.E., publicly advocated police oversight of the Internet. In 1996, for example, he was quoted in the press as saying that the Ministry of Information and the police, rather than Etisalat, should be responsible for licensing Internet use. "In all cases, the information should be filtered, scanned and then made available to users," the Gulf News quoted him as saying.(135) Asked for comment on Tamim’s proposal to give the police and information ministry oversight of the Internet, the Information and Culture Ministry official quoted above wrote to Human Rights Watch on June 16, 1998 that this had never been implemented and merely represented "his [the police chief’s] point of view."
The same official also stated that all web sites must be registered with the Ministry of Information. "But this is just a formality; we’ve never denied any request, and don’t think we ever will. We do not monitor the material. It’s just to make sure it’s a real company," to prevent commercial fraud and copyright infringements.
October 8, 2004
Interview with gay man: Gay Life in Dubai
TELL US ABOUT GAY LIFE IN DUBAI / IS THERE GAY LIFE IN DUBAI
If you know the "right" people and the right places in Dubai, there is plenty of gay life. Some of the gay spots in Dubai you can even read about in the Spartacus Directory. However, you can’t compare the gay life here in Dubai with that of Western Europe. Here, it’s almost all "underground" and there are risks involved.
The C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Division) are everywhere. There are special units of the C.I.D. that go to pubs frequented often by gays just to entrap us. There are also other risks. I heard about a guy that made a date through the internet, and when they met, it turned out that the other guy is an Islamic Fundamentalist. The Fundamentalist told him that he is doing terrible things, that God will punish him, and just to be sure, he’ll be sure that the C.I.D. gets word of who he is also.
IS THE C.I.D. GOING OUT TO PURPOSELY ENTRAP GAYS?
Yes – for sure. Last May there was a raid by the C.I.D. at the Gules Bar, a place known to be popular with the gays. As the raid was taking place, there was a band performing from the Philippines, who’s lead singer was known to be gay. Many people were arrested, including the members of the band. There was nothing written in the local press about what happened that night, or what happened to the band, but rumors have it that they were all sent back to the Philippines.
WHY THESE ENTRAPMENT EXERCISES BY THE POLICE NOW?
During the past few months, the gay guys at Gules felt….how can I put this correctly….a bit "too free" with their sexuality for the taste of the C.I.D.. The authorities evidently felt that things were getting just bit to open and wanted to re-establish order.
I IMAGINE THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME THAT SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAS HAPPENED IN DUBAI
No…definitely not, but I’m sure that most of the police raids have not been reported anywhere and I haven’t even heard about them. I remember a big party about two years ago that took place in one of the international hotels here in Dubai. There were drag queens there, something considered illegal here in Dubai. Also at this party the C.I.D. police made a raid and arrested participants.
WHAT YOU ARE EXPLAINING TO ME SOUNDS PRETTY SCARY. AREN’T YOU AFRAID?
No. I am involved in a long term relationship with one person, so I don’t go to these places. I know most of this information from friends that do go to parties, pubs, and other places where gays meet. I only get together in safe circumstances with people that I know, and they introduce us to people that they know. This way we are all sure that none of the people we are getting together with are police undercover agents. In general, I must say that I think even as a gay man that the life in Dubai is pretty good. Maybe I feel this way because I just don’t allow myself to spend too much time thinking about the limitations and risks.
DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER IN DUBAI REGARDING THE STATE’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS GAYS
No. I don’t see how this can happen. Dubai won’t be able to be the only state in the Gulf that will repeal it’s laws against homosexuality. Maybe if Dubai’s neighbors would do this first…..but I don’t see this ever happening. It’s important for me to let you know that if many respects, Dubai is considered quite open and liberal – especially in comparison to our neighbors. In Dubai, for example, foreigners are permitted to purchase alcoholic beverages for their own private consumption. In other places on the Gulf, only special bars and international hotels have the permit to serve alcohol.
WHAT ABOUT DUBAI’S INTERNET CENSORSHIP
The censor is pretty tough. Almost all of the website concerning gays are blocked. Gaydar is totally blocked except for their French language version (a strange phenomena that I haven’t figured out yet). Every website that has the word "gay" or "sex" is blocked.
DESPITE EVERYTHING, I GET THE IMPRESSION THAT YOU ENJOY GOING OUT AND ENJOYING YOURSELF…..WHERE DO YOU GO?
I usually go to parties at hotels. At 3AM everything closes. At that point, someone at the party usually invites the people he knows to an "afterparty" at his home. Most of the time the host of such an afterparty is a foreigner, so he’ll legally have alcohol. The chances of getting raided by the C.I.D. police squad at such a party are minimal, as the person who invites us to his home only would invite people that he knows personally.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PARTY AT THE HOTEL AND THE AFTER PARTY?
The hotel parties are really nice, with modern music no different than a party in Europe. There is a strict admission "selection" policy to these parties. You must certainly be on the list of people invited in order to enter one of these hotel parties. It’s easiest to get in if you bring a girl with you. If, for example five guys will show up together, even if they are all on the list, it will be tough for them to enter the party. The after party depends on the style of the person who makes it, the music he has, the food and alcohol that he serves.
Intro note from Lonely Planet Guidebook to Dubai:
Dubai has made a huge effort to promote itself as a tolerant, safe tourist destination, and gay and lesbian travellers won’t face any discrimination or legal trouble, short of staging a gay-pride march down Sheikh Zayed Rd. Basically authorities don’t want bad publicity, so there’s generally only a problem when a situation is played out in the public sphere. For example, one nightclub that had a strong gay following crossed the line when it posted flyers around the city calling on local gays and drag queens to come out. Only then were the authorities compelled to take action (Dubai Bar Shut Down (2001). Note that any specifically gay-focused websites are blocked in the UAE.
29 July 2005
Few want vote in booming Dubai (non-gay background story)
by Heather Sharp
As part of a series about young people in the Middle East, the BBC News website reports on views about democratic reform in a city where change does not seem high on the agenda.
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven states or emirates. Each emirate is ruled by an emir from a leading family. The seven emirs form the Supreme Council of Rulers. The Supreme Council of Rulers appoints the president, prime minister and cabinet. Sheikh Zayed Bin-Sultan Nahyan was president from the birth of the UAE in 1971 until his death in 2004. His son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, succeeded him as president.
" We live in the best democracy ever," says Samir Marzouqi, 19, who lives in a country where citizens never vote. As a national of the United Arab Emirates, he lives in what is now the only country in the Gulf which has no elected bodies. Political parties are banned. But he points out that the sheikhs who rule the UAE attend regular open meetings where citizens can air concerns. And, as many of his peers stress, with free health care and education, a booming economy and political stability, few want to complain anyway.
While the US is ratcheting up pressure for reform in the region, it seems democracy is not a high priority for Dubai’s young people, despite the fact that they are among the Middle East’s best-educated and most-travelled. " Everybody is happy, everything is going smoothly, and I don’t think we should jeopardise that to be a democratic country," says UAE national Sharifa Maawali, 27.
Ohood Saif Ichlah, 19, also a UAE national, grew up in the UK. While she says "there’s a lot to be said for democracy," she sees Western politicians’ constant need to consider whether decisions will win them votes as a disadvantage. She thinks the UAE functions well without democracy because the citizens are happy with their rulers: "If they were unsatisfied it would show – it wouldn’t be such a co-operative community."
Dubai is held up by many of its residents as a shining example of how an Arab culture can embrace 21st Century globalisation without losing its traditional values.
Alcohol is legal for all but UAE nationals, although some locals, even those wearing their distinctive national dress, risk a fine to join the expatriate revellers in the city’s bars. And everyone from Western tourists to visiting Saudis is free to party until the early hours in nightclubs playing everything from R&B to Arabic dance music.
No laws dictate whether UAE women must wear the veil and full-length cloak known as the abaya – although most choose to do so. All religions are permitted, but trying to convert Muslims is banned. The government promotes moderate Islam.
Apart from in Dubai, in the UAE Sharia courts can punish adultery, prostitution, and drug or alcohol abuse with flogging – albeit carefully regulated to avoid serious injury. A multitude of police officers keep order.
Freedom of speech
Hassan, 25, an Iraqi who lives in Dubai, is one of the few people I meet who supported the US-led war in Iraq: "Only the US could kick out a government like Saddam’s," he explains. Our governments are all corrupt and, though there is some change for the better, nothing is really improving. But he sees Dubai’s system, rather than US-style democracy, as a model for Arab nations. " I still believe there should be some religious basis – not to the extent of Iran and Saudi Arabia, but maybe like in Dubai where you have the freedom to do what you want but there is a religious flavour to it." However, the UAE does not have freedom of speech. The media is controlled and the self-censoring papers are very cautious about criticising the government.
Western films are shown, but with the more racy scenes censored. Internet access is via a government ISP which blocks websites deemed unsuitable. These range from pornography to radical Islamic and anti-government sites, and include those suggested by citizens.
Most locals are keen to stress that the media are becoming more adventurous, however. "Now the TV channels report news whether it’s positive or negative," says media graduate and UAE national Amna Hammadi, 22. But not everyone wants a complete free-for-all. "In America you could actually stand out in a square and curse the president – and I don’t think that’s a good thing," says Sharifa al-Maawali.
Views about democracy change when it comes to other countries in the region, however. Although the general objections to US meddling mirror those elsewhere in the Arab world, several young people say countries such as Egypt need reform badly. " They should be – not forced – but threatened at least!" says Maria Hanif Qassimi, 20, another UAE national. But there are concerns about US expectations about the pace of change. "If they want to change a country, they should go step by step. God made the world in six days, but they want to change everything in one day!" says UAE student Salim Alakraf, 25. Some in the UAE say that the rulers are preparing the people for democracy, pointing to heavy investment in educating the young, particularly in areas such as media and leadership.
And earlier this year a few intellectuals called for elections for members of the UAE’s Federal National Council, a body of appointed members that advises the ruling sheikhs but has little power. Amna Hammadi is one of the few young UAE nationals I interview who are enthusiastic about democracy. She believes it is inevitable. " Sure, I want our country to be more of a democracy and I guarantee it will happen. It might take a few years, but it will happen, starting from Dubai."
But how close that democracy is to the Western model is another question, as 19-year-old student Bushra Mohammed Roken points out. " We learn from each other. Maybe the American democracy isn’t the final solution – maybe they can improve it, a little from here, a little from there."
29 July 2005
Phone technology aids UAE dating (Non-gay story but LGBT citizens are easly assumed to be included)
by Heather Sharp, Dubai
As part of a series on young people in the Middle East, the BBC News website discovers how technology is aiding the secret liaisons of young men and women in the conservative culture of the United Arab Emirates. It happens in malls, cinemas and cafes – in Dubai’s notorious traffic jams, and now by mobile phone. Many of the city’s black-shrouded UAE girls say they cannot check out the latest fashions in Zara or sip a smoothie in a cafe without being bombarded with the phone numbers of hopeful admirers.
The Changing UAE
UAE population has increased roughly eightfold since 1975 Less than a quarter of the population are UAE nationals. An influx of workers from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US make up the rest of the population In terms of GDP per capita, the UAE is among the world’s 25 richest countries
Among UAE nationals – as the minority of the UAE’s residents that are not expatriates are called – it is generally considered impolite for a man to speak to a woman he is neither married nor related to in public. Traditionally, a young man’s first amorous approach to a woman is supposed to be a marriage proposal made by his parents to her parents. But the cards, scraps of paper and mobile phone messages that pass from male to female are testament to the double existence of some young UAE nationals as they take their love lives into their own hands.
One technology is proving particularly useful. Bluetooth is a feature built into some mobile phones which enables the user to transfer data to another wireless device nearby. But crucially, it also enables one person to contact another within a 10 metre radius without knowing their phone number.
Ahmed Bin Desmal’s friends joke that he is a "Bluetooth king". The 20-year-old says he has used the technology to send notes to girls he sees in public places. " In our country it’s very rude to go up and talk to them," he says. "I sent some notes, they liked them – they took my number and they called me. I say nice things – I’m into poems."
While to many like Ahmed, Bluetooth is just a way to start a conversation, for some it can go much further. Usually only married or engaged UAE couples go out in public Mohammed, 24, does not know how many girlfriends he has had. He prefers expat girls because he can take them to the beach or to parties, but finds Bluetooth useful when pursuing locals. " In some areas you can’t talk to a girl except through Bluetooth." His flirtations by phone and other means sometimes end in sex.
Even with national girls, it is possible to keep it secret: "Hotels, flats, houses, anything – there’s always a way," he says.
But he wants to marry a virgin eventually: "The girls I have sex with are different from the girls I would marry – these girls want to play around," he says.
Choosing a wife
But not all are like this – far from it. At Dubai Men’s College I meet several bright, studious young men. Most want to wait until they are established in careers and in their late twenties before marrying. Few have had friendships that would approach the Western definition of a girlfriend. " If I tell you I don’t think about it, it’s a lie. Every day I meet a lot of women, but in the end if you can control yourself that’s something good," says Salim Alakraf, 25.
For them the issue is how much they will be involved in choosing their wife. " Nowadays people are really open-minded, although we still follow our culture. If I’m working with a girl and I think she is suitable for me, I can ask my family to go and ask her family about her to see if she is suitable," says Saeed Suwaidi, 27, the leader of the student council.
Among national girls, (Ed: and gays) it is virtually impossible for a young woman to admit to clandestine meetings with boys, although from the tales young men tell, it is clear that these take place.
Bluetooth can be used to locate and contact nearby devices Even being friends with such a girl can damage a reputation, a word that comes up often. And while some would like to meet their future husband "by coincidence" or through work, there is still caution about "love marriages".
" I don’t think I’d have a love marriage. It’s not that I don’t want one, but our contact with guys is not that good, and a guy talks his perfect talk when he sees a girl so it could be a misjudgement. Family marriage is a bit more risk-free," says accounting student Maryam Abdullah Bin Bilaila, 19.
But other young people are treading a cautious, secretive path towards love marriages, aided by technology.
Ahmed, 26, is in love with his girlfriend of five years, but neither of their families know. They talk often by mobile phone, but their meetings are limited to the 10 minutes between her leaving work and arriving home. (Traffic jams are useful for talking time.) " Yes, I think I will marry her. We’ve had a long relationship, for five years. She knows all my secrets, I know her secrets," he says.
And Saud, 22, met the girl he describes as his girlfriend two years ago on the internet, through instant messaging software.
Although they talk on the phone, he has seen her only five or six times, by following her from a distance as she shops with her family in a mall. He says she’s beautiful.
But, while the couple are finding ways around their society’s cultural mores, for them, as for many young people, the consequences of being caught remain all too real. " We are afraid someone from her family will see and there could be big problems which would mean we couldn’t ever marry," says Saud.
Some names have been changed to protect the interviewees’ identities.
The Khaleej Times
Note: The Khaleej Times is an English-language daily reaching primarily Indian sub-continent workers living in the Gulf region. The following article appears to be a translation from an Arabic newspaper, although this is not clear. The terminologies "gay and queer" are most likely Arabic translations of deregotary words.
25 November 2005
Officials lambaste capital’s gay party youth
by Adel Arafah
Note: The Khaleej Times is an English-language daily reaching the primarily Indian sub-continent workers living in the Gulf region. The following article appears to be a translation from an Arabic newspaper, although this is not clear. The terminologies "gay and queer" are most likely Arabic translations of deregotary words.
Abu Dhabi – Senior officials have condemned the queer acts practised by 26 youth at a gay party held in a hotel in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday night. A group of 26 men, many of whom were dressed in female outfits and the rest in Arab attire, were arrested by the police on Wednesday following a tip-off that such a party was being held.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, experts, educationists and men of law have called on parents to play their role and give importance to the role of schools and national associations in inculcating the teachings of Islam and intrinsic social values in the minds of the youth to help them spend their leisure time purposefully.
Mohammed bin Nukhaira Al Dhahiri, Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Auqaf (Endowments), advised parents to follow the teachings of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) that you are all responsible for your subjects. (The man is responsible in his house, for his wife and children). Therefore, he said, parents should play a major role in upbringing their children according to the teachings and tenets of Islam, and Arab and Islamic traditions.
" Had parents ingrained these values and noble teachings and manners in the minds of their children, they would not have deviated and behaved in the strange ways that are rejected by mankind, and discarded by all human beings, irrespective of their religion or creed, race or nationality," he said. "The ministry spared no effort in preaching Islamic teachings, while calling upon youth to follow the virtuous and abandon vice," he said.
Preachers at Friday sermons and Muslim scholars at mosques always preach and guide citizens of the country to do what is good and avoid what is prohibited. The ministry, he said, would continue its efforts in safeguarding the present and the new generations from being spoilt by the enemies of humanity and religion who are spewing venom through their acts, which are abhorrent to God and unacceptable in all societies. Al Dhahiri urged the youth to spend their leisure time in purposeful activities.
" The path of corruption added to the loss of the soul destroys the present and future of the youth, for whom the government spares no effort in creating a bright future on the basis of the fact that they are the pillars of the future, and the nation has pinned high hopes on them," the minister said. "There will be no room for homosexual and queer acts in the UAE. Our society does not accept queer behaviour, either in word or in action," he angrily stated. "Our society, God willing, is safe from every evil, as the good earth always produces well," he added.
" The deviation of the youth who took on the role of women is a kind of blind aping and imitation of queer, abnormal groups, whose aim is to destroy all values and public manners and practice all kinds of vices," said Dr Mohammed Twheel, a professor at the UAE University. Those deviated people have disobeyed Allah the Almighty, he said, and described them as disciples of Satan as they do what the devil orders them to.
He said they did so because they are not God-fearing and find lust and enjoyment in disobeying God in the belief that they do something special and attract others to themselves. He called on society to protect the youth from blindly imitating Western values by letting fathers befriend their sons to find out what they are doing, thus saving them before they dive into sins. Universities, schools and social organisations should also play their role effectively by protecting the youngsters, and making them spend their leisure time purposefully. Dr Twheel called for the interaction of all segments of society to focus greater attention on the issue of the homosexuality. "All resources should be mobilised to nip this evil in the bud," he said. "The minority who practices homosexuality should return to their senses before this danger aggravates and spreads among our youth," he warned.
Lieutenant Colonel Najm Abdullah Sayyar from the Social Support Department of the Abu Dhabi Police Directorate, said the Ministry of Interior was playing an important role in preventing such alien phenomenon from corrupting UAE society. He paid a tribute to Interior Minister Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan for attaching great attention to youth and importance to social problems. In achieving that objective, he said, he had issued instructions to set up a special social police department. "The department is designed to safeguard society from alien cultures, crimes and strange acts," he noted.
November 26, 2005
Gay Newlyweds Face Penalties in Emirates
by Jim Krane
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – More than two dozen gay Arab men arrested at what police called a mass homosexual wedding could face government-ordered hormone treatments, five years in jail and a lashing, authorities said Saturday. The Interior Ministry said police raided a hotel chalet earlier this month and arrested 22 men from the Emirates as they celebrated the wedding ceremony, one of a string of recent group arrests of homosexuals here.
The men are likely to be tried under Muslim law on charges related to adultery and prostitution, said Interior Ministry spokesman Issam Azouri. Outward homosexual behavior is banned in the United Arab Emirates, and the gay group wedding has alarmed leaders of this once-isolated Muslim country as it grapples with a sweeping influx of Western residents and culture. The Arabian peninsula, nevertheless, has a long tradition of openly homosexual wedding singers and dancers. " Lately people have been talking about (homosexuality), but it has been here for a long time," said Nadia Buhannad, a Dubai psychologist. "It becomes shocking only when it is your own son."
Police acting on a tip raided the hotel in Ghantout, a desert region on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway, and found a dozen men dressed as female brides and a dozen others in male Arab dress, apparently preparing for a ceremony that would join them as husbands and wives, Azouri said. " It was a real party with balloons and champagne," he said. The 26 men arrested include those from the Emirates as well as an Indian disc jockey and three men from neighboring Arab states. One of the arrested was to perform the wedding ceremony. Azouri said some of the group told police they worked as prostitutes. Others had been arrested before.
Last year, police made mass arrests at an apparent gay wedding in the conservative emirate of Sharjah and at the Khor Fakkan beach resort in Fujairah emirate, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. Two dozen men arrested in Sharjah were given symbolic lashings — meant to humiliate, not inflict pain — and then released from jail, said prominent Emirati lawyer Abdul Hamid al-Kumaiti. " There are so many others like these guys," al-Kumaiti said. "The police and rulers need to do more than just lash them and let them go."
Azouri described the arrests in Ghantout as a "delicate" matter made public for the first time — more than a week after the event — because the country’s tribal leadership wants to demonstrate it will not tolerate open homosexuality. On Friday, as newspapers reported the arrests, the minister of justice and Islamic affairs, Mohammed bin Nukhaira Al Dhahiri, called on parents to be vigilant for "deviant" behavior in their children. " There will be no room for homosexual … acts in the UAE," Al Dhahiri was quoted as saying in the Dubai-based Khaleej Times newspaper. The arrested men have been questioned by police and were undergoing psychological evaluations Saturday. Azouri said the Interior Ministry’s department of social support would try to direct the men away from homosexual behavior — using methods including male hormone treatments, if the men are found to be deficient.
" Because they’ve put society at risk they will be given the necessary treatment, from male hormone injections to psychological therapies," he said. "It wasn’t just a homosexual act. Now we’re dealing with a kind of marriage. There was a ritual involved." Foreigners arrested will be deported after serving any sentences imposed in court, he said. Azouri said government psychologists were grappling to learn the causes behind an apparent increase in homosexual behavior in the Emirates. The booming economy has lured hundreds of thousands of Western residents and millions of tourists. Azouri said authorities want to be seen to be taking action at a time when complaints of gay behavior were emerging from the country’s schools and myriad shopping malls.
Most cases of homosexual behavior are taboo and violate Emirati laws based on Islamic sharia. Azouri suggested that other countries with laws based on religion, including Christianity and Judaism, would also ban gay behavior and marriage. " It’s not about freedom of opinion, it’s about respecting religion which forbids this type of behavior," he said.
30 November 2005
UAE Ministry Denies Reports of Hormone Treatments for ‘Gay Wedding’ Suspects
Abu Dhabi – The Ministry of Interior has categorically denied reports appearing in a section of the media that 26 individuals who were held at an alleged gay wedding have been subjected to hormonal or any other treatments. An official source at the ministry rejected the statement by the US State Department spokesman. " They [the arrrested individuals] have not been treated with hormones or any other medicines," the spokesman said. "What has been reported in the local and international media is wholly inaccurate."
The source said any punishment or prescription of medicines is not the concern of the ministry. The judiciary is the sole competent authority that can act according to the laws and constitution of the country," he said. "Only the judiciary can issue appropriate rulings as per the UAE laws. He added that the role of the ministry was to help the arrested individuals and its obligation ended there. The source urged the media and other concerned parties to be accurate while disseminating news. Such information should be obtained through official channels, he said. He also called on the media to refrain from exaggerating issues and publishing news without proof.
11 December 2005
UAE Gay Group Use Cyberspace for Networking
by V M Sathis
Clandestinely operated gay groups in the UAE have been extensively using the Internet and message boards to exchange information and secretly meet at predetermined locations. Homosexuality is illegal in the UAE. Recently, police arrested 22 UAE men, one Indian, and three Arabs from neighbouring countries at a hotel in Ghantut in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. A random search on the Net indicates that they use nicknames in message boards. Their meeting places “ hotels, residential villas and other undisclosed locations" are not revealed on the message boards. These groups also network through chat rooms. While Etisalat has blocked many gay web sites, some of the paid message boards are easily accessible.
" If you know the ‘right’ people and the ‘right’ places in Dubai, there is plenty of gay life. One can even read about some of the gay spots in Dubai in the Spartacus Directory. However, you can’t compare the gay life here in Dubai with that of Western Europe. Here, it’s all ‘underground’ and there are risks involved," reveals one message. They are also cautious of police officials who go to pubs and bars to track down homosexuals. "I remember a big party about two years ago that took place in one of the international hotels here in Dubai. There were drag queens there, something considered illegal here in Dubai," says the message.
" The hotel parties are really nice, with modern music no different than a party in Europe. There is a strict admission policy in these parties. You must certainly be on the list of people invited in order to enter one of these hotel parties. It’s easiest to get in if you bring a girl with you. If, for example, five guys show up together, even if they are all on the list, it will be tough for them to enter the party," advises gay group boards.
" I am involved in a long-term relationship with one person, so I don’t go to these places. I know most of this information from friends who go to parties, pubs, and other places where gays meet. I only get together in safe circumstances with people whom I know, and they introduce us to people that they know. This way we are all sure that none of the people we get together with are police undercover agents. In general, I must say that I think even as a gay man, life in Dubai is pretty good. Maybe I feel this way because I just don’t allow myself to spend too much time thinking about the limitations and risks," says another message.
" I am an Asian expatriate male looking for fun. Send me mail for details," says a 38-year-old man in such a message. He has also displayed a nude picture of the upper part of his hairy body. Following the crackdown and arrest of 26 gays at a party recently, some of the proposed meetings have been cancelled. One gay group has cancelled three meetings, which were earlier scheduled for the first and second week of December 2005.
" Most gay teens meets around the world happen on the third Sunday of every month," says one message board. These message boards are hired from international cyber groups, which charge them $25 per month or more depending on the space used. According to the message boards, gay couples’ meet takes place on second Thursday of every month. " German guy travelling to Dubai in February and looking for a nice, hot time," says a man claiming to be a German gay who gives his vital statistics and other physical features.
" I Prakhun from Thailand, wanna meet a friend, I will arrive Dubai on 03/12/05…waiting for u," adds another man, claiming to be from South East Asia. The UAE gay groups can easily get hooked to people with similar interest in other cities. There are also UAE-based gay couples meet up groups on the net. The Dubai Gay Meet Group, one active cyber group with 14 members, announced through its board that the next meeting scheduled for December 8 has been cancelled.
February 11, 2006
26 Men Imprisoned 5 Years Each for Being Gay in United Arab Emirates
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Friday, "As many as 26 people were sentenced to five years in prison by a court in Abu Dhabi for admitting to be gays and organising a cross-dressers party and wedding at a hotel," reports WebIndia News. "Their arrest had made news in November last year when they gathered at a hotel in Ghantout, a desert region on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway to organise a gay wedding. Police got wind of the meeting and swooped on the hotel and arrested the participants…."
WebIndia added that reports in local newspapers in the UAE "said the gays defended themselves in the court saying they were proud of their act and were keen to practice it……The police had broken up the riotous wedding party with balloons and champagne last year at a hotel and took into custody some 12 men in Arab dress and others dressed as women who were to be the ‘brides’ at the wedding," although some of those arrested asserted they were transgendered. An Indian disc jockey who had come to perform as part of the celebration was among the arrested.
An earlier report said the gays may be given hormone treatment to correct their behaviour, since sodomy is punishable by death under the Islamic sharia law in force in the UAE "In 2005 UAE police made mass arrests at another event, also described by authorities as a gay wedding in the conservative emirate of Sharjah and at the Khor Fakkan beach resort in Fujairah emirate," notes 365gay.com.
The UAE has also just banned the film "Brokeback Mountain," as part ot "its efforts in protecting the society from unethical and immoral practices." The question for U.S. gays is, will our national gay institutions — like HRC and NGLTF — maintain the same discrete silence about these 26 unjustly imprisoned men, the latest victims of Sharia law’s brutal punishments for homosexuality, as they’ve observed about persecution of gays in Iran, Poland, the Baltic countries, Nigeria, Nepal and more? Or will our national gay groups join the global fight for gay freedom, liberation, and the basic human right to love whom and how they wish, according to the dictates of their natues?
February 7, 2007
Police Hunt Cross-dressers
Dubai, UAE – Emirati police are hunting men and women who cross-dressed during celebrations in Dubai for the national team’s triumph in the Gulf Cup of Nations last week. Thousands of fans took to the streets across the country on January 30 in convoys of horn-blowing cars, causing huge traffic jams, after the United Arab Emirates’ 1-0 win over Oman.
Dubai police chief Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim said several people were called in for questioning on Monday over reports of "alleged public misdemeanours at the parade”, newspaper Emirates Today reported. The police had registered many cases of men dressed as women, as well as women dressed in men’s clothing, he said, without giving numbers. "Any man who wears women’s clothes and imitates women will be penalised as per the UAE laws,” Tamim said, adding that the same applied to women "dressing up as men and imitating male behaviour”.
7 Jul 2007
I have been in Dubai for about a month and a half and needless to say I am badly missing the gay circuit of Bombay. Before landing here, I had got mixed reviews about the gay life in here but based on my experiences so far I think the negative ones were highly toned down and the positive ones were…well very optimistic. Are there any other means besides crusing to socialise with some decent guys in the city?
11 Jul 2007 Response to above message:
I have been staying in Dubai for last two years and my initial experience was like you. I was mad and craving to go back to Mumbai. But yes slowly developed a set of g-friends and believe me its been wonderful experience. My life in Dubai has been easier and worth living beacuse of them. Of course it needs time and patience and just getting to know right set of people.
October 31, 2007
Dubai and rape: French youth tells his story
by Thanassis Cambanis
Duabi – Alexandre Robert, a French 15-year-old, was having a dream summer in this tourist paradise on the Gulf. It was Bastille Day, and he and a classmate had escaped the July heat at the beach for an air-conditioned arcade. Just after sunset, Alex was rushing to meet his father for dinner when he bumped into an acquaintance, a 17-year-old native-born student at the American school, who said he and his cousin could drop Alex off. There were, in fact, three Emirati men in the car, including a pair of former convicts, aged 35 and 18. They drove Alex past his house and into a dark patch of desert, between a row of new villas and a power plant, took away his cellphone, threatened him with a knife and a club and told him they would kill his family members if he ever reported them. Then, Alex says, they stripped off his pants and one by one sodomized him in the back seat of the car. They dumped Alex on the side of the road across from one of Dubai’s luxury hotel towers.
Alex and his family were about to learn that despite Dubai’s status as the Arab world’s paragon of modernity and wealth, its legal system remains a perilous gantlet when it comes to homosexuality and legal protection of foreigners. The authorities not only discouraged Alex from pressing charges, he says; they have left open the possibility of charging Alex with criminal homosexual activity, and neglected to inform him or his parents that one of his attackers had tested HIV positive while in prison four years earlier. "They tried to smother this story," Alex said by phone from Switzerland, where he fled a month into his 10th grade, fearing a jail term in Dubai if charged with homosexual activity. "Dubai, they say we build the highest towers, they have the best hotels. But all the news, they hide it. They don’t want the world to know that Dubai still lives in the Middle Ages."
United Arab Emirates law does not recognize rape of males, only a crime called "forced homosexuality." The two adult men charged with molesting Alex appeared in court Wednesday, and will face trial before a three-judge panel on Nov. 7. The third, a minor, will be tried in juvenile court. Men convicted of sexually assaulting other men usually serve sentences ranging from a few months to two years, legal experts here say.
The two adults have pleaded not guilty to kidnapping with deceit and illicit sexual intercourse.
Rape and assault are not unknown in Dubai, a bustling financial and tourist center where at least 90 percent of the residents are not Emirati citizens. Alex’s Kafkaesque journey into the Dubai legal system brings into sharp relief questions about unequal treatment of foreigners that have long been quietly raised among the expatriate majority here. It also throws into public view the taboos surrounding HIV and homosexuality that Dubai residents say have allowed rampant harassment of gays and have encouraged the health system to treat HIV virtually in secret. (Under Emirates law, foreigners with HIV, or those convicted of homosexual activity, are deported.)
Prosecutors here tout their system as modern, Western-style and fair.
"The legal and judicial system in the United Arab Emirates makes no distinction between nationals and non-nationals," said Khalifa Rashid Bin Demas, head of the Dubai Attorney General’s technical office, in an interview. "All residents are treated equally." Dubai’s economic miracle – decades of double-digit growth spurred by investors, foreign companies, and workers drawn to the tax-free Emirates – depends on millions of foreigners, working jobs from construction to senior financial executives. Even many of the criminal court lawyers are foreigners, because there are not enough Emiratis. Lawyers here say that corporate law heartily protects foreign investors, but that equal protection before the law does not always extend to foreigners in criminal court. "Equality exists in theory, but not in practice," said a Western diplomat with close knowledge of the Dubai legal system.
Alex’s case has raised diplomatic tensions between the Emirates and France, whose government has lodged official complaints about the apparent cover-up of one assailant’s HIV status and other irregularities in the case. Demas said that the police and prosecutors followed procedures, and that officials informed the victim’s family of the assailant’s HIV status as soon as they learned it. The Dubai authorities have no intention of prosecuting Alex for homosexual activity, Demas said, and are seeking the death penalty for the two adult attackers. "This crime is an outrage against society," Demas said.
However, the investigation file in Alex’s case and a pair of confidential French diplomatic cables obtained by The New York Times confirm the accounts of inexplicable and at times hostile official behavior described by Alex and his parents. "The grave deficiencies or incoherence of the investigation appear to result, in part, from gross incompetence of the services involved in the United Arab Emirates, but also from the moral, pseudo-scientific, and political prejudices which undoubtedly influenced the inquiry," the French ambassador to the United Arab Emirates wrote in a confidential cable dated Sept. 6. Most infuriating to Alex and his mother, Veronique Robert, they said, the police inaccurately informed French diplomats on Aug. 15, a month after the assault, that the three attackers were disease-free. Only at the end of August did the family learn that the 36-year-old assailant was HIV positive. The case file contains a positive HIV test for the convict dated March 26, 2003. "They lied to us," Robert said. "Now the Damocles sword of AIDS hangs over Alex."
So far the teenager has not contracted HIV, but he will not know for certain until January, when he gets another blood test at the end of the disease’s six-month incubation period. A forensic doctor examined Alex the night of the rape, taking swabs from his mouth for DNA and from his anus. He did not take blood tests or examine Alex with a speculum. Then he cleared the room and told Alex in private: "I know you’re a homosexual. You can admit it to me. I can tell." Alex, outraged, said he told his father in tears: "I’ve just been raped by three men, and he’s saying I’m a homosexual because my anus is distended." The doctor, an Egyptian, wrote in his legal report that he had found no evidence of forced penetration, according to Alex’s family, an assessment that could hurt the case against the assailants.
In early September, after the family learned about the older attacker’s HIV status and the French government lodged official complaints with the UAE authorities, the Dubai attorney general’s office assigned a new prosecutor to the case. Only then were forensic tests performed to confirm that sperm from all three attackers had been found in Alex’s anus. Alex decided to stay in Dubai in order to testify against his attackers, and went back to school in September, despite unsettling flashbacks. In early October, however, the family’s lawyer warned him that the authorities were weighing charges of homosexuality against Alex, which carry a prison term of one year.
Veteran lawyers here say the justice system is evolving, like the country’s entire system of governance, which has blossomed as the economy and population have exploded in just a few decades. Despite its shortfalls, the United Arab Emirates has combined Islamic values with best practices from the West to create "the most modern legal system among the Arab countries," said Salim Al Shaali, a former police officer and prosecutor who now practices criminal law. "We are very proud of what we’ve achieved," Shaali said. In business and finance, the UAE has worked hard to earn a reputation for impartial and speedy justice. But the criminal justice system has struggled, balancing a penal code rooted in conservative Arab and Islamic local culture, applied to an overwhelming non-Arab population of foreign residents.
A 42-year-old gay businessman who would speak only if identified by his nickname, Ko, described routine sexual harassment by officials during his 13 years living in Dubai. Ko, an Australian of Asian origin who described himself as a "queen," said that his effeminate walk and tight clothes frequently attracted censure from police officers and labor and immigration officials, who would demand sex in exchange for not filing criminal charges or for issuing a work permit. He cut his shoulder-length hair to avoid attention, he said, but after years of living in fear of jail or deportation, he is selling his businesses and is leaving the country. "On the outside Dubai is beautiful, but on the inside it’s still the third world," Ko said. "It’s a dictatorship with a softer touch." Ko said violent rape was common, and that most foreign victims remained silent rather than face deportation or a prison term for homosexuality if they reported an assault.
Although victims generally keep quiet, others who have been raped in Dubai have shared testimonials in recent days on boycottdubai.com, a Web site started by Veronique Robert as a result of her son’s case. Prosecutors moved forward with the case against her son’s attackers only as a result of public pressure and diplomatic complaints, Robert believes. Now, she hopes, the attention could prompt more humane and even-handed justice for future rape victims here. Alex says he wants to see his attackers executed or jailed for life, but he does not want to return to Dubai, no matter how crucial his appearance in court would be to the case. "Sometimes you feel crazy, you know?" he said. "It’s hard, but we have to be strong. I’m doing this for all the other poor kids who got raped and couldn’t do anything about it."
Follow-up comments to this story: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1945456/posts
November 1, 2007
In Rape Case, a French Youth Takes On Dubai
by Thanassis Cambanis
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Oct. 31 – Alexandre Robert, a French 15-year-old, was having a fine summer in this tourist paradise on the Persian Gulf. It was Bastille Day and he and a classmate had escaped the July heat at the beach for an air-conditioned arcade. Just after sunset, Alex says he was rushing to meet his father for dinner when he bumped into an acquaintance, a 17-year-old native-born student at the American school, who said he and his cousin could drop Alex off at home. There were, in fact, three Emirati men in the car, including a pair of former convicts ages 35 and 18, according to Alex. He says they drove him past his house and into a dark patch of desert, between a row of new villas and a power plant, took away his cellphone, threatened him with a knife and a club, and told him they would kill his family if he ever reported them. Then they stripped off his pants and one by one sodomized him in the back seat of the car. They dumped Alex across from one of Dubai’s luxury hotel towers.
Alex and his family were about to learn that despite Dubai’s status as the Arab world’s paragon of modernity and wealth, and its well-earned reputation for protecting foreign investors, its criminal legal system remains a perilous gantlet when it comes to homosexuality and protection of foreigners. The authorities not only discouraged Alex from pressing charges, he, his family and French diplomats say; they raised the possibility of charging him with criminal homosexual activity, and neglected for weeks to inform him or his parents that one of his attackers had tested H.I.V. positive while in prison four years earlier. “They tried to smother this story,” Alex said by phone from Switzerland, where he fled a month into his 10th-grade school year, fearing a jail term in Dubai if charged with homosexual activity. “Dubai, they say we build the highest towers, they have the best hotels. But all the news, they hide it. They don’t want the world to know that Dubai still lives in the Middle Ages.” Alex and his parents say they chose to go public with his case in the hope that it would press the authorities to prosecute the men.
United Arab Emirates law does not recognize rape of males, only a crime called “forced homosexuality.” The two adult men charged with sexually assaulting Alex have pleaded not guilty, although sperm from all three were found in Alex. The two adults appeared in court on Wednesday and were appointed a lawyer. They face trial before a three-judge panel on Nov. 7. The third, a minor, will be tried in juvenile court. Legal experts here say that men convicted of sexually assaulting other men usually serve sentences ranging from a few months to two years. Dubai is a bustling financial and tourist center, one of seven states that form the United Arab Emirates. At least 90 percent of the residents of Dubai are not Emirati citizens and many say that Alex’s Kafkaesque legal journey brings into sharp relief questions about unequal treatment of foreigners here that have long been quietly raised among the expatriate majority. The case is getting coverage in the local press. It also highlights the taboos surrounding H.I.V. and homosexuality that Dubai residents say have allowed rampant harassment of gays and have encouraged the health system to treat H.I.V. virtually in secret. (Under Emirates law, foreigners with H.I.V., or those convicted of homosexual activity, are deported.)
Prosecutors here reject such accusations. “The legal and judicial system in the United Arab Emirates makes no distinction between nationals and non-nationals,” said Khalifa Rashid Bin Demas, head of the Dubai attorney general’s technical office, in an interview. “All residents are treated equally.” Dubai’s economic miracle — decades of double-digit growth spurred by investors, foreign companies, and workers drawn to the tax-free Emirates — depends on millions of foreigners, working jobs from construction to senior positions in finance. Even many of the criminal court lawyers are foreigners. Alex’s case has raised diplomatic tensions between the Emirates and France, which has lodged official complaints about the apparent cover-up of one assailant’s H.I.V. status and other irregularities. The tension and growing publicity over the case seem to have prompted the authorities to take action.
Mr. Demas, from the Dubai attorney general’s office, said he had no intention of prosecuting Alex and was seeking the death penalty for the two adult attackers. “This crime is an outrage against society,” he said. However, the investigation file in Alex’s case and a pair of confidential French diplomatic cables obtained by The New York Times confirm the accounts of inexplicable and at times hostile official behavior described by Alex and his parents. “The grave deficiencies or incoherence of the investigation appear to result, in part, from gross incompetence of the services involved in the United Arab Emirates, but also from the moral, pseudoscientific and political prejudices which undoubtedly influenced the inquiry,” the French ambassador to the United Arab Emirates wrote in a confidential cable dated Sept. 6.
Most infuriating to Alex and his mother, Véronique Robert, is that police inaccurately informed French diplomats on Aug. 15, a month after the assault, that the three attackers were disease-free, the diplomats say. Only at the end of August did the family learn that that the 36-year-old assailant was H.I.V. positive. The case file contains a positive H.I.V. test for the convict dated March 26, 2003. “They lied to us,” Ms. Robert said. “Now the Damocles sword of AIDS hangs over Alex.” So far the teenager has not tested positive for H.I.V., but he will not know for sure until January, when he gets another blood test six months after the exposure. A doctor examined Alex the night of the rape, taking swabs of DNA for traces of the rapists’ sperm. He did not take blood tests or examine Alex with a speculum. Then he cleared the room and told Alex: “I know you’re a homosexual. You can admit it to me. I can tell.”
Alex told his father in tears: “I’ve just been raped by three men, and he’s saying I’m a homosexual,” according to interviews with both of them. The doctor, an Egyptian, wrote in his legal report that he had found no evidence of forced penetration, which Alex’s family says is a false assessment that could hurt the case against the assailants. In early September, after the family learned about the older attacker’s H.I.V. status and the French government lodged complaints with the United Arab Emirates authorities, the Dubai attorney general’s office assigned a new prosecutor to the case. Only then were forensic tests performed to confirm that sperm from all three attackers had been found in Alex. Alex stayed in Dubai in order to testify against his attackers, and went back to school in September, despite suffering unsettling flashbacks.
In early October, however, the family said, their lawyer warned Alex that he was in danger of facing charges of homosexuality and a prison term of one year. Veteran lawyers here say the justice system is evolving, like the country’s entire system of governance that has blossomed as the economy and population have exploded in just a few decades. Despite its shortfalls, the United Arab Emirates have combined Islamic values with the best practices from the West to create “the most modern legal system among the Arab countries,” said Salim Al Shaali, a former police officer and prosecutor who now practices criminal law. In business and finance, the nation has worked hard to earn a reputation for impartial and speedy justice. But the criminal justice system has struggled, balancing a penal code rooted in conservative Arab and Islamic local culture, applied to an overwhelming non-Arab population of foreign residents.
A 42-year-old gay businessman who would speak only if identified by his nickname, Ko, described routine sexual harassment by officials during his 13 years living in Dubai. He cut his shoulder-length hair to avoid attention, he said, but after years of living in fear of jail or deportation, he is leaving the country. Although rape victims here generally keep quiet, some who have been raped in Dubai have shared testimonials in recent days on boycottdubai.com, a Web site started by Alex’s mother. Prosecutors moved forward with the case against her son’s attackers only as a result of public pressure and diplomatic complaints, Ms. Robert believes. Now, she hopes, the attention could prompt more humane and even-handed justice for future rape victims here. On advice of his lawyer and French diplomats, Alex says he will not return to Dubai but wants very much for the men to be convicted.
“Sometimes you feel crazy, you know?” he said. “It’s hard, but we have to be strong. I’m doing this for all the other poor kids who got raped and couldn’t do anything about it.”
November 7, 2007
Swiss teen recounts UAE sexual assault
by Barbara Surk
Summary: Casting anguished looks at a defendant, a 15-year-old French-Swiss boy told a Dubai court Wednesday he was kidnapped by three Emirati men and raped on the back seat of a car at the edge of the desert, in a case that has raised questions over treatment of sex crime victims here. Casting anguished looks at a defendant, a 15-year-old French-Swiss boy told a Dubai court Wednesday he was kidnapped by three Emirati men and raped on the back seat of a car at the edge of the desert, in a case that has raised questions over treatment of sex crime victims here. The boy’s mother, Veronique Robert, said her son "cried a little" but was "very strong" as he testified for 90 minutes in a session closed to the public at the defense’s request.
"He looked the defendants in the eyes and gave a chance for justice to be served," Robert told The Associated Press on the phone afterward. "Now they (the judges) have a full picture. They heard the defendants’ stories, they heard my son and the witnesses. Now they can judge." The teenager has told police investigators that three men abducted him and a 16-year-old friend in July while they were on their way home from a mall and took them to the edge of Dubai’s desert. The men allegedly took turns raping the younger boy in the back seat. The 16-year-old, who was not assaulted, also testified Wednesday. The case has reflected the complicated attitudes toward sex crimes in the booming city-state where critics say the laws are an outmoded mix of religious and tribal values.
Robert has said that her son accused a police forensic doctor of calling the boy a homosexual while examining him after the assaults, implying the incident was consensual. She also said her son had left the country in early October because French diplomats told her that he might be prosecuted for homosexual acts, a crime here. But after authorities said he would not be charged, the boy returned to testify, and Robert on Wednesday expressed faith in the Emirates’ legal system. "We are here, we trust you. Now please do your job," she said. Before Wednesday’s session was closed to the public, reporters inside the court saw the 15-year-old glance twice in apparent anguish at the older of the defendants, who is HIV positive.
Two Emirati men, ages 35 and 18, are on trial on charges of "kidnapping with deceit" and "forced homosexual relations," a charge that can be punished with life imprisonment or death. The third defendant, who is under age 18, is being tried in a juvenile court on the same charges and could face up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted. The defendants are not charged with rape, because under Dubai law that charge is applicable only to women victims. Even convictions for rape of women victims are rare in the Emirates, and there have been cases where the victim herself was charged with prostitution. Although rape against men is not a specific charge, prosecutors have other charges they can bring in such cases, such as forced homosexual relations. Consensual homosexual acts are also illegal, punishable by a year in prison.
Robert said she is pushing for reforms in Emirates law to ensure just treatment for rape victims — girls and boys alike. "Victims of rape, boys and girls, need to be treated as victims, not as homosexuals and prostitutes, " she said. "My son was never a homosexual, but even if he was, rape is still rape."
When the case came to light, Robert also accused Emirati authorities of lying about the HIV status of the 35-year-old defendant to cover up the fact that AIDS exists in Dubai. Dubai officials have defended their handling of the case but have not commented the mother’s accusations. The defendants’ lawyers refused to speak to the media about this case. Robert, a journalist, has set up a Web site (http://boycottdubai.com/english/index_E.php) calling for pressure on Dubai to take basic steps to protect underage rape victims, such as ensuring they are tested for infectious diseases and get psychological help, immediately after an attack.
After the boys’ testimonies, the judge adjourned the hearings until Sunday, when the last witness in the case — a policeman — is to testify. Prosecutors have asked for the death penalty in the case, but Robert said she asked the court not to sentence them to death. The AP is using Robert’s name with her agreement, but is not identifying her son. The Emirates’ legal system prohibits the media from naming the defendants until a verdict is reached.
November 07, 2007
Dubai court hears French boy’s rape testimony
by John Irish, Reuters
Dubai (Reuters) – A tearful French teenage boy told a court in Dubai on Wednesday that three United Arab Emirates nationals lured him and a friend into their car and gang-raped him at knifepoint in July, his mother said. Alexandre Robert, 15, told a closed court session that he and the friend were tricked into getting into a sports utility vehicle by the youngest suspect, an acquaintance of the boys, who offered to drive them home from a shopping mall where they had been playing videogames, Veronique Robert told reporters. Alexandre, dressed in a black suit, said he was raped by the three men. His friend, 16, was taken away from the car and not assaulted, she said, adding that of one the suspects has AIDS.
Alexandre had returned from Switzerland, where his mother lives, to testify in the hearing in the Gulf Arab emirate, a regional tourism hub which is hoping to more than double its visitors to 15 million by 2015. The alleged assailants then dropped off the two boys near a Dubai landmark hotel, the court heard. Two of the suspects, aged 36 and 18, stood in white prison uniforms flanked by policemen during the hearing. Both men deny the charges. The third suspect, 17, is being tried in a juvenile court.
A source present at the hearing said one of the defendants angrily protested after the victim’s attorney asked for the suspects to be tested for AIDS and hepatitis. The trial, which will resume on November 11, attracted local, French, U.S. and Swiss media.
In Another Light
"I’m not ashamed to tell the truth and only the truth. I feel relieved … and angry," Alexandre said outside the court after giving his testimony. "I see Dubai in another light." Dubai, one of fastest-growing cities in the world, is home to man-made island resorts and covered desert ski slope, and is building the world’s largest theme park. Veronique Robert, a Swiss national, accused UAE authorities of deliberately not informing the family that one of the suspected rapists tested HIV-positive in 2003, delaying medical attention for her son. "We needed to start treatment … a week after the case, but because the Dubai authorities didn’t tell us, we weren’t able to," she said. "AIDS is a taboo subject here … The government played with the life of my child."
Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim brushed aside the accusations, but declined to give further comments on the ongoing case. "The case is a court case … I think she is blaming everyone …" Members of the defendants’ family were not present at the hearing. The defense lawyer was not available for comment.
November 28, 2007
Abu Dhabi and the grand history of gays and religion
by Abbey Fenbert
NYU in Abu Dhabi is freaking me out. It’s a little weird that someone could get a degree from New York University without leaving the United Arab Emirates. Higher on the WTF scale, there’s the fact the UAE is governed partly by Islamic law, and "homosexual acts" are a crime that could earn you prison time or a regimen of forced hormone injections. Gay students only risk this prosecution if they leave the Academic Free Zone – the administration has made that clear. Peachy. NYUAD: The perfect place to relive your days in the closet. But the admins put forth a more compelling argument. University spokesman John Beckman reminded us that in some NYU study abroad sites, such as Shanghai and Ghana, homosexual acts are more than frowned upon. Parts of the United States have been slow to overturn anti-sodomy laws. So why are we only getting hysterical about the rules of a Muslim country?
Maybe we’re racists. Or maybe there’s a difference between cultural homophobia – "two dudes kissing is icky" – and God Shall Strike You With His Fist, Degenerate Sons Of Sodom. I’m not excusing any type of gay-bashing, god-inspired or not. But this is a religion column, and I want to examine the tangled, troubled history of queerness and faith. God and the Gays have been enemy teams since before the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah. According to the Sharia, a set of Islamic laws, homosexuality is punishable by death. Christianity has its own qualms. My new favorite website, GodTube.com, automatically filters out the word "gay" – though "fag" is allowed. And in Hebrew scriptures, "such a thing is an abomination." (Leviticus 18: 22)
You can also find anti-gay sentiment in Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, the Baha’i faith, Shinto, Sikhism, Jainism and Scientology. Of course, some LGBT-accepting traditions have survived past classical Greek paganism (ah, the days of Sappho!). Wicca, Voodoo and Unitarian Universalism are pretty tolerant, and the more mainstream religions all have sects and members who say it’s OK to be gay. And if you look carefully, it’s not hard to find the subversive queerness in the bowels of religion. Cough, Ted Haggert, cough. Hiding between all the stone-the-gays laws and "cleanliness" precepts, there are some juicy tidbits to trigger your biblical gaydar. One of my favorites is in the Book of Judges. The Israelite judge Deborah is called the "wife of Lappidoth" (Judges 4:4). Lappidoth translates to "woman of fire." Some take this to mean that Deborah, as a judge and prophetess, is herself a woman of fire. Maybe. Or maybe "wife of Lappidoth" means there was a woman named Lappidoth, and Deborah was her wife. You know. Just maybe.
At any rate, the Abrahamic tradition usually finds lesbianism less sinful than male homosexuality- it has to do with penetration and the seed and a bunch of gross things I have trouble picturing an all-powerful deity ruminating over. But onto the New Testament. Jesus calls his disciples by saying, "I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19) All right, that’s juvenile. But he proceeds to spend his days unmarried in the company of 12 dudes. And forget Mary Magdalene – the Gospel of John refers, several times, to "the disciple whom Jesus loved." During the Last Supper, he’s "reclining at Jesus’ side" and "lean[s] back against Jesus’ chest." (John 13:23-24)
Ah, fascinating how the places gays are most hated are the places that often seem the very gayest – pages of scripture, football locker rooms, the army. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Of course, until my queer-friendly Bible commentary becomes standard, LGBT people in the UAE just have to be grateful they’re not in Iran or Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is a capital offense. To clarify, being gay isn’t the crime – it’s just getting caught doing … You know, stuff. So I can quietly lust after Jennifer Connelly all I want, it’s only when I start picturing her while kissing some chick that I’m rebelling against the state. Queer people are used to hiding. To sticking to "safe zones." Beckman’s right, it’s nothing new. But New York University is a place that values freedom, newness and pluralism. It’s been ranked "Most Accepting of the Gay Community" by the Princeton Review two years running. A degree from New York University should mean you’ve ventured outside of the bubble.
Is NYUAD worth abandoning that ideal?
But who knows. If you get sent to prison for getting it on with your "unnatural" partner, maybe Beckman or Sexton will bail you out.
Abbey Fenbert is a columnist. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 30, 2007
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
Steegmuller) 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."
November 30, 2007
French Teen’s Rape Case Exposes Dubai’s Dark Side: Alleged Victim Tells His Story of Violent Sex Crime in Modern Arab Metropolis
Dubai – with its world famous luxury hotels and what will soon be the world’s tallest building — is the Arab world’s most modern oasis. But beyond the sandy beaches and tourist attractions, the western dress and the bustling buildings, Dubai is struggling to modernize one aspect of its conservative Muslim culture: the taboos and treatment of sexual violence. 16-year-old French-Swiss Alexandre Robert and his mother Veronique were the perfect example of Dubai’s cosmopolitan makeup. Alex was living in Dubai when he says he was gang raped at knifepoint, beginning an ordeal that has shed light on how Dubai’s justice system treats victims of violent sex crimes. "Before, I felt like it was paradise, it was honestly paradise," Alex said of the city. "Today I feel like they lied to me, they treated me like nothing, like a toy. And they played with my life and I don’t know, they&they destroyed me."
What happened to Alex has thrown a worldwide spotlight on the dark side of a city where a victim can be treated as a criminal, where homosexuality is outlawed and where AIDS is buried under a layer of shame. "Homosexuality is taboo, rape is taboo, and AIDS is taboo," said Veronique Robert.
Saturday July 14th of this year was just another summer day in paradise. Then 15-year-old Alex spent the day at the beach with his friend. When it was time to go home, a local teenager they barely knew offered to give them a lift when they couldn’t find a cab. He called two older friends who had a car. Alex and his friend accepted the ride and got in the car. Alex says the man behind the wheel drove past the turnoff to his house, beyond Dubai’s landmark Mall of the Emirates, and into a desolate stretch of desert. "So we keep driving and I see him taking an exit to go in the desert and I told him ‘Where are you going?’ And this is where I started to think and realize that something was wrong, you know, and they told me to shut up," Alex recalled.
First Alex says the driver secured the child locks on the doors, trapping the boys inside. Then they stopped along a desert road on the outskirts of the city. "They asked my friend to get out of the car, he said no, so they pulled him out with violence and they started hitting, hitting him and they hit me. And after that — I’m sorry&" Alex said, unable to continue. Alex started to scream," his friend told ABC News, adding that Alex tried to grab his hand. The friend spoke about the attack on the condition that his name be kept secret because he still lives in Dubai and fears retaliation. I was very afraid," said the friend. "I thought they wanted to kill me, me and Alex. So it was like the last minute of my life I was living."
Desperate for help, Alex says he tried to call 999 — Dubai’s version of 911 — on his cell phone.
The local teen who brought them to the car overheard the police respond to the call, Alex says, and grabbed for the phone. "I had the phone in my hands, I was screaming and shouting for help," said Alex. "He took my phone and he was hitting me. I started screaming and crying." ‘I’m Gonna Kill You’ "He was saying, ‘I’m gonna kill you, your mother, father. I know where you live. Don’t do that any more,’" recalled his friend. "He said to me right in the eyes, right in the eyes that if I, if I speak about this one day, he knows where I live, he’ll go to my house, he’ll burn my house, he’ll kill my parents, he’ll f*** them and he’ll burn them," Alex said. "And it was hard."
"They will not touch us. Don’t worry about that, it’s done," said Veronique. "They will pay for that, they will pay for that."
As dusk settled in the desert, the friend says he was forced to walk behind a sand dune, where he couldn’t see or hear anything. That’s when Alex says the 36-year-old driver threatened his life. "He took out a pool stick and a hunting knife. He told me that he wanted to f*** me and I told him no way, I told him this, you can forget about it. I won’t let you touch me, I won’t let you. And after this, I had no choice." When he finished, the teenager who had first offered them the ride came back to the car, Alex says. "I told them, ‘Listen, if you’re going to kill us, just let me use my phone, just give me back my phone and let me, let me call my family, I won’t tell them where I am, I’ll talk in English, I won’t tell them what’s happening, but just&if you’re going to kill me, just let me call them, tell them that I love them or something, just let me do this," said Alex." And they keep telling us to shut up."
In the end their salvation may have turned on something as simple as sand. Alex says the attackers’ car got stuck and they had to call a relative, who drove to the scene."I got my head up and I saw this plate number&I still remember it today," said Alex. "And I think this, this plate saved my life."
‘Homosexuality Is An Illegal Act’
Instead of killing them, Alex says their attackers brought them to one of Dubai’s luxurious hotels, where they were thrown out of the car. "They pushed us like, like we were nothing, you know, like if we were bags," he said. Alex says he felt dizzy and passed out. He had survived a violent rape that could happen anywhere in the world, but the legal nightmare ahead would turn out to be a second tragedy, he says. After the attackers left them on the curb Alex and his friend went to the first safe place they could think of. They took a taxi to a local shopping mall, hid in the bathroom, and called for help. They immediately reported the crime, going in person to the local police station. But Alex says the police doctor who examined him that night seemed intent on proving there was no rape, just a consensual sexual act between three men and a 15 year-old gay boy.
"He told me, admit it, you are a homosexual and everything," said Alex. "I got really angry, I told him, ‘Listen, I just got raped by three guys.’" And perhaps more damaging to Alex’s case, the doctor asserts the examination "showed a history" of homosexual activity, according to the doctor’s report obtained by ABC News and translated from the original Arabic. "In their minds if I admit that I am a homosexual, the crime would be over, everything would be over," Alex believed. Moreover, Veronique Robert says police and local authorities failed to tell Alex that one of the men was HIV positive for weeks after they learned of it.
Alex has so far tested negative for the AIDS virus. However, he can’t know for sure until January, since the virus needs six months for definitive test results. "I have to wait until January, and in January I’ll know, so I cross fingers and I hope," he said. Veronique Robert says the Dubai authorities twice assured there was no threat of sexually transmitted disease, even though there was a report identifying one of the attackers as being HIV positive in government files for years. "I’m so furious, I cannot tell you how I’m furious, you know, and I said why they lie, they just play with the life of Alex," said Veronique Robert.
The Case Against Alex
Homosexuality is against the law in the UAE, where anyone found guilty of sodomy faces years in jail.
The Dubai government denies that the doctor accused Alex of being gay or that he was ever at risk of being charged with homosexuality. But Robert Jongeryck, the French consul, was so worried a case was being built against Alex as an illegal homosexual he advised the boy and his mother to flee Dubai before he was arrested. "I think that if we had not reacted and asked the authorities to do something, probably Alexandre would have been charged," said Jongeryck.
A Victorian Value System?
Arab-American psychiatrist Dr. Raymond Hamden works in the Dubai courts and says it’s important for foreigners to remember that while everything looks modern there, it is a young, developing city. "It’s no different than were we in America were a hundred years ago, right after or during the end of the Victorian era," said Hamden. "Even though we are seeing globalization, in the city that has defined globalization, were still seeing a value system that still looks like new Victorians."
Dr. Habib al-Mulla, an attorney and government spokesman, defends the social conservatism that makes homosexuality a crime in Dubai. "Every country and every culture has&its own values, its own morals, and the laws and legislations reflect the way every society looks at those morals," Al-Mulla said.
"This is a conservative society. Homosexuality, conducted homosexuality is an illegal act. And we are not ashamed of that."
"So, when you invite people to come [to Dubai], are you inviting everyone but homosexuals?" ABC News’ Jim Avila asked the spokesman.
"Everyone is more than welcomed to come," said al-Mulla. "However, no one is welcome to commit any illegal activity."
In an environment where homosexuality is a crime, can a victim of "forcible homosexuality," as the law calls it, be treated fairly under the law? The trial is big news in Dubai. The two adult defendants, both of whom face the death penalty, have denied all charges. Veronique Robert says she was in juvenile court — closed to the press — when the local boy who first led Alex and his friend into the car pled guilty to charges of kidnapping, threatening, and rape. Because he is a minor he does not face execution.
"I’m sure the court will deal with this [verdict] in a fair and reasonable manner," said government spokesman Al-Mulla, leaving open the possibility that what happened to Alex would lead to some reforms in the handling of rape cases. We will look into the system, we’ll see if there was anything deficient. And if we believe that there is any room for&improvement in that system of course we’ll do that."
Armed with the promise that he would not be prosecuted, Alex returned to Dubai to testify against his alleged attackers, a moment he will never forget. "You could read it in their eyes, they were saying like, if we go out, if we find you, my God, poor kid, run for your life, run for your life, if we get you, you’re dead," he said.
As she waits for a verdict, Veronique Robert relentlessly warns anyone who will listen not to go to Dubai expecting a world-class justice system. She has even created a Web site called www.boycottdubai.com designed to hit the emirate where it hurts — in the carefully cultivated image put forth to tourists and visitors. "A part of me is really sad," she said. "I was loving Dubai, I was loving to come here to visit my child, [to] go to the beach with Alex&seven years of my life&it’s gone. I think I will not come here&I will never see Dubai with the same eyes."
12 December 2007
Emiratis jailed for raping youth
A court in Dubai, in the UAE, has jailed two men for 15 years for the abduction and sexual assault of a 15-year-old French-Swiss boy.
The men, one of whom is HIV positive, took the teenager to the desert and raped him at knifepoint. The victim’s mother, Veronique Robert, says the authorities lied about the defendant’s medical status to hide the fact that Aids is present in the UAE. "Fifteen years is nothing for someone who knew he had Aids," she said.
A lawyer for the family said they would appeal against what they saw as a too-lenient sentence. A juvenile court is trying a third suspect in the same case. The defence had claimed the victim had consented to sex and had lied to the authorities.
Ms Robert has been campaigning to change the law in the United Arab Emirates to recognise homosexual rape as a crime and for more openness about HIV and Aids. The country – a collection of seven conservative desert sheikhdoms – has in recent years become a booming regional business centre. Her son testified during the trial, after having initially fled Dubai fearing he would be prosecuted for homosexuality, a crime in the Emirates.
Ms Robert has said during a forensic examination the police doctor accused her son of being homosexual, implying the incident was consensual. She alleges that initial denials by officials about the 36-year-old’s positive HIV test also meant her son missed out on possible treatment. "Aids is a taboo subject here… The government played with the life of my child," she said after her son testified in November.
The defendants’ names and specific convictions cannot be made public because of confidentiality clauses in Dubai’s legal system. Dubai officials have defended their handling of the case, without commenting on the mother’s accusations.