Gay Life?and Death?in the Arab World

Persecution of homosexuals increases in the Middle East.

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Gays and lesbians living in the Arab world are struggling against an alarming wave of government persecution, according to human rights groups. But a growing network of progressive-minded Muslims is beginning to fight back.

As Penny Dale of One World Africa reports, eight Egyptian men were arrested for the 'practice of debauchery' on January 19, and gay rights groups fear the men may be tortured while in jail.

It?s a 'steadily growing pattern of persecution,' claims the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), a U.S.-based group that has decried the persecution of gays and people with HIV and AIDS worldwide.

Last year in Cairo, for example, 23 of 52 men convicted of 'obscene behavior' were sentenced to five years of hard labor. Then, in December, two Egyptian university students who had responded to an undercover agent?s request for gay contacts in an Internet chat room were sentenced under the same law.

And Saudi Arabia punishes convicted homosexuals with the death penalty? most recently on January 1, when three Saudi Arabian men were executed. The trial proceedings remain secret, according to the IGLHRC, and Amnesty International claims the executions may be part of the government?s 'determination to continue its appalling yearly rate of executions.'

'The pattern is the same,' says IGLHRC Program Director Scott Long. 'People suspected of homosexuality are picked up and accused of prostitution. Police use informers and the Internet to entrap victims.'

Homosexuality is not explicitly prohibited under Egyptian law, but statutes are based on Sharia, or Islamic law?which condemn it as an immoral act. According to the Al-Fatiha Foundation, an international group for gay Muslims, homosexuality is seen as sinful and perverted in most Islamic countries based on verses in the Qu?ran.