Gay Life?and Death?in the Arab World

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

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

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.

But although mainstream Islam condemns homosexuality, the
Al-Fatiha Foundation site claims ‘there is a growing movement of
progressive-minded Muslims who see Islam as an evolving religion
that must adapt to modern-day society.’

Groups like the Al-Fatiha Foundation and the Gay and Lesbian
Arab Society lead the way with others, like the IGLHRC and Amnesty
International in opposing the persecution of homosexuals in Arab
countries. The IGLHRC publishes online action alerts urging people
to send letters to governments in which persecution of gays

  • Related Links

  • International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
    The IGLHRC is a non-governmental organization that responds to
    human rights violations of GLBT people and anyone living with HIV
    or AIDS.
  • Al-Fatiha Foundation
    An international foundation based in Washington, D.C., the
    Al-Fatiha Foundation is dedicated to Muslim GLBT issues by
    providing news, discussion groups, and background information on
    Islam?s view of homosexuality on their Web site.
  • Ahbab, the Gay and Lesbian Arab Society
    Claiming to be the ‘first gay Arab radio station,’ the New
    York-based Ahbab features news, articles, and essays about gay
  • Bint el Nas
    In Arabic, the phrase ‘Bint el Nas’ literally means ‘daughter of
    the people,’ and is used to describe a woman or girl of good
    standing. The Bint el Nas Web site and its e-zine is designed for
    gay, bisexual, and transgender women who identify themselves
    ethnically or culturally with the Arab world, regardless of where
    they live.
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