The situation of the LGBT community in the Arab World. [My personal Review of the Arab Spring]

19 Mar

Democracy: “Government by the people, where liberty, equality and fraternity are secured to the greatest possible degree and in which human capacities are developed to the utmost, by means including free and full discussion of common problems and interests.” (Pennock, 1979, 7)

How hurtful was to see Mohammed Bouazizi immolating himself to protest and ask for his rights! How proud I was of his bravery but how sad I am now to see that his act never leaded to his objective, which is the minimum of human rights respect!

Bouazizi’s act gave the power to many others to start asking for their rights, for their freedom and for their respect! Wide revolutionary waves and protests around the many of the Arab Countries took place and leaded to what has been called the Arab Spring To date, rulers have been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen; civil uprisings have erupted in Bahrain and Syria; major protests have broken out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman. Minor protests have occurred in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara. Now, after more than a year and couple of month from Bouazizi’s brave step, I want to review with you the situation of some of these countries, focusing more on the LGBT community and it’s rights starting by Tunisia, the most civilized of these revolutions brought a secular president while an Islamic party is in charge and ruling on the ground. Incidents were reported since a year against the LGBT community.

  • Hacking of the first online Tunisian LGBT newspaper
  • The scandal of the minister of interior attacking him for his gay orientation 
  • The Tunisian human right minister attack the LGBT community and call them sick, asking for limiting their freedom of speech

Until 2001, the Egyptian government refused to recognize the existence of homosexuality, to avoid problems with the Islamist groups and Muslim Leaders as culturally, most Egyptian citizens are Muslim, which impacts prevailing social biases and attitudes, as well as the legal system. Traditional Islamic morality views homosexuality and transgenderism as forbidden and detestable acts. It is too soon to determine if the 2011 Egyptian revolution will impact LGBT-rights. A handful of the protesters were, reportedly, gay, but LGBT-rights issues were not among the reforms demanded by any of the protesters or other dissidents. Leaders of the newly created Freedom and Justice Party created by the Muslim Brotherhood, and who’s in charge of the majority have condemned homosexuality and gay marriage on religious grounds in public speech and demonstration. As for Libya, the situation isn’t much better, the current situation isn’t stable but in fact it’s a real dilemmatic tension and divisions. The LGBT community in this country remains uncertain and terrified from the Islamist militias that took over the country after kicking the Kathafi and his regime. While in Saudi Arabia, many police raids has been made around the kingdom to arrest Gay men where some of them were sentences to jail after implementing the Shariaa law. Not too far from Saudi, at the United Arab of Emirates a group of Gay men were arrested, as reported some of the foreign media. Where 30 gay men were arrested in one of Dubai’s 5 stars hotel. The local police authorities are denying these facts in an article appeared today. Does these denials are because they are avoiding another US intervention? We all still remember Georges Bush intervention, couple of years ago, to release the group of Gay men arrested in a same kind of parties. Not that far from the UAE, both Bahraini and Qatari regimes are being terrified from these upraising revolutions. While Qatar is playing a key role in leading these revolutions, its royal ruling system is never an example for democracy and human rights respect. These both royal countries are oppressing any subgroups asking for rights and more space and the latest closure of bars frequented by LGBTs is one of the examples on this kind of pressure. The Iraqis LGBT community remains the most wounded one! Since the US occupation of the country and all minorities and sub-groups are the one who are paying the highest prices. Christians and LGBTs in particular that are being abused. And lately EMOs are the ones who are being killed brutally on the streets using blocks of concrete to smash the heads with in front of people just because these people look differently than the rest of the society. Around a 100 victim has been killed with this way, all around the country. Previously to these brutal actions, many associations were reported back in 2008 -2009 and many gay individuals flee to Lebanon and Syria where they asked Asylum and were repatriated to a 3rd destination later on. Based on my personal experience, I believe that the gay people in Syria (pre-revolution) were not really treated wrong in the country, few incidents were reported such as the raids on the private parties in the Ghouta area, around Damascus. Where few were arrested and some of them flee to Lebanon and then later on to Europe while others decided to stay in Syria after being released. I believe that a space of freedom is given to the LGBT community as long as it’s not interfering with political debates. While many gay gathering places and even action possible spots are spread around the big cities such as Damascus, Aleppo and Lattakia, the authorities turn the blind eye, giving the gays freedom needed. However, now as Islamist groups are leading this opposition war actions against the government, I am personally very worried for all minorities of Syria among all the LGBTs in case these Islamists will be in charge, as I believe same end, as Iraqi minorities will be waiting for them.   While the Human rights and LGBTs in particular remain unstable and uncertain in the Arab World. Lebanon’s facts are totally different! A REAL space and freedom are provided to the LGBT community. Bars, clubs and other businesses are spread around the country. Local LGBT associations are founded to provide the needs of the community and cooperate with governmental institutions and other NGOs. LGBT themed activities take place in multiple occasions around Beirut among all the Anti homophobia day (IDAHO) that usually take place around Mid May, as well as the election of Mr. Bear Arabia that would take place around June. The LGBT community participates in local activities such as the Beirut Marathon, some political demonstrations and local parades. Businesses target the community in special advertisement campaigns. Yet, some homophobic behaviors are reported and true that the LGBT current situation isn’t as in the West, but compared to the rest of the Arab World, Lebanon is by far considered as the Provincetown of the Arab World! The Real LGBT Oasis. Where all Arab LGBT oppressed individual would come seeking freedom and some space and recognition. For this reason, a real full support should be given to each and every Human right activist working in Lebanon and the rest of the Arab World, because spreading awareness and education is the first to be done to reach the objectives of the Arab Spring revolutions, as such achievements won’t be reached if there is no educational background and mutual respect.


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