HOW HOMOSEXUALITY BECAME A CRIME IN THE MIDDLE EAST


.The modern Middle East views the subject very differently. A survey by Pew Research Centre in 2013 found that most people in the region believe homosexuality should be rejected: 97% in Jordan, 95% in Egypt and 80% in Lebanon. In 2007 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Then the president of Iran, told a crowd of incredulous students at Columbia University in New York that “in Iran we don’t have homosexuals”. In 2001 the Egyptian Ministry of Culture burnt 6,000 volumes of Abu Nuwas’s poetry. What happened?

The change can be traced to two factors. The first is the influence, directly or indirectly, of European powers in the region. In 1885 the British government introduced new penal codes that punished all homosexual behaviour. Of the more than 70 countries that criminalise homosexual acts today, over half are former British colonies.



France introduced similar laws around the same time. After independence, only Jordan and Bahrain did away with such penalties. Combined with conservative interpretations of sharia law in local courts, this has made life tough for homosexuals.

In some countries, such as Egypt, where homosexuality is not an explicit offence, vaguely worded “morality” laws are nevertheless widely used to persecute those who are accused of “promoting sexual deviancy” and the like

Second, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the 1980s coincided with that of the gay-rights movement in America and Europe, hardening cultural differences. Once homosexuality had become associated with the West, politicians were able to manipulate anti-LGBT feelings for their personal gain.

Third, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the 1980s coincided with that of the gay-rights movement in America and Europe, hardening cultural differences. Once homosexuality had become associated with the West, politicians were able to manipulate anti-LGBT feelings for their personal gain. Last year Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, an Islamist political group based in Lebanon, accused the West of exporting homosexuality to the Islamic world, echoing Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei’s warning a year before of “ravaging moral decay” from the West.



Last year Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, an Islamist political group based in Lebanon, accused the West of exporting homosexuality to the Islamic world, echoing Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei’s warning a year before of “ravaging moral decay” from the West.

Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime came to power in Egypt in 2014, arrests of gay, lesbian and transgender people have risen fivefold in an apparent bid to stave off conservative critics. Homosexuality was made a capital offence in Iran after the Islamic revolution of 1979.

Though executions for consensual same-sex activity are difficult to track, several gay men have been hanged on questionable grounds there, such as being accused of rape and not being given a fair trial, as recently as 2016. In Iraq, where same-sex activity is technically legal, the breakdown of order since 2003 has allowed Islamist militias and vigilantes to impose their own idea of justice.

Groups such as Islamic State have become notorious for gruesomely murdering people suspected of being gay by throwing them off buildings and stoning them to death

What could be done to improve matters?

Some local activists say that campaigning for same-sex marriage and the like, as their counterparts in the West have done, is not helpful. Khalid Abdel-Hadi, the founder of My.Kali, a Jordanian gay-and-lesbian online magazine, says: “Our priority is not marriage...

Our families see the stereotypical images of marriages and parades in the West and ask us ‘Is this what you want?’ ” Western-style activism may indeed attract dangerous attention: in May, Pride celebrations in Beirut were shut down and its organiser briefly arrested



Yet grassroots campaigns and pressure from Western institutions do seem to have an effect. In Lebanon, between 2007 and 2017 four judges refused to criminalise homosexuality on the ground that the constitution, which punishes “unnatural sex” with up to one year in prison, does not apply to consensual same-sex relations.

In 2014 Iraq accepted a United Nations recommendation to clamp down on discrimination, including on the ground of sexual orientation. Elsewhere campaigners have succeeded in getting the media to use the term mithli (homosexual) rather than “faggot” or “pervert”.

Gay Rights in S. Arabia

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Saudi Arabia face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents, and Saudi Arabia is considered to have one of the worst LGBT rights records in the world. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal. LGBT rights are not recognized by the government of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi social mores and laws are heavily influenced by Arab tribal customs and ultra-conservative Wahhabi Islam. Homosexuality and transgenderism are widely seen as immoral and indecent activities, and the law punishes acts of homosexuality or cross-dressing with punishments ranging from fines, floggings, to life in prison, death, and torture

Gay Rights in Jordan

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Jordan are considered to be relatively advanced, compared to most other countries in the Middle East. Same-sex sexual activity was illegal in Jordan under the British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance until 1951, when Jordan adopted its own penal code that did not criminalize homosexuality. Jordan is one of few Muslim countries to do so.

However, LGBT people displaying public affection can be prosecuted for "disrupting public morality". A general interest gay magazine is published in Jordan. However, most LGBT persons face social discrimination not experienced by non-LGBT residents


Gays in the City

Photos by pixabay.com

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