LGBT in the Middle East

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Reports and concerns about homosexuals in the Middle East have rarely been concerns of the region's societies. While many Middle Eastern countries have received strong criticism for persecuting homosexuality, some of the Middle Eastern countries have occasionally made small reforms, with the notable exception of the relatively pro-LGBT Israel.


Recognition of LGBT can be traced since the times of Ancient Egypt[1] and Mesopotamia.

Shusha Guppy of the Times Higher Education Supplement wrote that "It has long been assumed that the Arab-Islamic societies have always been more tolerant of homosexuality than the West."[2] In the 19th and early 20th century, same sex contact was considered normal in the Middle East. At that time there was significant sex segregation.[3] According to Guppy, "In the pre-modern era, Western travellers were amazed to find Islam "a sex-positive religion" and men openly expressing their love for young boys in words and gestures."[2] Georg Klauda wrote that "Countless writers and artists such as André Gide, Oscar Wilde, Edward M. Forster, and Jean Genet made pilgrimages in the 19th and 20th centuries from homophobic Europe to Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, and various other Arab countries, where homosexual sex was not only met without any discrimination or subcultural ghettoization whatsoever, but rather, additionally as a result of rigid segregation of the sexes, seemed to be available on every corner."[3]


Arab and Muslim assumption of Homosexuality as Western creation have been illustrated in the movie Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World. The starting line of the dialogue spoken by an as yet unseen gay Egyptian man stating "I was accused of being Westernized."[4]

In Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, the laws state that if a person is found of engaging in same gender sexual behavior, a death penalty would be granted.[5]

According to Country Reports of US Department of State, in Saudi Arabia, there are no LGBT organizations. Furthermore the reports of official and social discrimination on sexual orientation remains unfounded because of social pressure of not to discuss LGBT matters.[6]

The report of Human Rights Watch in relation with the LGBT rights in the Middle East includes:

In a few places, like Egypt and Morocco, sexual orientation and gender identity issues have begun to enter the agendas of some mainstream human rights movements. Now, unlike in earlier years, there are lawyers to defend people when they are arrested, and voices to speak up in the press. These vital developments were not won through identity politics. Those have misfired disastrously as a way of claiming rights in much of the Middle East; the urge of some western LGBT activists to unearth and foster ‘gay’ politics in the region is potentially deeply counterproductive. Rather, the mainstreaming was won largely by framing the situations of LGBT (or otherwise-identified) people in terms of the rights violations, and protections, that existing human rights movements understand. (Human Rights Watch 2009, p. 18)[7]

Klauda wrote that the Europeans had "have brought about and sorted out" homosexuals "as a distinct "minority" through a centuries-long process of normalization in the first place".[8] By the late 20th century attitudes towards homosexuals were negative in the Middle East in Arab and Persian countries.[3]

Israel is a notable exception, being more progressive concerning LGBT rights, recognizing unregistered cohabitation, and having a wide support for same-sex marriage.[9]

See also[edit]

LGBT rights by country


  1. ^ Williams, Sean (2010-02-22). "Alternative sexuality in ancient Egypt? Follow the LGBT Trail at the Petrie Museum - History - Life & Style". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-06-30. 
  2. ^ a b Guppy, Shusha. "Veiled might of the harem.(American University Press)(Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800)(Book review)" (Archive only available to researchers and legal). Times Higher Education Supplement, June 9, 2006, Vol.0(1746), p.33(1). ISSN: 0049-3929. Source: Cengage Learning, Inc.
  3. ^ a b c Klauda, Georg (English translation by Angelus Novus). "Globalizing Homophobia" (Archive). MRZine, Monthly Review. 08.12.10. Previous version appeared in Phase 2 No. 10 (December 2003). Also published as the first chapter of Die Vertreibung aus dem Serail: Europa und die Heteronormalisierung der islamischen Welt (Berlin: Männerschwarm-Verlag, 2008). Start page 15.Retrieved on June 26, 2014.
  4. ^ Pullen, Christopher (2012). LGBT Transnational Identity and the Media. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 44. 
  5. ^ Linda A. Mooney; David Knox; Caroline Schacht. Understanding Social Problems, 8th ed. Cengage. p. 373. 
  6. ^ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009, p. 2414
  7. ^ "The use of equality and anti-discrimination law in advancing LGBT rights", by Dimitrina Petrova. PDF (Archive) - Chapter 18, Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity, p. 477-505
  8. ^ Klauda, Georg. "With Islamophobia against Homophobia?" (Archive). MRZine, Monthly Review. 12/11/07. Originally published in German in: Arranca! (Für eine linke Strömung, DE) 37 (October 2007) as "Mit Islamophobie contra Homophobie?" (Archive). Retrieved on August 26, 2014.
  9. ^ "Three-in-Five Israelis Back Same-Sex Marriage". Angus Reid Public Opinion. Retrieved 1 June 2011

Further reading[edit]