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Homosexuality on the Rise in Saudi Arabia

Result of an Oppressive Regime or Are Saudis Coming Out of the Closet?

Kimberly West, Yahoo Contributor Network

According to an article The Kingdom in the Closet in the May 2007 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, many in the Saudi population, both male and female, frequently engage in homosexual acts despite the fact that it is punishable by death under Islamic Sharia law. Homosexuality seems risky in a kingdom sometimes called "The Land of The Two Holy Mosques", a reference to Mecca and Medina, Islam's two holiest places. Much of the Kingdom's law is derived from an ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam commonly known as Wahhabism, which has zero tolerance for diversity.
According to Western Resistance, one of the reasons that a large segment of the Saudi population engages in homosexual acts is that it's frankly easier to mingle with members of the same sex in the highly restrictive and oppressive regime--

According to Islamic law homosexuality is punishable by death. This punishment, however, is a poor deterrent. According to the article, most Saudi men become gay because it's easier to pick up a man than to find a woman. The situation is the same for young women. The article claims that Saudi Arabia's inhumane laws and dread morality police, which forbid dating between young men and women, in fact are a major factor pushing them towards homosexuality in their youth.

In his article, Queer Shiek, Being openly gay in Saudi Arabia used to be a death sentence-but times are changing, John R. Bradley describes the scene at a western-type mall in the city of Jeddah-

Gay Saudi men now cruise certain malls and supermarkets, openly making passes at each other, and one street in Jeddah is said to have the most traffic accidents in the city because it is the most popular place for Saudi drivers to pick up gay Filipinos, who strut their stuff on the sidewalk in tight jeans and cut-off t-shirts. (Filipinos are one of the larger groups of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia.) Meanwhile, gay and lesbian discos, gay-friendly coffee shops, and even gay oriented Internet chat rooms are now flourishing in some Saudi cities; in the chat rooms, gay and lesbian Saudis discuss the best places to meet people for one-night stands. "We talk about places that aren't gay cruising areas, because they're now in the minority," says one young gay Saudi, only half-jokingly.

These excerpts from the Atlantic Monthly article reflect some attitudes and realities about homosexuality in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia--

Talal, a Syrian youth who moved to Riyadh in 2000, calls the Saudi capital a ``gay heaven.''

``I used to have the feeling that I was the queerest in the country,'' said Yasser, a Saudi youth. ``But then I went to high school and discovered that there are others like me. Then I find out it's a whole society.''

Many gay expatriates say they feel more at home in the kingdom than in their native lands.

``Guys romp around and parade in front of you,'' said Marco, a 41-year old gay man from the Philippines living in Saudi Arabia. ``They will seduce you. It's up to you how many you want, every day.''

A magazine editor in Jeddah told me that many boys in Mecca, where he grew up have sexual relations with men, but they don't see themselves as gay.

``Homosexuality is considered to be a stage of life, particularly at youth.''

``[Saudi Arabia] is the land of sand and sodomites,'' said Tasmin, a female student who told me about the lesbian enclave at her school. ``The older men take advantage of the little boys.''

Dave, a gay American teacher living in Saudi Arabia, put it this way: ``Let's say there's a group of men sitting around a cafe. If a smooth faced boy walks by, they all stop and make approving comments. They're just noting: ``That's a hot little number.''

It seems that these homosexual men and women are risking their lives. An Islamic cleric quoted at Front Page Magazine writes about the sin of homosexuality, "This sin, the impact of which makes one's skin crawl, which words cannot describe, is evidence of perverted instincts, total collapse of shame and honor, and extreme filthiness of character and soul... The heavens, the Earth and the mountains tremble from the impact of this sin. The angels shudder as they anticipate the punishment of Allah to descend upon the people who commit this indescribable sin."

Amnesty International reports "gross human rights violations" in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, many against homosexuals, and reports incidents of capital punishment for homosexuals. A Chicago Free Press article reports this chilling story about the fate of three homosexual men in Saudi Arabia-

Now we learn that on January 1, 2002, Saudi Arabian authorities publicly beheaded three gay men after Islamic religious courts in the southwestern city of Abha declared them guilty of "engaging in the extreme obscenity and ugly acts of homosexuality, marrying among themselves and molesting the young," charges obviously exaggerated to provoke public outrage.

For the wealthy in Saudi Arabia, though, it appears that homosexuality is overlooked by the authorities. John Bradley writes-

The upper crust of Saudi society is becoming more open as well. Carmen bin Laden, the sister-in-law of Osama bin Laden, recently published a book, in French, titled Inside the Kingdom, which is a look at the life of the idle Saudi rich. In the book, The New York Times reported this month, bin Laden tells stories of homosexual affairs among the kingdom's wealthy and idle women. And Saudi anthropologist Mai Yamani has shown that all-female discos catering to rich Saudi women are often covers for lesbian get-togethers. Saudi princes, meanwhile, have frequented the Jeddah disco, where they openly interact with club-goers.

Is homosexuality in Saudi Arabia an "open secret" caused by a repressive Islamic regime that controls every aspect of its citizens' lives, including their sexuality under Sharia law? Is it the result of men-only and women-only interactions required by Muslim guidelines? Or, are the Saudis really coming out of the closet?

Sources:

The Kingdom in the Closet, The Atlantic Monthly, May 2007, The Kingdom in the Closet - Nadya Labi - The Atlantic (Saudi Arabia, Gay, Homosexuality, Lesbian, Sex, Sharia, Wahhabi, Muslim, Islam)

Sodomy Laws, http://www.sodomylaws.org/world/saudi_arabia/saudi_arabia.htm (Saudi Arabia, Gay, Homosexuality, Lesbian, Sex, Sharia, Wahhabi, Muslim, Islam)

Queer Shiek, Being openly gay in Saudi Arabia used to be a death sentence-but times are changing, July/August 2004, http://www.sodomylaws.org/world/saudi_arabia/saudinews025.htm (Saudi Arabia, Gay, Homosexuality, Lesbian, Sex, Sharia, Wahhabi, Muslim, Islam)

Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International, Amnesty International | Working to Protect Human Rights (Saudi Arabia, Gay, Homosexuality, Lesbian, Sex, Sharia, Wahhabi, Muslim, Islam)

Saudi Arabia: The Closet Kingdom, Gay Pride Flourishes in the Cradle of Islam, Western Resistance,

http://www.westernresistance.com/blog/archives/003716.html (Saudi Arabia, Gay, Homosexuality, Lesbian, Sex, Sharia, Wahhabi, Muslim, Islam)

Helping Islamic Gays, Independent Gay Forum, (Originally appeared Feb. 6, 2002, in the Chicago Free Press, Indegayforum (Saudi Arabia, Gay, Homosexuality, Lesbian, Sex, Sharia, Wahhabi, Muslim, Islam)

Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Fawzan, The Evil Sin of Homosexualityhttp://www.frontpagemag.com/articles/Printable.asp?ID=5704 Saudi Arabia, Gay, Homosexuality, Lesbian, Sex, Sharia, Wahhabi, Muslim, Islam)

Homosexuality on the Rise in Saudi Arabia - Yahoo Voices - voices.yahoo.com

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The Kingdom in the Closet

Sodomy is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, but gay life flourishes there. Why it is “easier to be gay than straight” in a society where everyone, homosexual and otherwise, lives in the closet.

Nadya Labi

Yasser, a 26-year-old artist, was taking me on an impromptu tour of his hometown of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on a sweltering September afternoon. The air conditioner of his dusty Honda battled the heat, prayer beads dangled from the rearview mirror, and the smell of the cigarette he’d just smoked wafted toward me as he stopped to show me a barbershop that his friends frequent. Officially, men in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to wear their hair long or to display jewelry—such vanities are usually deemed to violate an Islamic instruction that the sexes must not be too similar in appearance. But Yasser wears a silver necklace, a silver bracelet, and a sparkly red stud in his left ear, and his hair is shaggy. Yasser is homosexual, or so we would describe him in the West, and the barbershop we visited caters to gay men. Business is brisk.

Leaving the barbershop, we drove onto Tahlia Street, a broad avenue framed by palm trees, then went past a succession of sleek malls and slowed in front of a glass-and-steel shopping center. Men congregated outside and in nearby cafés. Whereas most such establishments have a family section, two of this area’s cafés allow only men; not surprisingly, they are popular among men who prefer one another’s company. Yasser gestured to a parking lot across from the shopping center, explaining that after midnight it would be “full of men picking up men.” These days, he said, “you see gay people everywhere.”

Yasser turned onto a side street, then braked suddenly. “Oh shit, it’s a checkpoint,” he said, inclining his head toward some traffic cops in brown uniforms. “Do you have your ID?” he asked me. He wasn’t worried about the gay-themed nature of his tour—he didn’t want to be caught alone with a woman. I rummaged through my purse, realizing that I’d left my passport in the hotel for safekeeping. Yasser looked behind him to see if he could reverse the car, but had no choice except to proceed. To his relief, the cops nodded us through. “God, they freaked me out,” Yasser said. As he resumed his narration, I recalled something he had told me earlier. “It’s a lot easier to be gay than straight here,” he had said. “If you go out with a girl, people will start to ask her questions. But if I have a date upstairs and my family is downstairs, they won’t even come up.”


Notorious for its adherence to Wahhabism, a puritanical strain of Islam, and as the birthplace of most of the 9/11 hijackers, Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country that claims sharia, or Islamic law, as its sole legal code. The list of prohibitions is long: It’s haram—forbidden—to smoke, drink, go to discos, or mix with an unrelated person of the opposite gender. The rules are enforced by the mutawwa'in, religious authorities employed by the government’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The kingdom is dominated by mosques and malls, which the mutawwa'in patrol in leather sandals and shortened versions of the thawb, the traditional ankle-length white robe that many Saudis wear. Some mutawwa'ineven bear marks of their devotion on their faces; they bow to God so adamantly that pressing their foreheads against the ground leaves a visible dent. The mutawwa'in prod shoppers to say their devotions when the shops close for prayer, several times daily. If they catch a boy and a girl on a date, they might haul the couple to the police station. They make sure that single men steer clear of the malls, which are family-only zones for the most part, unless they are with a female relative. Though the power of the mutawwa'in has been curtailed recently, their presence still inspires fear.

In Saudi Arabia, sodomy is punishable by death. Though that penalty is seldom applied, just this February a man in the Mecca region was executed for having sex with a boy, among other crimes. (For this reason, the names of most people in this story have been changed.) Ask many Saudis about homosexuality, and they’ll wince with repugnance. “I disapprove,” Rania, a 32-year-old human-resources manager, told me firmly. “Women weren’t meant to be with women, and men aren’t supposed to be with men.”

This legal and public condemnation notwithstanding, the kingdom leaves considerable space for homosexual behavior. As long as gays and lesbians maintain a public front of obeisance to Wahhabist norms, they are left to do what they want in private. Vibrant communities of men who enjoy sex with other men can be found in cosmopolitan cities like Jeddah and Riyadh. They meet in schools, in cafés, in the streets, and on the Internet. “You can be cruised anywhere in Saudi Arabia, any time of the day,” said Radwan, a 42-year-old gay Saudi American who grew up in various Western cities and now lives in Jeddah. “They’re quite shameless about it.” Talal, a Syrian who moved to Riyadh in 2000, calls the Saudi capital a “gay heaven.”

This is surprising enough. But what seems more startling, at least from a Western perspective, is that some of the men having sex with other men don’t consider themselves gay. For many Saudis, the fact that a man has sex with another man has little to do with “gayness.” The act may fulfill a desire or a need, but it doesn’t constitute an identity. Nor does it strip a man of his masculinity, as long as he is in the “top,” or active, role. This attitude gives Saudi men who engage in homosexual behavior a degree of freedom. But as a more Westernized notion of gayness—a notion that stresses orientation over acts—takes hold in the country, will this delicate balance survive?

‘They will seduce you’

When Yasser hit puberty, he grew attracted to his male cousins. Like many gay and lesbian teenagers everywhere, he felt isolated. “I used to have the feeling that I was the queerest in the country,” he recalled. “But then I went to high school and discovered there are others like me. Then I find out, it’s a whole society.”

This society thrives just below the surface. During the afternoon, traffic cops patrol outside girls’ schools as classes end, in part to keep boys away. But they exert little control over what goes on inside. A few years ago, a Jeddah- based newspaper ran a story on lesbianism in high schools, reporting that girls were having sex in the bathrooms. Yasmin, a 21-year-old student in Riyadh who’d had a brief sexual relationship with a girlfriend (and was the only Saudi woman who’d had a lesbian relationship who was willing to speak with me for this story), told me that one of the department buildings at her college is known as a lesbian enclave. The building has large bathroom stalls, which provide privacy, and walls covered with graffiti offering romantic and religious advice; tips include “she doesn’t really love you no matter what she tells you” and “before you engage in anything with [her] remember: God is watching you.” In Saudi Arabia, “It’s easier to be a lesbian [than a heterosexual]. There’s an overwhelming number of people who turn to lesbianism,” Yasmin said, adding that the number of men in the kingdom who turn to gay sex is even greater. “They’re not really homosexual,” she said. “They’re like cell mates in prison.”

This analogy came up again and again during my conversations. As Radwan, the Saudi American, put it, “Some Saudi [men] can’t have sex with women, so they have sex with guys. When the sexes are so strictly segregated”—men are allowed little contact with women outside their families, in order to protect women’s purity—“how do they have a chance to have sex with a woman and not get into trouble?” Tariq, a 24-year-old in the travel industry, explains that many “tops” are simply hard up for sex, looking to break their abstinence in whatever way they can. Francis, a 34-year-old beauty queen from the Philippines (in 2003 he won a gay beauty pageant held in a private house in Jeddah by a group of Filipinos), reported that he’s had sex with Saudi men whose wives were pregnant or menstruating; when those circumstances changed, most of the men stopped calling. “If they can’t use their wives,” Francis said, “they have this option with gays.”

Gay courting in the kingdom is often overt—in fact, the preferred mode is cruising. “When I was new here, I was worried when six or seven cars would follow me as I walked down the street,” Jamie, a 31-year-old Filipino florist living in Jeddah, told me. “Especially if you’re pretty like me, they won’t stop chasing you.” John Bradley, the author of Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis (2005), says that most male Western expatriates here, gay or not, have been propositioned by Saudi men driving by “at any time of the day or night, quite openly and usually very, very persistently.”

Many gay expatriates say they feel more at home in the kingdom than in their native lands. Jason, a South African educator who has lived in Jeddah since 2002, notes that although South Africa allows gay marriage, “it’s as though there are more gays here.” For Talal, Riyadh became an escape. When he was 17 and living in Damascus, his father walked in on him having sex with a male friend. He hit Talal and grounded him for two months, letting him out of the house only after he swore he was no longer attracted to men. Talal’s pale face flushed crimson as he recalled his shame at disappointing his family. Eager to escape the weight of their expectations, he took a job in Riyadh. When he announced that he would be moving, his father responded, “You know all Saudis like boys, and you are white. Take care.” Talal was pleased to find a measure of truth in his father’s warning—his fair skin made him a hit among the locals.

Marcos, a 41-year-old from the Philippines, was arrested in 1996 for attending a party featuring a drag show. He spent nine months in prison, where he got 200 lashes, before being deported. Still, he opted to return; he loves his work in fashion, which pays decently, and the social opportunities are an added bonus. “Guys romp around and parade in front of you,” he told me. “They will seduce you. It’s up to you how many you want, every day.”

The Kingdom in the Closet - Nadya Labi - The Atlantic


They say they are the purest country in the world but truth hurts. Riyadh and Jeddah has many hotels where gay dance parties held at night every week. Its pretty shocking.
 
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Chronos

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I think it's the process of coming out, more than increasing homosexuality.

Homosexuality has always been part of Human history, and it will continue to be so. They are not worthy of the derision and hatred they get.

They to deserve to recieve love and give love, and be treated as Human beings :cheers:
 

IamBengali

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I think it's the process of coming out, more than increasing homosexuality.

Homosexuality has always been part of Human history, and it will continue to be so. They are not worthy of the derision and hatred they get.

They to deserve to recieve love and give love, and be treated as Human beings :cheers:
I don't hate homosexuals. They are also human. I am just so pissed with Saudi Arabia's double faced nature. They will try to make you believe that their society is very Islamic. They will make every attempt to hide all these 'secrets' of them. Good that they are coming out but open gay parties don't even held in some western countries but this country has it. Its pretty shocking.
 

Jf Thunder

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LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! just as expected, ok now this is pretext enough to bomb them, now lets bomb them please, India will help us in this noble mission, no? except Makkah and Madinah
 

Dem!god

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Dave, a gay American teacher living in Saudi Arabia, put it this way: ``Let's say there's a group of men sitting around a cafe. If a smooth faced boy walks by, they all stop and make approving comments. They're just noting: ``That's a hot little number.''
:omghaha::omghaha::omghaha:
 

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Saudi gays flaunt new freedoms: 'Straights can't kiss in public or hold hands like us'




Jeddah: In the glass and marble shopping malls of this cosmopolitan and comparatively laid-back city on the Red Sea, young Saudi Arabian men are taking advantage of the emergence of an increasingly tolerated Western-oriented gay scene.


Certain malls are known as cruising areas, and there are even gay-friendly coffee shops. A big gay disco takes place at a private villa in the north of the city once a week. And young Saudis who frequent these venues, many returnees from the United States after the 11 September 2001 attacks, say that they get to know one another through the internet.


The paradox of Saudi Arabia is that while the executioner's sword awaits anyone convicted of the crime of sodomy, in practice homosexuality is tolerated.



"I don't feel oppressed at all," said one, a 23-year-old who was meeting in one of the coffee shops with a group of self-identified "gay" Saudi friends dressed in Western clothes and speaking fluent English. "I heard that after 11 September, a Saudi student who was going to be deported on a visa technicality applied for political asylum because he was gay," he added, provoking laughter from the others. "What was he thinking of? We have more freedom here than straight couples. After all, they can't kiss in public like we can, or stroll down the street holding one another's hand."



Saudi Arabia's domestic reform initiative, combined with the kingdom's eagerness to shed an international reputation for fostering extremism and intolerance, may even have some benefits for this strict Islamic society's gay community. Shortly after the attacks on America - most of the suicide-hijackers were Saudi nationals - a Saudi diplomat in Washington denied that the kingdom beheads homosexuals, while openly admitting that "sodomy" is practised by consenting males in Saudi Arabia "on a daily basis". Even the head of the notorious religious police has since acknowledged the existence of a local gay population.



The treatment of gay men here received international attention when an Interior Ministry statement reported in January 2002 that three men in the southern city of Abha had been "beheaded for homosexuality". The report provoked widespread condemnation from gay and human-rights groups in the West - and a swift denial from an official at the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC. Tariq Allegany, an embassy spokesman, said the three were beheaded for the sexual abuse of boys. He said: "I would guess there's sodomy going on daily in Saudi Arabia, but we don't have executions for it all the time."



A Riyadh-based Western diplomat, aware of the details of the case, confirmed the men were beheaded for "rape". "The three men seduced a number of very young boys and videoed themselves raping them. Then they used the recordings, and the fear the boys had of being exposed, to get the youngsters to recruit their friends," he said. While homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia, doubt surrounds specific punishment for it. Some gay foreigners were deported in the 1990s, "but no Saudi has ever been prosecuted for 'being a homosexual'. The concept just doesn't exist here," the Western diplomat said. Since the uproar over the beheadings, the kingdom's Internet Services Unit, responsible for blocking sites deemed "unIslamic" or politically sensitive, unblocked access to its home page for gay Saudi surfers after being bombarded with critical e-mails from the US.



A S Getenio, manager of GayMiddleEast.com, said Saudi Arabia seemed concerned about the bad publicity blocking the site would bring, "at the time it was involved in a multi-million dollar advertising campaign in the US to improve its image".



Ibrahim bin Abdullah bin Ghaith, the head of the religious police (the Committee for the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue) acknowledged, in unusually tempered language, that there are gay Saudis, while also speaking of the need "to educate the young" about this "vice". But he denied media reports that gay and lesbian relationships were the norm in the strictly segregated schools and colleges, that homosexuality "is spreading".



In an unprecedented two-page special investigation, the daily newspaper said lesbianism was "endemic" among schoolgirls. It justified the article with a saying of the Prophet's wife Ayeshathat "there should be no shyness in religion". The article told of lesbian sex in school lavatories, girls stigmatised after refusing the advances of their fellow students, and teachers complaining that none of the girls were willing to change their behaviour.



Mr Ghaith dismissed a suggestion that he should send his "enforcers" to investigate. Armed with sticks, they routinely hunt down men and women in public they suspect may not be directly related. "This perversion is found in all countries," he told. "The number [of homosexuals] here is small ..." That assessment is contradicted by teachers and students who say that, in the absence of other outlets, a "gay" subculture has inevitably flourished among youth.



"A particularly beautiful boy always gets top marks in the exams because he's some teacher's favourite," said Mohammed, an English teacher in a government high school in Riyadh. "On the other hand, I know many older boys who deliberately flunked their final exams so they can stay ... with their younger sweethearts."



Ahmed, 19, a student at a private college in Jeddah, said there was no shame in having a boyfriend in his private high school. Although he firmly rejected the label "gay", he admitted that he now has a "special friend" in college, too. "It's those who don't have a boy who are ashamed to admit it. We introduce our boy to our friends as 'al walid hagi' [the boy who belongs to me]. At the beginning of term, we always check out the new boys to see which are the most ' helu' [sweet] and think of ways to get to know them."

Saudi gays flaunt new freedoms: 'Straights can't kiss in public or hold hands like us' - Middle East - World - The Independent
 

Informant

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LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! just as expected, ok now this is pretext enough to bomb them, now lets bomb them please, India will help us in this noble mission, no? except Makkah and Madinah
Dont be sentimental, gays are everywhere. The thing with this report is its a little exaggerated. The absence of female contact makes young hormonal guy look elsewhere. This necessarily doesnt mean they are gay when they become a "TOP" guy and screw a "BOTTOM" guy. Well this is their thinking so this combined with actual gays makes these things happen.

I have seen plenty of gay dudes in UAE, nationals and foreigners. Also KSA dudes hit on men like nothing ( only those who found men interesting :D ). Heck i was cat-called? on the way back from a cricket match, hahaa. Was surprised at a dude cat calling me. Heck I saw a gay couple in an American University in UAE that were openly gay, holding and touching each other like its nobody's business.

In the end so what man, let them chill.
 
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