Little Safety for Gays in the Middle East

From the Forward:
ONLY HUMAN: For Gay Palestinians, Tel Aviv Is Mecca
By kathleen peratis
February 24, 2006
Al-Fatiha — which calls itself the principal international organization promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arabs — is located not in Beirut or Cairo, but in Washington, D.C. And no wonder: The international movement for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people hardly exists inside the Muslim world.

Arab human rights organizations sometimes advocate for gay rights, but they do so sotto voce. In fact, the only country in the Middle East in which gay people may safely leave the closet is Israel. Which is why, for gay Palestinians, Tel Aviv is Mecca.

Gay Palestinian men flee to Israel because they are not safe in the West Bank and Gaza. They also have no place else to go.

"Israel is close and far at the same time," says Haneen Maikey, a gay rights activist with Jerusalem Open House, one of the principal gay rights organizations in Israel. If the sexuality of a gay man in Palestine is exposed, his family might torture or kill him and the police will turn a blind eye.

Because they are so vulnerable to blackmail, it is assumed by the families and neighbors of gay Palestinian men — sometimes correctly — that they have been blackmailed into becoming informers, either for Israeli intelligence or for opposition Palestinian factions. So when they meet a violent end, the motivation of the killers is not entirely clear.

And in Israel? Misinformation abounds. In a 2004 speech at the University of California, Berkeley, Alan Dershowitz said: "I support Israel because I support gay rights. Recently, a progressive congressman, Barney Frank from Massachusetts, worked with me and Israel to grant asylum for 40 Palestinian gays."

Alas, not a word of this is true.

When gay Palestinian men run for their lives into Israel, they do not seek — and they cannot get — "asylum," which is a special status under international law available to those who can establish a "well founded fear of persecution" in the country of their nationality or "place of habitual residence." Israel has never granted asylum to Palestinians, gay or not, says Anat Ben-Dor of the Refugee Rights Clinic at the Tel Aviv University Law Faculty — even those who can credibly claim they will be killed if they are sent back to the West Bank or Gaza. ...

Regime Change Iran: Netherlands to Repatriate Gay Iranians
Iran Press News: Translation by Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi.
Dutch immigration minister Rita Verdonk plans to send Iranian homosexual asylum-seekers back to Iran after canceling a six-month stay, a letter to parliament made public on Friday revealed. READ MORE

The Netherlands had granted the reprieve for gay Iranians after reports that two homosexual teenagers were hanged in northeastern Iran in July last year.

Mrs. Verdonk, a former prison governor, said that contacts between Dutch diplomats and Iranian officials had established that the teenagers were not hanged because they were homosexual, but because they were found guilty of the abduction and rape of a minor.

In the letter Verdonk said that it was now clear "that there is no question of executions or death sentences based solely on the fact that a defendant is gay", adding that homosexuality was never the primary charge against people.

Iran's Islamic law imposes the death penalty for the offense of consensual sodomy, when the act is repeated and when the offender is judged to be an adult of sound mind.

Despite this law Verdonk said that research from the Dutch foreign ministry showed that "it is not completely impossible for gay men and women to function in Iranian society although it is important not to be to open about your sexual orientation".

The Dutch gay rights organization COC branded the minister's decision as "revolting". ...