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Dubai port deal follows anti-gay crackdown.

Even before the deal was announced that would have given the United Arab Emirates (UAE) control of five U.S. ports, reports were circulating about serious human rights abuses in the UAE involving gay men. So alarming were these reports that a group of U.S. Congresspersons led by Barney Frank had already, back in December 2005, sent a letter to the UAE's ambassador protesting the arrest of 26 men in a police raid and the ensuing public flogging. And if the story went largely unreported in the mainstream media, it was all over the GLBT blogosphere, and so for gay and lesbian activists the UAE had now replaced Egypt as the poster country for human rights abuse.

Thus it came as a special shock to those in the know when the Bush Administration announced that they were turning our ports over to--this is a joke, right?--the UAE. Surely the argument that the Emirates was "our ally in the war on terror" rang hollow to anyone paying attention to the horror stories coming out of Dubai, where the arrested men were being tried and sentenced to prison and forced hormone treatments even as the port deal was playing itself out in the press. Americans came together (for once) in opposing the deal on national security grounds, amazed that Bush was trying to force this thing after four years of Arab bashing. A minority of us had even more reason to cringe when he tried to implicate the UAE in his stated goal of spreading democratic values in the Middle East.

The following excerpts from press reports and other documents tell the grim story.

Amnesty International--Public Statement 5 December 2005

United Arab Emirates: Amnesty International seeks clarification of the fate of 26 men arrested at a "gay wedding ceremony."

Amnesty International has expressed strong concern to the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) about the arrest last month at a hotel in Abu Dhabi of 26 men allegedly for organizing a "gay wedding ceremony" and called for urgent clarification of their legal status and treatment in detention. In a letter to UAE Interior Minister Major General Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Amnesty International expressed particular concern about statements reportedly made by police and Interior Ministry officials last week suggesting that the men would be subjected to psychological and hormone treatment to "cure" their sexual identity. Subsequently, however, an Interior Ministry spokesperson denied on 30 November that the men would be subjected to forcible treatment. The men, said to be nationals of the UAE as well as nationals from certain Arab and Asian countries, continue to be detained.

Reuters. Washington, DC. Tue Dec 20, 2005

Yesterday, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-New York) and six other bipartisan House members joined Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) in condemning recent anti-gay actions in the United Arab Emirates. "The UAE is building a 21st-century economy, but these actions are straight out of the dark ages," said Maloney. "I urge the UAE to stop this persecution immediately." ... A full copy of the letter follows.

December 19, 2005

His Excellency Al Asri Al Dhahri, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates

Dear Mr. Ambassador,

We write to express strong agreement with our State Department's condemnation of the recent arrests of 26 gay Arab men during a police raid on a party at a hotel in Abu Dhabi.

We understand many of these men may face charges that could lead to jail sentences and public flogging, and that the Emirate men could also be given what your Ministry of Interior referred to in news reports as "optional" hormone treatment. There has been some suggestion that agreeing to hormone treatment could be used as a bargaining tool to reduce the severity of an individual's sentence, and if there is any truth to this, we believe this is in fact coercive and contrary to standards of international law.

We are also concerned that these arrests appear to be part of a broader, systematic crackdown on gay men in your country. In fact, just after these arrests, public statements by your minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs warning that "there will be no room for homosexual acts in the UAE" and calling on parents to be vigilant for "deviant" behavior in their children seem clearly intended to let gay people know not only that they are not welcome in your country, but also that animus against them will be a public policy priority.

We must tell you that this kind of state-led effort to seek out and persecute adult gay men who are doing no harm to anyone is not the kind of behavior we expect from an ally, and we urge you to stop it.

We believe it is not only wrong morally, it may also undermine your country's standing in the international community and its ongoing efforts to attract foreign investment and thrive as a Middle East hub for information, transportation and tourism. In fact, given that Dubai is one of the world's fastest-growing tourism destinations, which accounts for roughly 17% of your Gross Domestic Product, we hope you recognize that your government's persecution of gay people will be repugnant to many of the world travelers you hope to attract as tourists, as well as to other governments and even corporations who believe that this kind of terrible intolerance against individuals based on their sexual orientation is unacceptable.

Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Tom Lantos, Rep. Sue W. Kelly, Rep. James A. Leach, Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, Rep. Christopher Shays, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney U.K. February 9, 2006

United Arab Emirates Bans "Brokeback"

Despite winning even more awards in London Wednesday, Brokeback Mountain will not be seen by moviegoers in the United Arab Emirates, after the country's government banned the film. Following a lead set by China last month, the UAE said the ban was an attempt to protect its citizens from "offensive, abnormal behaviors." "The film will upset the people of this culture and tradition," said Dr. Abdullah Al Amiri, chairman of the Committee of Financial, Economical and Industrial Affairs of Sharjah Consultative Council. "The portrayal of the sexual behavior of its main character is offensive to eastern societies, particularly Muslims and the Arabs since Islam forbids abnormal behaviors like homosexuality," he added, according to press reports. The decision to bar the film was made by the country's Ministry of Culture and Information. A ministry source told the Khaleej Times that it was allowed to bar the film because its depiction of gay men goes against the country's censors....

WORLD News. 2006-02-22

United Arab Emirates Jails Gays

by Rex Wockner

Eleven of 26 men who were arrested in November at an alleged gay wedding in Ghantout, UAE, were imprisoned for six years on Feb. 11, local media reported. The men were convicted under laws that ban obscenity and homosexual activity. A twelfth man was convicted only on obscenity charges and jailed for one year. The other individuals were acquitted. At the time of the arrests, a government official had threatened that the men also could face hormone treatments. "Because they've put society at risk they will be given the necessary treatment, from male hormone injections to psychological therapies," Abu Dhabian Interior Ministry spokesman Issam Azouri told local media. On Nov. 28, the U.S. State Department denounced the arrests. "The arrest of these individuals is part of a string of recent group arrests of homosexuals in the UAE," the department said. "We call on the government of the United Arab Emirates to immediately stop any ordered hormone and psychological treatment and to comply with the standards of international law."
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Publication:The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:May 1, 2006
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