Showing posts with label Gay Persecution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Persecution. Show all posts

July 27, 2019

A Gay Man Held Prisoner in Chechen Lives To Tell






BY KATY STEINMETZ 
8:00 AM EDT
It was just after lunchtime on the day Amin Dzhabrailov was taken. A woman who was about to get married had come to the salon in the Chechen capital of Grozny where he worked, and the two were happily chatting as he colored her hair. Then, he recalls, three men in uniform barged in, asking for him by name. Soon, Dzhabrailov was being hauled outside, handcuffed and thrust into the back of a car. It was hot. He felt like he couldn’t breathe. As the car took off, “my heart stopped,” he says.
Though the three men didn’t explain why they had come, it soon became clear, as they took Dzhabrailov’s phone, demanded his password and started scouring the device for messages and photos that would prove he was guilty of something considered deeply shameful in the conservative, predominantly Muslim republic: being gay. Dzhabrailov doesn’t recall how long the car ride lasted, but he does recall his overriding fear. “The door is going to open,” the 27-year-old tells TIME, “and I’m going to die.”
Dzhabrailov is one of at least dozens of men who were detained and tortured in an anti-gay “purge” that took place in Chechnya in 2017, according to news reportshuman rights organizations and European agencies. He is also one of the first to go on the record about his experience and reveal his identity in the media, though he fears retaliation against himself and his family. 
Despite international attention and outcry that followed the 2017 purge — including calls for Russian officials to investigate reported lawlessness and misbehavior among Chechen law enforcement — human rights organizationssay another anti-gay sweep took place in late 2018 and early 2019. Dzhabrailov, who fled to Canada from Russia after his detainment, is going public now because he wants to draw attention to the ongoing persecution of gay people in his homeland. “Each person matters. His rights matter,” Dzhabrailov says. 
It’s dangerous to tell his story. But two years in North America, including participation in New York City’s annual pride march this year, have helped him summon the courage to speak out. “It’s also dangerous not telling,” he says, “because this is going to continue.” 
Human rights groups and experts who have been keeping an eye on the Chechen situation express similar fears, and some say that what’s happening there is part of a broader trend. The rise of nationalism in many countries has dovetailed with the targeting of vulnerable minorities, even in countries like the United States that have seen civil rights for LGBTQ people shored up by lawmakers and courts: There has been an uptick in hate crimes against that demographic in the U.S. in recent years, with the majority targeting gay men. 
“What’s been reported in Chechnya is a crime against humanity,” says Lisa Davis, co-director of the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic at the CUNY School of Law. “And we see this as a pattern of practice, a wave of violence that’s been happening across the globe.” When events like those in Chechnya fail to lead to consequences such as international condemnation, even amid widespread publicity, she says, “it sends the message that such persecution is tolerated.” 
Chechen officials have denied such crackdowns occurred. One government spokesperson said it wasn’t possible because gay people “don’t exist” in that part of Russia and if they did, their own relatives would be so ashamed that they “would have sent them to where they could never return.” The first individual to publicly challenge that stance was forced to recant and apologize on state TV in late 2017, after he came out in TIME and the state went after him and his relatives. 
“This is insane,” Dzhabrailov says. “Gay people are just everywhere.”
Dzhabrailov’s description of being detained, beaten, and forcibly outed to relatives who were encouraged to commit “honor killings” echoes testimony from other men who have fled Russia’s Northern Caucasus region in recent years.
The car carrying the slender, normally bubbly young man that day in March 2017 stopped somewhere outside Grozny at an unfamiliar building, and Dzhabrailov was led into one of many rooms lining a long hallway.
Amin Dzhabrailov in New York on June 30, 2019.
Amin Dzhabrailov in New York on June 30, 2019.

Heather Sten for TIME
According to Human Rights Watch, the roundups in 2017 were carried out by law enforcement officials and sanctioned by top-level Chechen authorities. Dzhabrailov says he doesn’t know who the several men there to receive him in the room were. (They seemed to be police who were “doing dirty work,” he says.) But he clearly remembers their actions. They sat him on a chair, he says, and demanded that he admit to being gay and name other gay men. At the same time, he says they kicked him with heavy boots and hit him with long plastic pipes, not wanting to touch him directly because of his sexual orientation. 
Though he admitted to being gay, Dzhabrailov says the violence escalated when he refused to name other gay men. The men took out a black box that Dzhabrailov presumed was a lie detector but that turned out to be a machine that delivered electric shocks. They attached wires to his fingers and put water on his body to help the current travel more effectively. “It was so painful, you’re just screaming, that’s all you could do,” he says. 
Eventually one of the men pulled out a gun, put it into Dzhabrailov’s mouth and threatened to kill him if he didn’t give up names. “At this moment, I myself, died,” he says. As he describes this part of his ordeal, he struggles through tears and an inability to find all the words he wants in English. “I was so lost,” he repeats. “I was so lost.”
After vowing to “keep working” on him, the men put Dzhabrailov into another room in the same building with about 25 other people in it. Some were men who were there because they were presumed to be gay, but there were also men and women who were apparently being detained for other reasons, he says. 
Agencies like the Council of Europe’s Committee For the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment have long accused officials in Chechnya of unlawfully detaining and mistreating individuals (and have criticized Russian authorities’ “persistent failure to improve the situation”). While LGBT people are one at-risk group, abuses have also been reported among alleged drug users, suspected terrorists and journalists.
Dzhabrailov says he was held for two weeks, cycling from the room where detainees were kept — and where he slept using a half-full plastic bottle as a pillow — to the room where he was beaten. There was torture “almost” every day. He and other gay men were also put to work washing cars and bathrooms and, one day, taken to clean garbage out of a lake. He describes it as being treated “like slaves.” 
Each man dreaded hearing his name called by the people running the facility, because that meant it was his turn to be beaten and pressed for information about other gay men. But it was also hard to see anyone else get called. “You’re going to hear his screams from the other side of the wall,” Dzhabrailov explains, adding that the captives tried to encourage each other not to name names.
After he survived the first few days, Dzhabrailov began to hope that he would be released. That hope was realized in a bittersweet fashion when, after about two weeks, he and the other men were told to give up phone numbers of their family members. In typical fashion, Dzhabrailov had never come out to his family. Given the strength of the taboo in Chechnya, being openly gay “is simply not an option” and “coming out of the closet would be suicidal,” says Tanya Lokshina, associate director for Human Rights Watch in Europe and Central Asia.
Family members of all the detainees were summoned and gathered in a room and were then told that their siblings and sons were gay, Dzhabrailov says. Three of his brothers came. The detainees were then brought in and officials gestured to them, saying “‘You should take away your shame,’” Dzhabrailov recalls. “It was directly meaning ‘You should kill your kids because they are gay and this is shame for Chechnya and for your family.’”
When Dzhabrailov left with his brothers, he wanted to celebrate. He was thrilled to be released and to see them again. But there was only silence as they walked away from the building. “Everything changed,” he says. “My body was blue, purple. My heart was broken. My life was broken. I lost family, friends, career. Everything.”
His family did not hurt him. But for several days after he was released, Dzhabrailov could only sleep during the daytime, for fear that officials would return under the cover of darkness and take him again. After five days, he decided he had to leave Chechnya. He couldn’t have a life there now that he had been exposed. A longtime friend who had moved to Moscow from Chechnya asked him to come stay, and so on his 25th birthday, Dzhabrailov left everything he knew behind. 
The friend was Viskhan, a 28-year-old who prefers to only use his first name and tells TIME through a translator that he had left the republic years earlier because he was also persecuted for being gay. In his case, this happened in a more typical but still brutal fashion: men who appeared to be police officials posed as someone interested in a romantic encounter on a dating app, and when Viskhan agreed to meet in person, he was beaten and threatened with a gun. 
Sometimes these assailants demand money from such victims. In Viskhan’s case, he says, they demanded that he message with another man through the dating site to gather information that could be used against that individual.
“You always feel guilty,” Viskhan says of being gay in Chechnya. And survivors like him continue to struggle with the trauma of having been targeted by powerful people. “When we sleep, we go to bed with fear and when we wake up, we wake up with fear,” he says. 
Viskhan, who is also now living as a refugee in Canada, had learned through friends in Chechnya that Dzhabrailov had “disappeared” for two weeks. In an interview with TIME, he describes the physical appearance of his friend when he arrived in Moscow as “horror,” motioning to his side, arms, hips and back to point out where Dzhabrailov was injured. When they saw each other at the airport, both began to cry. 
Dzhabrailov soon decided the Chechen diaspora in Moscow was too prevalent and close-knit for him to be safe. “There was this massive panic” at the time, Viskhan says, with gay Chechens fearful that officials would come after them and homophobic countrymen living in Moscow would be anxious to help. 
And so Dzhabrailov moved on to St. Petersburg. For a month, he stayed with another friend and never left the building, living with paranoia that he would be tracked down and, perhaps, killed this time.
Amin Dzhabrailov and Kimahli Powell, executive director of the Rainbow Railroad organization, watch the Pride parade in New York on June 30, 2019.
Amin Dzhabrailov and Kimahli Powell, executive director of the Rainbow Railroad organization, watch the Pride parade in New York on June 30, 2019.

Heather Sten for TIME
Eventually the friend convinced him to reach out to a group called the Russian LGBT Network, which was attempting to help victims of the Chechen purge. Many dreaded being hunted by their families as well, and the organization was looking for ways to get them out of Russia. After months of waiting and living in shelters provided by the group, Dzhabrailov finally found himself in a small room with someone who gave him hope that claiming asylum in another country might be possible. 
The Russian LGBT Network had contacted Rainbow Railroad, a Canada-based international organization that specializes in helping LGBT people escape countries where they face imminent danger because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And the executive director, Kimahli Powell, had traveled to Russia to interview Chechen men who wanted to leave, a standard part of the organization’s vetting process.
It was nearing midnight when Powell prepared to sit down with Dzhabrailov, who was his last interview of a long day. He recalls the young hairstylist being forthright and — in what appeared to be a means of creating some order among chaos — especially well-coiffed. After hearing his story, along with dozens of others on the trip, “we knew we had to get them out of the country,” Powell says. “The question became where.”
Though Rainbow Railroad is guarded about how it facilitates travel, the organization will say that it eventually resettled roughly 70 Chechen men in other countries, some victims of the purge and some with credible fears that they would be targeted. Some went to Belgium, some to the Netherlands, and many went to Canada. 
Dzhabrailov vividly remembers stepping off a plane in North America in July of 2017, four months after his abduction. “I felt like I came back home. I was feeling so calm,” he says, “like I left a dark room and opened up the door to the light.” 
Some months later, after Viskhan’s life was threatened by a Chechen man living in Moscow, the same organizations helped him flee too. 
When reports of the 2017 purge in Chechnya surfaced, it seemed like Russian officials would act. Investigations appeared to be getting underway but such efforts came to little, watchdogs say. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a regional security organization that counts 57 states among its members, did its own investigation and released its findings in late 2018, concluding that the allegations of unlawful detentions and torture in Chechnya were credible. “[T]here is a problem of total impunity of the security forces” amid a “grave situation with regard to human rights,” it said.
Viskhan sees the crackdowns as part of wider oppression that has taken root in recent years. Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has kept the once rebellious region firmly under Moscow’s control for well over a decade. In exchange, the Kremlin has allowed him to rule Chechnya as what some reportshave described as a “personal fiefdom.” On his watch, women allegedly have been intimidated and shot with paintball guns for wearing clothes that Muslim men deemed immodest, for example.
“People gradually started having feelings of hate toward the modern way of life. The society saw that more and more people were free, freely expressing themselves,” Viskhan says of how the culture in Chechnya changed as he got older. “This manifested in hatred toward different ways of life.”
Experts on LGBT rights say that lawlessness — along with religion or conservative beliefs about gender norms — tends to be the common thread when it comes to identifying places where gay or transgender people are most at-risk. While the purges in Chechnya have been unusual in terms of their scale and severity, at least 68 countries have laws that criminalize same-sex relations, and persecution of LGBT individuals is not uncommon around the world. Countries such as UgandaEgyptBrunei and Iraq have all seen breakouts of anti-gay animus in recent years.
Rainbow Railroad has been seeing this wave in terms of the number of requests from people who want help leaving their home countries out of fear for their safety. In 2018, it received 1,300 such requests. This year, the organization had 1,500 requests by June. “It’s consistent story after story of just real horrific persecution,” Powell says.
Several factors limit how many people Rainbow Railroad can move each year. It is dependent on donations and the openness of host countries. There are some countries, like Syria, where the organization’s workers simply cannot develop safe routes of passage.
None of the roughly 70 Chechens that Rainbow Railroad relocated went to the United States. The situation required “a response that was more immediate and more robust than the United States was willing to do,” Powell says. In the hopes of furthering their work with the country — even under the Trump Administration, which pushed to limit the acceptance of refugees — both he and Dzhabrailov visited officials in Washington, D.C. last year. They met with staff from the State Department, the White House and Congress, and the Chechen refugee told his story while Powell tried to summon political will. “Did I leave with any promises? Absolutely not,” Powell says. But, he adds, “we’re playing a long game here.”
While Dzhabrailov is going public to help shine the international spotlight on what happened to men like him, he is also thinking about what life was like when he was a boy. He remembers how, as a young man, he heard about a Chechen man who was murdered because he was gay. Growing up, he lived in fear, adopting two personas — a straight one and a secret one, pursuing romance only in hidden locations and using fake names. His hope is that young gay men in Chechnya might come across his story today and see that there’s hope. “Even if you’re in trouble, you can get out,” he says, “and be free men, just free men.”
As for official denials that the purge took place, Dzhabrailov has few words to say. “The truth,” he says, “exists.”
Write to Katy Steinmetz at katy.steinmetz@time.com.

June 12, 2019

Iran Defends The Execution of Gay People


I'm sharing this new story as it appeared yesterday on DW.com

The US on Wednesday accused Iran of violating fundamental human rights after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Sarif endorsed the execution of gay people.
Sarif defended his country's draconian policies at a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Tehran on Monday.
A reporter from German tabloid Bild asked: "Why are homosexuals executed in Iran because of their sexual orientation?"
He responded: "Our society has moral principles. And we live according to these principles. These are moral principles concerning the behavior of people in general. And that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed," after railing against human rights violations by the US and Israel.
Maas, who was in Iran to negotiate the continuation of the nuclear deal, largely ignored the issue at the time.
Shadi Amin, an Iranian writer and activist who now lives in Germany, told DW-Farsi that she was "outraged" by the Iranian foreign minister's comments. "Humiliation, repression and sexual harassment of a particular social group should be viewed critically and prohibited by law," Amin said.
Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran in 1979 (picture-alliance/AP Images)

IRAN'S ISLAMIC REVOLUTION 40 YEARS ON

'I feel nothing'

On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran from exile in France. When a reporter asked him how he felt upon his return to Iran, Khomeini replied: "Nothing — I feel nothing." Some analysts interpreted his remarks as the Shiite leader's idea about embarking on a "divine mission" where emotions hardly mattered.
"Violating LGBT rights under the guise of 'moral principles' shows that Zarif doesn't respect human rights. LGBT rights are human rights. Iran must not violate them by giving religious or cultural reasons," she said. "New laws have made societies aware of the differences and accept them."
"Many homosexuals tell us of abuse, torture and threats faced by their families and friends. As long as the country's laws do not change, the situation of homosexuals in Iran will not improve," said Amin.  Inhuman and unacceptable
The German Foreign Ministry's Michael Roth later clarified to Bild: "LGBTI rights are human rights. And they have always been. Everywhere. No religious, cultural or ethnic tradition justifies state persecution, especially the execution of homosexuals. In Iran and seven other countries worldwide, homosexuals face the death penalty. That is inhuman and completely unacceptable."
His comments came after Maas was criticized by German politicians for not addressing the issue at the time.
The US ambassador to Germany and the country's most senior openly-gay official, Richard Grenell, on Wednesday slammed Iran for its position in comments to German and Israeli media.
"The Iranian regime has violated basic principles of the United Nations," he told the German Press Agency (DPA).
"UN members should honor (the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights) if they want to be members at all. The criminalization of homosexuality plainly violates this declaration."
Homosexuality violates Islamic Law in Iran and can be punishable by death. Several thousand people have been executed for homosexuality since the 1979 Islamic revolution, according to some rights activists.


May 12, 2019

The Chechnya Persecution of Gay Men Has Not Ended Electrocution and Starvation Continues



             

 New Purge in Chechnya on Gay men. Besides their secret prisons they have electrocution.
Four men who fled conservative region say they were beaten and humiliated for up to 20 days with limited water


Gay men are being electrocuted and strung up by their legs in a new wave of torture in Chechnya, according to a human rights group.
Human Rights Watch said it interviewed four gay men who claimed they fled the conservative, predominantly Muslim region after police allegedly beat and shocked them with electric currents while they were strung up by their legs.
The international group, headquartered in New York, said the accounts made by the men, who were allegedly detained for between three and 20 days between December 2018 and February 2019, were consistent with a complaint an LGBT+ activist filed in January.
Also, in January this year, a warning appeared on social media urging all vulnerable men and women to flee Chechnya as it was feared a new “anti-gay purge” was underway.
In 2017, activists said more than 100 gay men were detained and tortured in Chechnya during a “purge”, and that some were killed. 
There was no immediate comment on the report from Chechen officials, who rejected the allegations in 2017.  
Human Rights Watch said in a report on Wednesday that the men it interviewed reported being beaten, humiliated and held for up to 20 days with limited water.
The four said interrogators also demanded information about other gay men in Chechnya, according to the organisation.
One man said he had been living elsewhere but returned to Chechnya to attend a family wedding. 
In the evening, he met a man he’d connected with through a dating app, and police arrived and took him away. The man said he believed he was set up. 
Human Rights Watch said it thought the 2017 mistreatment of gay men was not adequately investigated.  
Tanya Lokshina, the organisation’s associate director for Europe and Central Asia, said: “The absolute impunity for the anti-gay purge of 2017 emboldens the perpetrators.
“We have absolutely no evidence these round-ups were sanctioned by top-level Chechen leadership, but the police officials clearly felt at liberty to hold and torture those men.”
Homosexuality is decriminalised in Russia, but animosity towards sexual minorities still widely persists.

May 2, 2019

Brunei 'Kill The Gays Law’ Backlash with Boycott of Hotels and Banks




Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah
Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (Space Cadet~As per AF) and Queen Saleha ride in a royal chariot during a procession to mark his golden jubilee of accession to the throne in Bandar Seri Begawan, Oct. 5, 2017. Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images
International Buss Times                  
 

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the largest bank in the United States, has joined a rapidly growing number of banks and other business firms boycotting nine international hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah.

Bolkiah wholeheartedly approved a new Shariah-inspired penal code that sentences people convicted of gay sex or adultery to death by stoning.
J.P. Morgan, The Goldman Sachs Group, Deutsche Bank, Bank of America, CitiGroup, Jefferies, Morgan Stanley and Nomura, among other banks have forbidden their employees from staying at hotels owned by the sultan of Brunei while traveling for business. 

Bolkiah controls the Dorchester Collection hotel group based in London. These luxury hotels that are part of Dorchester consist of The Dorchester (London), The Beverly Hills Hotel (Beverly Hills), Plaza Athénée (Paris), Hotel Meurice (Paris), Principe di Savoia (Milan), Hotel Bel-Air (Los Angeles), Coworth Park (southwest of London), 45 Park Lane (London) and Hotel Eden.
Bolkiah has come out publicly to champion and praise the harsh law, which came into full effect last April 3. The law metes out death to both citizens and non-citizens of Brunei, a tiny but oil rich country on the island of Borneo. Those found guilty of offenses under the code will be stoned to death, "witnessed by a group of Muslims."

Brunei’s Shariah-inspired penal code was rolled out in three stages starting May 1, 2014.
"Today...I place my faith in and am grateful to Allah the almighty to announce that tomorrow, Thursday 1 May 2014, will see the enforcement of Sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases,” announced Bolkiah on April 30, 2014.

The United Nations immediately voiced "deep concern" about the planned change to the old penal code. It urged Brunei to delay the changes so they could be reviewed to make sure they complied with international human rights standards.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called the new Shariah-inspired laws cruel and inhumane punishments that breach international human rights laws.

Popular English singer and composer Sir Elton John immediately slammed the law after it came into full effect, and called for a worldwide boycott of hotels owned by Bolkiah. His call has since been taken up by other celebrities such as actor George Clooney, comedian Ellen DeGeneres, and tennis star Billie Jean King.

"Every single time we stay at, or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery,” said Clooney.

He also said while you can’t shame “murderous regimes,” you can “shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.”
"We need to do something now," DeGeneres wrote on Instagram. "Raise your voices now. Spread the word. Rise up."



April 10, 2019

Blogger Perez Hilton Has Been SlammedFor Outing The Son Of Brunei Sultan as Gay~~I think That is News!

For The First Time I will Post a Page from Perez Hilton on my blog. The reason is simply because we blog about different stories and events. But on this particular one Iam with him. When hippocrazy from someone wanting to make some part of the population happy by giving them Gay blood then all bets are off. If you happen to be related to this little and not too smart pompous Sultan and you are gay, you need to come out or someone needs to out you. Outing is very tricky and it belongs to the person who is gay but when you have murder, killing of people for whom they have the genes and the blood runs in your family, this changes everything.
Adam Gonzalez






Perez Hilton slammed for outing Sultan of Brunei's son as gay after country announces death penalty for homosexuality

While the blogger said he revealed Prince Azim's sexuality to point out the hypocrisy of the Sultan's new law, many claimed the revelation has put the prince's life in danger

                            Perez Hilton slammed for outing Sultan of Brunei's son as gay after country announces death penalty for homosexuality
American blogger Perez Hilton has been slammed for outing the Sultan of Brunei's son -- who is the fourth in line to the throne -- as a gay man, shortly after the country enacted a version of  Shariah law, under which those found guilty of homosexuality would be stoned to death. 
Hilton posted a video on YouTube where he alleged that the Sultan's son, Prince Azim,  is "a big old homo". The young prince has often been seen partying with queer celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner and Gus Kenworthy.
In the YouTube video, Perez was heard saying, "Y’all know I don’t out people anymore. I used to do that back in the day but I’m making an exception here. I’m guessing the Sultan of Brunei doesn’t know that his son, Prince Azim, is a big old homo. I would know because I have spent time with Prince Azim. It’s so hypocritical this guy’s son is a big flamer, and now he’s enacted a law to stone to death gay men."  
 Now Hilton is being called out and slammed across social media platforms for his insensitive post, with many saying that he has endangered Azim's life with his revelation. 
One angry user wrote, "Do u even understand the repercussions of your idiotic post @ThePerezHilton? U quite possibly could be the cause of this man's life. This isn't a joke and outing him doesn't help the situation. It makes it worse. Especially for the son of the Sultan. You're a father for god's sake."
Another user added, "Outing someone is never ok. Outing someone because of your interpretation of a law of a foreign country that could cause their death? Irresponsible and cruel. Set a better example for your children."  



Prince Azim has often been seen partying with queer celebrities (Source: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
 A third social media user shared, "You just don’t get it. Family honor is a thing. He may die for dishonoring the family. Not for being gay. You talk the law like they care about the law and will interpret it as you would. Ask kashogghi about the law."
Another outraged user wrote, "You are broken and sad and sick. You have allowed your personal demons to overshadow common sense and human decency. You have become the very thing you claimed to despise."
Hilton defended himself against the backlash, saying, "The law in Brunei is not that it’s illegal to be gay. It’s illegal to have gay sex. There’s a huge difference. You won’t be stoned just for being queer. And to be stoned there needs to be proof that gay sex happened. There must be witnesses. So, he won’t die. No one will." 
 The country implemented a version of Sharia law on April 3 under which all those who were found guilty of male and female homosexuality or adultery would be stoned to death. These new laws apply to children as well as foreigners, even if they are non-Muslim. The law was met with severe backlash from across the world with people calling for the boycott of the Sultan's chain of luxury hotels and airline. 



Perez Hilton slammed for outing the Sultan of Brunei's son Prince Azim (Source: Getty Images

April 6, 2019

Brunei Bringing Back a Law to kill Gays and Started a New Tourist Campaign to Entice Visitors

“The abode of peace beckons”. So says the promotional literature. But Brunei’s latest tourism tagline jars somewhat with the reality on the ground: yesterday the country introduced death by stoning for people found guilty of homosexuality and adultery. 
Brunei’s new penal code, which punishes thieves by amputating their limbs, has been widely condemned by human rights groups, and Hollywood stars such as George Clooney, who has called for a boycott of hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei; a property portfolio that includes London’s Dorchester.
“Brunei’s new penal code is barbaric to the core, imposing archaic punishments for acts that shouldn’t even be crimes,” said Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director. “Sultan Hassanal should immediately suspend amputations, stoning, and all other rights-abusing provisions and punishments.”
Under the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT), “cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishments” are forbidden. Brunei has signed, but not ratified, the convention and is not alone in enforcing a strict interpretation of Sharia law. Corporal punishment is also carried out in the Maldives, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), among other places.

The Sultan of Brunei has drawn criticism from human rights groups
The Sultan of Brunei has drawn criticism from human rights groups CREDIT: AFP
As per the aforementioned destinations, Brunei finds itself in the position of implementing a draconian penal code while trying to court international tourists. With an economy heavily reliant on oil – a commodity incompatible with global commitments to reduce CO2 emissions – Brunei is maneuvering to plug the anticipated gap in crude revenue by tapping into its underexploited potential as a holiday destination.
Currently, only around a quarter of a million tourists visit the country annually – Singapore, by contrast, which sits just across the South China Sea, receives more than that in a week. But the sultanate has ambitions to change that and by 2021 it aims to welcome half a million visitors annually.
To help entice more tourists, the state-owned carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines, recruited M&C Saatchi to devise a clever digital marketing campaign.n“Royal Brunei Airlines intends to grow revenues by increasing overall tourism inflow into Brunei,” explains M&C Saatchi on its website. “The objective is to get more people to plan a Brunei holiday, and choose to fly Royal Brunei Airlines while doing so. Our idea is to position Brunei as the antidote to the modern-day stress of city life in Asia and the world.”
However, even with one of the world’s best marketing agencies behind it, Brunei will now likely face an uphill battle enticing liberally-minded tourists.
“No amount of PR spin can hide the cruelty of Brunei’s new penal code provisions,” said a spokesperson for Amnesty International. “Imposing horrific penalties for acts that shouldn’t even be considered criminal, like same-sex sexual activity, is wrong on every level. The government should immediately withdraw the order enacting Syariah Penal Code Order 2013.”
While the campaign to boycott the Sultan of Brunei’s hotel group presumably extends to the destination itself, it raises questions about the effectiveness of a boycott, which will likely hurt ordinary people harder than the Sultan, whose personal fortune is estimated to be $20 billion (£15.2bn).

Kampong Ayer Floating village in Brunei
Kampong Ayer Floating village in Brunei CREDIT: ISTOCK
“Whilst the Brunei government’s decision to implement barbaric such practices is appalling, that does not mean that a tourism boycott is necessarily the correct response,” said Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel
“It’s important to remember that the government’s response does not always accurately reflect the feelings of the people. And rather than impacting the government, jobs and livelihoods that depend on tourism would be lost, and it's the citizens who would suffer.”
Boycotts also raise questions about where tourists should draw moral lines. The Maldives, where stoning is also a punishment? The UAE, where adulterers are given 100 lashes? Morocco, where homosexuality is punishable by prison?   
“If we boycotted every country that didn’t have a clean record when it comes to human rights or animal welfare, for example, we would be left with a very small handful of places which we would feel comfortable visiting,” said Francis. 
“A country is far more complex than just one issue. We believe tourists have the power to travel responsibly, even in destinations with poor rights records."

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