Showing posts with label Middle East Gays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Middle East Gays. Show all posts

September 17, 2018

After 6 Hour Interview Another Gay Immigrant Seeking Refuge is Denied Entry Because of Not Gay Enough

People at the border between Austria and Germany in 2015
 Border between Austria and Germany( Kerstin Joensson/AP)

Over the last month there have been a few notable cases of asylum seekers in Austria. In each of the cases, the men in question, who are from Muslim countries, claim to be gay, but are rejected for not acting gay enough.
The first two cases were reported on August 15th. The first involved an Afghan teenager who was rejected when an immigration official told him that he didn’t “walk, act, or dress” like a gay man, according to The Guardian. The teen also got into fights with other men in his accommodation, and his aggression, according to the official, was not something that would be expected out of a gay man.
Other factors that the official led with were the fact that he didn’t have many friends — “Aren’t homosexuals rather social?” — and that he wouldn’t be able to recognize his own sexuality at a young age, like he had claimed. The teen said he realized his sexuality at the age of 12, but the report from the Austrian official said this was unlikely because it was too young and because the society in Afghanistan isn’t sexually stimulating.
The analysis of this teenager’s personality given by the Austrian immigration official is based on a combination of pretty specific personality stereotypes and just misinformation. Obviously not all gay men are social, and even if they were, I’m not sure the attitudes of someone trying to gain asylum are completely representative of their personality. Also, you don’t need to know many gay people to know that it’s very possible to discover your sexuality at 12, or even earlier.
The second case involved an Iranian man, Navid Jafartash, 28, who was first refused asylum when he was asked and couldn’t answer a question about what each color on the LGBT rainbow flag meant. In an interview with the Washington Post, Jafartash said he was certain he would be accepted because he “had an Austrian boyfriend, a number of gay Austrian friends and had even appeared on the country’s main evening news cast to discuss homosexuality — an interview for which he could have faced the death penalty in Iran.”
To put it simply: This is absurd. Let’s put aside the ethnocentrism that comes into play when assuming that all gay men around the world would know anything about the rainbow flag that originated in Kansas. Even in the United States, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find an LGBT person who even knows that each color stands for something, let alone has the knowledge to name them.
On August 27th, a 27-year-old Iraqi man called Firas had his application rejected after a six-hour interview in which officials deemed he was acting too stereotypical to be a real gay man. According to The Independent, he was subsequently outed to his father and brother during questioning — even after assurance that the information from the interview would remain confidential.
Not only does Firas’ story show the Austrian government using pretty irresponsible and violent action towards his wellbeing, but it shows some inconsistencies. We have three separate cases of gay men who are disqualified for multiple reasons — not gay enough, too stereotypically gay and not familiar enough with western gay symbols.
All three of these cases pose the problem of what it means to be gay and how identifying as gay sets expectations of gender expression, interests and personality in general. Plenty of gay men, especially those who grew up with the need to suppress their sexuality, can act as masculine as straight men. And on the other hand, plenty of gay men act in ways that might be considered stereotypical. This isn’t news to anyone in 2018.
However, there might be something darker going on. Rather than the Austrian officials not believing these gay men, they could very well be using the flexibility of LGBT identity in order to deny them asylum for xenophobic or political reasons. If you want to deny someone access to your country, what better way than by insisting that they’re lying about an immaterial part of their identity?
The Austrian government has taken some steps towards more nationalist-driven, restrictive immigration policy. There have been talks of cutting benefits for immigrants, including refugees, who do not speak German. They also recently cut the opportunity for asylum seekers to take labor training apprenticeships, effectively making it more difficult for them to find work in the country.
It seems possible that Austrian immigration officials are setting impossible standards for what being gay is in order to effectively deny asylum to gay men who genuinely fear for their safety. And in the process, they’re recklessly endangering multiple gay people who could be criminally punished in their home country for their sexuality. Setting your own rules for sexuality and behavior is one thing, but using the grey area of queer identity to promote nationalist policy is much more sinister.

Ryan Khosravi

Ryan Khosravi is a culture writer based out of New York, and his thing in the world is beating unsuspecting straight men at Super Smash Bros.

April 20, 2018

"No Longer Alone" The Voices From and To The Middle East


LGBT rights activists from across the Middle East and North Africa bring you on a journey of self-discovery, solidarity and strength.
(Beirut, April 16, 2018) – Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists from Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa are defying state-sponsored repression and social stigma, Human Rights Watch and the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) said in a video series issued today, accompanied by a new report by Human Rights Watch.
In the 75-page report, “Audacity in Adversity: LGBT Activism in the Middle East and North Africa” and video series, “No Longer Alone,”activists tell their stories and describe how they are building their movements. To confront myths and counteract the isolation of many LGBT people in the region, Human Rights Watch and AFE teamed up to produce the videos featuring Arabic-speaking LGBT activists describing their journeys of self-acceptance. Through the video series, they offer messages of support and encouragement to LGBT people throughout the Arabic-speaking world.

“We don’t want the image anymore of just being victims,” says Zoheir, a gay activist from Algeria. “We want to speak about reality, speak about violence, but also to [show what is] positive.”
The report is based on interviews with 34 activists from 16 Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa, interviewed between July 2017 and March 2018. Eighteen activists and artists from ten countries participated in the video series.
The activists encourage young LGBT people to stand up for themselves. Rima, a bisexual woman from Lebanon, speaks directly to other bisexual and lesbian women throughout the region, saying: “Religious figures, the government, your parents – they all want to have a say in what you do between your legs. I want to tell you it’s none of their business and that your body, your desires, and your ideas are yours alone. If they don’t like what you are, they are wrong.”
Activists in the region also claim their rights. “I am a human like everyone else, and I have rights. I will defend those rights,” says Ahmed, a gay man from Libya.
To accompany the videos, Human Rights Watch highlights in the report the resilience of LGBT movements throughout the region and how they are making change. Human Right Watch describes the significant obstacles the activists face in the region, including criminalization of same-sex conduct and gender non-conformity, arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment, lack of recognition of transgender people, violence, restrictions on freedom of expression and association, family rejection and social stigma.
In Oman, an activist described how he and his friends started small: organizing “parties for gay guys to meet and network in a safe space, so that they can help each other in the future.” In Kuwait, a transgender activist trained LGBT people on digital security, working out of people’s houses. In Jordan, a number of activists are using theater and other arts to raise awareness about sexual orientation and gender identity among LGBT communities themselves and in some cases, the general public.  
This report recognizes the severe, pervasive human rights violations that affect LGBT people in most of the Middle East and North Africa. These violations range from extrajudicial killings to mass arrests to censorship of pro-LGBT speech.
While Human Rights Watch was drafting the report, in September 2017, Egyptian security forces cracked down on LGBT people and activists. The security forces arrested dozens of people on charges of “debauchery,” “inciting debauchery,” and participating in an “illegal group” following the display of a rainbow flag – a sign of solidarity with LGBT people – at a concert. But activists demonstrated creativity and dynamism even in such a difficult situation, forming new coalitions to respond to the crackdown, providing emergency shelter for LGBT people being hounded by the police, and galvanizing international pressure on the Egyptian government.
Human Rights Watch and AFE anticipate that the videos and the report will embolden LGBT people throughout the region to affirm themselves and reach out to organizations that can provide them with additional support. A list of organizations that LGBT people can contact for support can be found here.
“It’s hard when you are young,” says Hamed Sinno, the openly gay lead singer of the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila. “And it stays hard, but it gets easier.”

Human Rights Watch

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