Showing posts with label Year in Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Year in Review. Show all posts

January 3, 2018

The Year of The RussianPersecution of Gays Defying Modern History

 At the beginning of the Chechen gay pesecution this gay man had the gall to wrap himself in the rainbow flag in protest of their treatment and jailings which latter will become dissapearences and the rainbow flag which latter would become a possible death sentence crime

I can think of only two times it’s happened to me: I read a news story, or even a series of stories, and thought that it contained such extreme exaggerations that it had to be, essentially, false. I could enumerate my reasons, which were similar both times: the stories came from the Russian media, which is unreliable (even in the independent media outlets, reporting standards are often lax); the stories described awful, nearly unthinkable violence that came so neatly, so horrifyingly packaged, that it defied belief. I have known violence to be insidious, messy, trivialized by all participants, even as it happens, and these stories seemed to paint the exact opposite picture. These stories were preposterous—the word Hannah Arendt used in explaining why the world was so slow to understand the murderous threats posed by Hitler and Stalin.

The first story emerged in Russia about four years ago. Reports claimed that organized groups of young men were entrapping gay men, torturing them on camera, and posting the videos. I had a hard time believing that the effort was as well organized and widespread as the reports claimed. I have since learned that it was much more widespread than initially reported. Vigilante groups continue to entrap gay men in several Russian cities.

This spring, I didn’t believe a story that claimed that authorities—no longer vigilantes but actual police—in Chechnya were rounding up and torturing gay men and that some of these men had apparently been killed, while others were released to their relatives, who were instructed to kill the men themselves. I tried to latch onto the things that weren’t true. There were rumors of special concentration camps for gay men—human-rights researchers said that this didn’t check out. The original article in the muckraking Novaya Gazeta blamed the wave of arrests on a Moscow activist’s effort to organize a Pride march somewhere in the North Caucasus. This was a classic case of blaming the victims, and also false. Yet the rest of the story was true.

I flew to Moscow in late May to report the story of the men who had been able to flee Chechnya, and at that time I still couldn’t quite imagine the scale of the purges. I dropped my bag at a hotel and immediately headed to one of the safe houses. It had been difficult to get people to agree to talk with me, and I feared to give them time to change their minds. I spent the rest of the evening and half of the night talking to victims of the Chechen attacks and went back again the next day, and the day after that. In my head, though, the stories began to run together after a couple of hours. This happens when you listen to accounts of extreme violence: bare suffering is a monotonous experience. I developed short-hand notations for the executioners’ repertoire: electrocution, solitary-confinement cells, beatings, dunking in a vat of cold water, starvation.

Back in New York, I sorted through my notes on the men’s personal tragedies. There was the guy whose name had been given up by someone he seemed to have loved—and who was now presumed dead. There was the man who had left his lover behind. And there were several men who were married to women and had children they adored, who were struggling to figure out how to save their own lives and keep their families. There were several very young men who desperately missed their mothers but also knew that their families would probably kill them if they made contact.

They were all men. This was not because lesbians faced less danger in Chechnya but because they faced more. The men, at least, were free to leave the region on their own; women’s lives were controlled entirely by their fathers, brothers, and husbands. The activists who were helping the men had sheltered one young woman, but, by the time I got to Moscow, she had disappeared. I learned bits of her story from recordings of two conversations with her on someone’s phone. A few days later, she was dead, apparently killed by her family.

For security reasons, I couldn’t write about the rescue effort in much detail, but I bet that, if I had read a story about it, I wouldn’t have believed it. I could not have imagined that in Russia, where civil society has been trampled by the authorities with such force, queer people, who have been the government’s scapegoat of choice for several years, would be able to pull off an effort as ingenious and sustained as the one I observed. By the end of the year, the Russian L.G.B.T. Network and the Moscow L.G.B.T. Community Center had succeeded in getting a hundred and six people out of Chechnya and then out of Russia altogether. A handful of people with no special training and very little funding at the start managed to save a hundred and six people from certain death.

Toward the end of the summer, my contacts in Moscow told me that they were wrapping up their effort. They thought that they were about to send the last of their charges out of the country. But then people kept coming. 

So far, most of the men they have helped have gone to Canada. A few have landed in Latin America and in Europe. Many of them fear to go to countries with large Chechen diasporas, where they are likely to be targeted again in exile. None of the men appear to have made it to the United States. In general, the U.S. has been one of the half-dozen countries that are reasonably likely to grant asylum to people persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity—a small subset of the very small number of countries that welcome asylum seekers at all. (Other countries in the select group that grant asylum to L.G.B.T. people include South Africa, Belgium, Argentina, the Netherlands, and Sweden). For now, L.G.B.T. asylum seekers are still faring well in the U.S., but the application process takes years, and, with the Trump Administration reshaping this country’s immigration landscape, it’s hard to imagine this country welcoming many Muslim gay men, even when they are fleeing mortal danger.

December 25, 2016

Let 2016 Roll Down like an Ugly Carpet on a Naked Floor


As I look at the year coming to end I usually like to go back and review most of the important events; In my life and in the life of the nation and the world. The good ones (years) bring satisfaction and the bad ones serve as a warning to do better if it was me and if the events were out of my control I feel grateful that those I know were able to overcome it as well as I of coarse.

The years of 2000-2003 I wanted to forget, had no interest in going back and review. It was not worth it for me to review in comparison to the hurt of reliving those awful days from thousands dying in lower Manhattan to my mom also passing on.

As the years slowly past and I carefully started going back to review until this year. With the exception of time I spent with family which is infrequent now, I have no inclination to review anything. 

It’s been a mix year of good and bad and the good was always trying to overcome the dark days and that was good until the culmination of a disgusting political campaign that lasted over a year. 
There was no place to hide. Social media became very unsocial, some people started un-friending and cussing friends and strangers on politics like if they personally knew the candidates and the candidates love them and knew who they were as well. Others with lots of time on their hands as they work on someone else’s time would find it useful to post all sorts of fake news and others would swallow the poison pill like it was cool-aid with plenty of sugar. 

At the end we have end up with a public pussy grabber, which I as a gay man find even more offensive than most straight men. It’s not the words or the pictures that might come to mind but the person saying it. Most of us have heard talk like that before but it always came from sounds and screeches in the gutter of the street as we walked by. 

This has change forever the way I see this nation. As my view of the nation changes so is my view of things and people that surround me because all we have as strangers living in the same neighborhood, is the nation that help us sustain our lives. There is no question from anyone that things are changing, and political change in this nation has always been a process. As this process unravels we will see that everything we had constructed to this point is going to look different in the coming years. 

In order to change a construction that is many stories high but never finished is to tear it down. In the process of tearing things down that were already in place is where the danger comes from a total collapsed even as strong as the twin towers were they too collapsed.

Here I am  ready to be a witness to this new world of 2017 or may be the same old world disguised as a constructions site. May be just may be we have been resold the same things we had in a different wrapping paper and would that be so bad?

December 30, 2014

2014 a Year of Deaths for the LGBT World Community

From mass arrests in Egypt and Lebanon to executions in Syria and Iran, 2014 was a largely acidic year for LGBT Middle Easterners, who are subject to some of the world’s harshest anti-gay laws and societal attitudes.
Yet amid the reports of persecution, there was good news for the community, mainly from Israel and Turkey, the two Middle Eastern countries with most legal protections for LGBT citizens – with one hopeful headline out of Lebanon, too. 
Islamic State / Suspected homosexuals stoned to death, thrown off building
In December, ISIS released graphic photos showing a man being thrown off a building, along with a statement reading: “The Islamic court in Wilayet al-Furat decided that a man who has practiced sodomy must be thrown off the highest point in the city.” The man’s body was then pictured lying lifeless surrounded by bricks; it was unclear whether he died from the fall or was then stoned to death. The previous month, Islamic State jihadists reportedly stoned to death two Syrian men, claiming clips on the first man's cell phone showed him "practicing indecent acts with males." 
Screenshot of ISIS militants throwing a man accused of being gay off a building in Iraq, Dec. 2014.
Israel / An LGBT haven – albeit imperfect
For those looking for upbeat headlines, Israel did not disappoint. Multiple gay pride parades were held across the country in 2014, with the flagship Tel Aviv Pride parade drawing 100,000 people, and Jerusalem marking its 13th such event. The Health Ministry came out against gay conversion therapy and then Health Minister Yael German spearheaded a bill equalizing surrogacy rights for gay couples. In September, Israel got its first openly gay congregational Conservative rabbi, and in November, Israel began issuing ID cards that allows people to list two fathers or mothers. Also, after a two-year hiatus, a sex-change surgeon specialist began operating in the country.
Dancers perform during Tel Aviv's gay pride parade, 2014. Photo by AP
A gay couple and their child pictured at Jerusalem’s 2014 gay pride event. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
There were also incidents of anti-LGBT violence, including the assault of a transgender woman by a group of teenagers, and an attack on a gay man in Be’er Sheva, in which the victim accused police of ignoring his injuries. In May, the chief rabbi of Ramat Gan, a city adjoining Tel Aviv, ruled against renting an apartment to lesbians. And, like previous years, Israel stood accused of 'pinkwashing.'
Iran / Homosexuals coerced to undergo sex changes, ‘immoral villains’ hanged
At Iran's UN Human Rights Council review in New York City, representative Mohammed Javad Larijani stated that Tehran will not recognize a “lifestyle” (that is, homosexuality) under the banner of universal rights. Apparently: In August, the Iran Human Rights group reported that two men were hanged in the southern city of Shiraz on the charge of sodomy. Then in September, BBC Persian reported that gay Iranians are being pressured into having gender reassignment surgery as to ‘cure’ them of their homosexuality.  
The Gulf / Whipped and jailed for being gay
Across the Gulf, no executions of alleged homosexuals were reported but arrests abounded. In Saudi Arabia, following entrapment by the kingdom’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, a 24-year-old man was reportedly sentenced to three years in prison and 450 lashes for ‘cruising’ Twitter for men. In November, a man was reportedly jailed for three years for allegedly posting nude photos of himself on social media. In neighboring Kuwait, authorities reportedly arrested 23 “cross-dressers and homosexuals” in October after raiding a “wild party” held in a chalet, and in December, local media reported that authorities had arrested an Iranian man and Kuwaiti transgender person for kissing in a “morally offensive” video. 
Turkey / A year of firsts
All was not dark in the Muslim Middle East, however. Though Turkey’s ruling Islamist AKP’s grip on power seems perhaps firmer than ever, there were numerous reasons for LGBT Turks to smile in 2014. Chief among them was the Constitutional Court’s ruling that calling gays and lesbians “perverts” constitutes hate speech, after news site referred to Sinem Hun from an Ankara-based LGBT right organization as “the lawyer of the association of the perverts called Kaos GL.”
Istanbul Pride, 2014. Photo by Lubunya/Wikimedia Commons
In what is hailed as the Muslim world’s largest gay parade, around 100,000 people turned out for Istanbul Pride in June – a similar number to the march staged in Tel Aviv. Turkey’s first transexual beauty contest was also held during the June celebrations. In August, the country’s first gay lifestyle magazine hit the shelves, and in September, Turkey’s first ‘gay marriage’ was held (though only a symbolic one). In yet another first, Turkey’s parliament hosted a press conference to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, dedicated to the victims of transphobic violence.   
Ekin Keser and Emrullah Tuzun, who held a symbolic marriage in September. Screenshot from
Screenshot from of the winner of Turkey's first transexual beauty contest winner.
Bad news?  In September, the country’s first openly transexual reporter was fired from a TV station for reported ‘dress code’ violations. Also,, a global dating service, was banned by the Turkish Telecommunications Directorate, joining other blocked LGBT sites.
Egypt / Al-Sissi’s war on ‘debauchery’ heats up
In the Middle East’s most populous country, 2014 saw a much reported anti-gay crackdown under the Al-Sissi regime. Homosexuality is legal in Egypt but men suspected of being gay are subject to arrest on charges of “debauchery,” and around 150 men total were estimated to have been arrested under related charges over the year. In September, eight men were arrested for staging a ‘gay wedding’ on a Cairo boat on the Nile, and were sentenced the following month to three years in prison (which was later reduced to one year). Most recently, 26 men were arrested for allegedly participating in a gay bath house orgy in December.
Eight Egyptian men convicted for 'inciting debauchery' following their appearance in a video of an alleged same-sex wedding party on a Nile boat cover their faces in the defendant's cage. AFP photo

 Lebanon / Mass arrests and ‘anal testing’ – but one judge makes a stand
Though widely considered one of the more liberal Arab countries, police from Lebanon’s Moral Protection Bureau arrested 36 men in a Beirut adult cinema in July for allegedly meeting to engage in same-sex relations. Less than two weeks later, another 27 men were detained in an alleged gay bathhouse. Both groups of detainees were reported to have being subjected to ‘anal testing,’ a procedure intended to ‘prove’ a person’s engagement in anal sex, and therefore, their homosexuality. However, one positive headline did emerge out of the Land of Cedars: A judge ruled that homosexual relations do not contradict “the laws of nature,” and therefore cannot be deemed a criminal offense. 

There's much more out there - both reported and unreported. Being gay involves daily fear of assault, arrest and even death throughout much of the region. But among the horrors, as we saw, there are also signs of hope for the Middle Eastern LGBT community.
May 2015 bring more good news.

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