“In the glass and marble shopping malls of this cosmopolitan and comparatively laid-back city on the Red Sea, young Saudi Arabian men are taking advantage of the emergence of an increasingly tolerated Western-oriented gay scene.
“Certain malls are known as cruising areas, and there are even gay-friendly coffee shops. A big gay disco takes place at a private villa in the north of the city once a week….
Bradley writes: “the executioner’s sword awaits anyone convicted of the crime of sodomy” but, “in practice homosexuality is tolerated…
“The Interior Ministry statement reported in January 2002 that three men in the southern city of Abha had been ‘beheaded for homosexuality’…
“A Riyadh-based Western diplomat, aware of the details of the case, confirmed the men were beheaded for ‘rape’.
“‘The three men seduced a number of very young boys and videoed themselves raping them. Then they used the recordings, and the fear the boys had of being exposed, to get the youngsters to recruit their friends,’ he said.
“While homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia, doubt surrounds specific punishment for it. Some gay foreigners were deported in the 1990s, ‘but no Saudi has ever been prosecuted for being a homosexual’. The concept just doesn’t exist here,” the Western diplomat said…
“Ibrahim bin Abdullah bin Ghaith, the head of the religious police … denied media reports that gay and lesbian relationships were the norm in the strictly segregated schools and colleges, that homosexuality ‘is spreading’.
“In an unprecedented two-page special investigation, the daily newspaper Okaz said lesbianism was “endemic” among schoolgirls. It justified the article with a saying of the Prophet’s wife Ayeshathat “there should be no shyness in religion”. The article told of lesbian sex in school lavatories, girls stigmatised after refusing the advances of their fellow students, and teachers complaining that none of the girls were willing to change their behaviour.
“‘A particularly beautiful boy always gets top marks in the exams because he’s some teacher’s favourite,’ said Mohammed, an English teacher in a government high school in Riyadh. ‘On the other hand, I know many older boys who deliberately flunked their final exams so they can stay … with their younger sweethearts.’
“Ahmed, 19, a student at a private college in Jeddah, said there was no shame in having a boyfriend in his private high school. Although he firmly rejected the label “gay”, he admitted that he now has a special friend in college, too. “It’s those who don’t have a boy who are ashamed to admit it. We introduce our boy to our friends as ‘al walid hagi’ ,the boy who belongs to me.
“‘At the beginning of term, we always check out the new boys to see which are the most ‘helu’ (sweet) and think of ways to get to know them.”‘