Gay Rights and Culture in Turkey

11 June 2010

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Turkey LGBT Rights:

Homosexual Acts Legal? Yes

Same-sex Relationships Recognized? No

Same-sex Marriages Allowed? No

Same-sex Adoption Allowed? No
◊ Neither joint nor second parent adoption is available to same-sex couples in Turkey.

Can Gays Serve Openly in the Military? No, they are banned from military service

Anti-discrimination Laws? None

Legislature Concerning Gender Identity? Not much

◊ Lack of anti-discrimination legislation is particularly harmful when it comes to employment as most transgender people in Turkey are prevented from finding traditional work.

Cultural Points of Interest:
The Turkish government regularly tries to harass and close LGBT focused organizations. This behavior has come to the attention of the European Union, which in their annual progress report they said these issues should be resolved.

Over 45 members of the LGBT community have been murdered in the past 3 years due to hate crimes.

Websites:

Istanbul LGBTT – An grass roots human rights organization in Istanbul that focuses on the needs of the local transsexual community.

http://www.istanbul-lgbtt.org

Lambda Istanbul – LGBT organization operating in Istanbul, and who hosts the yearly pride parades.

http://www.lambdaistanbul.org

Kaos GL – Ankara rights group, also includes history on their website of Turkey LGBT history

http://www.kaosgl.com/

GAY CULTURES IN CAIRO, EGYPT

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Cairo is the cultural and sexual capital of the Middle-East offering a wide range of erotic possibilities for every taste. It is a multicultural “megapolis” harboring exiles from all over the Arab world, with a large community of men interested in gay sex. Islamic culture knows a strong taboo on homosexual practices, foremost on anal sex (liwat) which is forbidden in the Q’uran. The attitude regarding other practices is less clear which might offer an escape for homosex- ual men neglecting the taboo and engaging in other practices as mutual mastur- bation, intercrural or oral sex. But it is only a small percentage of the population which follows religious rules. Many men depart from those and care little about homosexual activities. Moreover, Cairo harbors important Christian minorities, in the first place the Kopts. Homosexuality is often attributed to these minorities as it is to Western tourists.

1. Spaces. Spaces for homosexual activities are omnipresent in the streets, but especially along the river Nile and on its beaches where men meet each other for sexual purposes. Arab male homosociality facilitates its male homoeroticism. Next to these places, there are public spaces as cottages, bars and baths where homosex- ual contacts are made. But there are no exclusive gay bars as they exist in most other big cities elsewhere. Hotel lobbies and bars where gay foreigners and male prostitutes congregate come closest to such an institution. Very few men have private space for gay sex at home so most men interested in homosexuality, have to go out in the streets to find it. In the Arab world, a strong public-private divide exists. Homosexuality, especially the passive role, is shamefull when it becomes public, but as long as it remains private, the involved person can keep up his honour (Gilmore 1987). Men have to prove their male honour, but if their private affairs that are considered to be shamefull do not filter back into public life, these do not fire back on their honorable status. Much depends on the position and the reliablity of the partner. As foreigners have no honour, they are easy targets for Arab men interested in gay sex.

1.1. Sexual border traffic. In the Arab world, homosexual identities and gay cultures are largely absent, but even stronger than in Latin-America, men seem to be available for active roles in homosexual activities. For this reason, Arab countries as Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco have always had a great reputation for gay tourism, but less so today because anti-western sentiments coincide with anti-homosexual ones. The growing awareness of homosexuality with the tabu still in full force has more- over made the practice more difficult.

2. Language. This has to be researched for Egypt from the beginning although there have been studies on Arab terminology (Schmitt 1995).

3. Identity and community. With the growing exposure to the Western world, gay identities and cultures are also developing, in the first place among Arabs living in western countries but also in the Arab countries themselves. Although some authors have claimed not to have found any trace of gay identity or community in Cairo (Miller 1992), others found it (Botje 19). As Cairo is a multicultural city where many influ- ences come together, there is also a diversity of gay identities. The rich Euro- peans and Arabs from the Gulf States have created their own spaces and cultures, as have gay men from the Egyptian middle class. Among the rich who have seen the gay world in the West, assuming a gay identity has become self- evident. It is unclear if this “being gay” has the same meaning in Cairo as in London or Paris. Among other groups, less exposed to Western culture, assuming a gay identity is much rarer.

4. Gender. There is a strict separation between active and passive roles. Men with strong homosexual interests are probably pushed into passive roles considered to be feminine. These homosexual men have of course not to comply that they are made passive and become feminized victims of male desire, and many indeed succesfully reject such roles. An explanation might be that sex equals power in Arab society. Homosexual men are considered to be dangerous as they have come to know the secrets of the men they had sex with. Also, they are seen as being well connected because of their presumed gay networks and might influence thus each other’s future. Homosexual men may be considered feminine and passive, but because of the rejection and violence they have faced, they have become fierce and brave characters which counteracts the idea of effeminacy and passivity. They occupy an ambivalent position between the secure masculinity of normal men who take active roles, and the femininity of women who have to comply to male desires.

5. Age. Homosexual acts are typically reserved for the unmarried. And between young men, it is the youngest who should take the passive role. So, homosexual men grow old with the prejudice they are childish because homosexual practices are something not done on an adult age and with a married status. Of couse, many exceptions break this rule.

6. Sexual practices. There seems to be a clear divide between active and passive sex, and a strong emphasis on anal practices. The more private and intimate a social connection becomes, the less important such rules become and sexual relations can become interchangeable. As most sexual connections start on the streets, men have to be well aware of the way they enter them because many eyes pry on their activities and reputations. If there is indeed a clear divide between passive and active roles, this will hinder the spread of aids.

Onderzoeksplan en methode: zie de hoofdtekst. In the first place, the available literature will be sorted out (Schmitt 1995). Special attention will be given to sexual border traffic as it seems to be exten- sive, but could well be on the decline because of growing knowledge of homo- sexuality and anti-western sentiments.

‘Sexualising’ Arab Men

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Moroccan/Arab men, as I pointed out earlier, are portrayed to us as obsessed ‘buttocks starers’, time wasters sitting in cafés and street corners studying women’s invisible physiognomy (p 20). They are ‘genetically’ unable to control their urges. Mallouhi tells us that ” a Western breast would not be so uninteresting to Moroccan men” (p 20). What’s about Moroccan breasts to European men? Mallouhi does not tell us how she comes to such ‘insightful’ conclusions? Not through sociology, psychoanalysis, cultural theory, ethnography or even commonsensicality. Instead, typical of intellectual laziness and epistemological corruption, she tells us that “Arab culture assumes that there is only one reason why a man and a woman are alone. Sex is up front in every one’ s mind” (p, 28). This is pure orientalism, tautological, and relentlessly simplistic. The author’s stereotyping is irredeemable since she only occasionally and superficially informs us about the status of her Western and Christian realities. It is above refutation that in the post-modern stage of ‘Western’ culture (including some segments of Western Christianity) almost everything has become sexualised. People may not stare in the streets, but are created confined spaces and institutions, (including TV, the Internet, Pleasure lands or clubs, pornographic spaces) heavily charged with sexual expressions and practices in the name of personal freedom of expression. Sex in the ‘West’ is, indeed, in every one’s mind and in every imaginable quotidian space. It has lost a lot of its playfulness, energy of seduction precisely because it has lost the fabric of romance which, by and large, still exits in Moroccan traditional culture.

Staring according to her is a ‘pathological’ condition that Moroccan men suffer from. Whilst one has to objectively scrutinise individual motives in every case, one has to concede, at least, that the rigid feteshisation of society in the ‘West’ is more ‘pathological’ (rendered normal) than staring at passers by in an open space. Mallouhi even traces men’s fear of women to Arabian Nights. She tells us that such a text informs a current situation where “mistrust of woman’s sexuality still prevails” (p. 39). She advocates that such fear has been consistent historically and that is why Muslim/Arab men are ‘sexually oriented’. Many of the stories, fairy tales collected in the Arabian Nights are ancient, as ancient as Homeric traditions. The story of Shahrazad and the Sultan Schahriar are, according to Al-mas’udi, an Arab historian, of Persian origin dating back to the 9th century and had been translated into Arabic as the Al kkhurafa (fictional tale). Arabian Nights were told and retold orally — and transmitted from at least four civilisations, Persian, Indian, Islamic and Egyptian. Arabian Nights kept circulating only orally until they were written between the 12th and 14th centuries. The body of narratives that Mallouhi faintly refers to is the one consisting of a group of tales which possibly originated in Baghdad, the hegemonic cultural, economic and political centre of the Abbassid dynasty from 750 AD. In these tales we have the figure of Haroun Alrachid and other important Caliphes. Arabian narratives contain an astounding and unique overlap of fictions, ancient tales, prophetic imagination and magical realism. Mallouhi’s reading of some of these tales is ironically a contradiction in terms, as their fictionality refuses her imposed rigid and heedless interpretation.

These stories do not reflect, in any conceivable way, a mistrust of woman’s sexuality vis-a- vis a specific category called Muslim/Arab men. No doubt, they are fictionalisations of Islamic modernity between the 8th and, possibly, until the 14th century, but most importantly, their worldview is a humanist exploration of man’s (as well as woman’s) human too human trappings. In this sense Arabian Nights is universal, and appeals to all cultures. Shakespeare, for instance, was inspired by its tales; Arabian narrative impulse is easy to detect in most of his plays. Reading Arabian Nights in this reductionist (and dare I say mercenary) manner is like suggesting that Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (also inspired by Arabian Tales) elucidates the English natural sense of superiority. Or Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, the untamibility of English women in the 20th century.

The tales’ so called ‘pornographic’ parts are there to tell a human story about sexual expressions and trappings that exist in all cultures. The tales’ fictional sense of space is seen in an inclusion of homosexual practices, the exploitation of Ghilman (young men for sex) and other forms of sexual practice. If the author brands some parts of Arabian Nights as pornographic, I hope she is able to concede that some parts of the Bible are also pornographic. Mallouhi again resists the fluidity of Arab consciousness as portrayed in these universal tales. She is perfunctorily striving to deliver (and deliver, she does!) what her reader expects. To relate such depiction to a fear engulfing Muslim men in the 20th century is to demonstrate an alarming degree of conceptual mediocrity, and historical misreading of the Arab world.

Why does Mallouhi seem to get most things wrong about Arab/Muslim culture? One thing she never comes to terms with (hence her acrimonious Euro-centrism) is to understand that the essence of Moroccan culture is fluidity and perplexity. Moroccan culture resembles the figure of the Flanneur in Baudlaire’s fiction. The Flanneur is a poet whose environment is the crowd. He merges with the people. He gases at everyone. He is a great observer of spontaneous manners and movement. He occupies a huge space because he owns none of his own. He possesses a passion for visual performance. He is a living man of imagination. For this reason he resists rationalisation, consumerism, mapping of space, construction and confinement. In short, he resists rigidity and domestication. Moroccan daily life is spirited, large, inconsistent and full of surprises. Moroccan public life is a prototype of a fête galante painting.

Arab men…….Domination

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Mideastern men were/are becoming again big part of cliental. One of our daughters really hooked on them. She is big on pain and humiliation as are Mideastern men with money. I’ll give no specifics of background but just the sexual part. This one worries us because she travels there regularly and is kept almost as a slave there.

Annie says she likes them because they love to screw her brains out. She has had bruises from them regularly because they are so enthusiastic in their screwing. Just bang away. They love to share women and it’s done in an order of seniority. Humiliation is big part of their scene. Alice admits their money is also a great turn on. They spend like crazy. Twenty-thousand for three or four girls for a day/night is not uncommon. However for these scenes they must be able to handle serious pain.

The thumb tack photo is just an example of their play. In this instance the girls competed to see who could pick up the most thumb tacks. The loser had to perform analingus on all the men, in this case seven or eight of them. Their elbows were fastened tightly behind their backs and they were pressed into the tacks fairly hard. They were not to scream or make any effort to resist. Our daughter lost by picking up only twenty-five or so. One girl had about fifty. She had to lay in the middle of the floor while each man squatted over her face while she licked their assholes and sucked their balls for as long as each desired. Tit slapping is also another of their treats. No screaming or other vocal sounds are accepted.

Our fear is that she is beginning to accept this lifestyle and treatment. She has been offered to live among them and has received promises of good treatment and lots of money.

Annie has heard from some of the women overseas about animal play with dogs, goats and snakes. She has never seen this but has heard the talk. When a woman travels with them exclusively for sex they essentially consent to anything that may happen while there. Money is deposited here first but the girls are at their complete mercy while there.

Monique is in Europe at the villa of her friend for a week. She loves the slave lifestyle her consent entails. Becoming a millionaire by age twenty-five is one of her twin ambitions. The Arab fellow she is now with wants her because she is very white, very young looking and will do anything he desires without question. She fulfills his need to be away from his country because of their repressive Islamic laws concerning sex and his need to completely dominate someone. He has the domination part at home but not necessarily the sex since she is not of them ethnically or a religious believer (he certainly is not either).

Amine (not his real name) has villas and residences in five or six places. He is oil wealthy nearly beyond belief and has a need to dominate a western girl. Annie introduced him to Monique last summer. After 9/11 most of Annie’s Arab clients left the country, including Amine. He asked Annie to travel with him and she seriously considered it because of the money and lifestyle. Mother and daughter I suspect have both great fear of Amine and need to be dominated so completely. Her business and family is what has kept Annie from accepting anything more than a visit to Europe.

I misspoke earlier when I said Monique was asked to reptant to Amine’s home. She would not be accepted unless she was a wife. As his companion she has more time with him than any of his three wives. The girlfriends are never to mingle with the wives.

When Monique travels she wears only the clothing he gives her which include a black Burqa like outfit which is complete with a screen to cover her eyes as well as all parts of her body. Aside from her calf length black boots she wears nothing underneath. When she arrives at the villa all clothing is abandoned and a heavy leather collar is placed on her neck. The only exception is a small veil and flimsy outfit similar to the ones portrayed in the pictures. Monique (and Annie earlier) have been bound and made to wait for him or one of his friends for as much as an hour.

She is attended to by two servants (slaves?) from his country who speak no English although Monique did exchange a few French words with one. The servant was punished severely for attempting to communicate. Monique reports she was taken to another room where the sound of heavy slaps could be heard. Because of the head to toe garments the servants wear Monique could not see the results of the slaps.

Amine is big on Viagra and is daily in a heightened state of sexual power. He has friends who visit who Monique is directed to satisfy whichever way they desire. Usually it is a blowjob on the spot, other times a full session of lovemaking.

There was an incredible sum of money deposited in her account before she left so we suspect she will be gone for a longer than usual period of time.

When Monique is in Amine’s villa she is not to make eye contact with him, same treatment Annie received. She is bathed two or three times a day, something which Annie enjoyed. Her sleeping quarters are what is actually the main living room. Amine and friends visit her anytime they please without any advance warning. When his friends are in her presence she must wear a scarf across her eyes so as not to actually see them. They never converse with her. She is there only for their gratification. She also rarely speaks with Amine. She only responds if he speaks with her. She dares not ask questions.

Her heavy collar has loops to move her about, especially when she is blindfolded and to position her for whatever they wish to do with her.

Annie says she understands Monique’s attraction to the lifestyle. The only negative is she has been impregnated by Amine. She was told she had to have an abortion because it was a girl. She did as she was ordered. Had it been a boy there would have been a conflict because she would have had to give him up to Amine. One of his wives would have cared for him as HER own.

The lifestyle according to Annie is a total abandonment of ones self. Time is of no consequence because you have no place to go, things to do, etc. Bathe and have sex. Lots of both.

The last time Annie was at the villa Amine developed a new game. Whenever a friend would visit he would slap Annie across her tits four or five times very hard. His handprints were clearly visible and bruising would often occur.

Amine’s affection and need for Annie she thinks is because he is the last among his many brothers and his mother was only twelve when she had him. It is likely his mother was not yet twelve when she was married and impregnated by his father. He has no political power and probably will not. He has nephews twice his age who are in better position. His father died a long time ago so Amine is on his own. He receives a share of the great wealth, was educated in western schools, invested his money wisely, and now has little else to his life. Annie actually pities him for the emptiness he lives with. His treatment of both Annie and Monique indicated he feels left out and needs to dominate something as his older brothers do.

Amine was a dinner guest a year or so ago at our home. While he was there one of our grandchildren visited. She is very pretty and thirteen. Amine was immediately taken to her. He wanted her to visit his home in the Mideast. He actually seemed offended we would deny him that request. I told him he’d have to wait five years and he then could ask her.

Update
I just spoke with Monique. I mentioned she and Amine are features in a part of the story and she was quite pleased with that. She was aware of the story before she left for the xxxxxxxx where Amine has a home. I’ll spend some private time with her when she returns.

I asked her about this visit with him and she was eager to tell me.

First of all this visit lasted seventeen days at the villa. She lived in what is a sort of living room. Her bed, which is large and round, is in the center of the room. There are mirrors everywhere, ceiling as well. There are a number of stuffed white velour chairs along three of the walls and sliding doors overlooking the water with a terrace. She was not permitted to go on the terrace in the daylight.

In one corner of the room is a large sunken bath, long and wide with jets. A few feet from the tub is a partially enclosed bathroom with a see through glass door. She had no privacy anywhere while there.

Her day consisted of being awakened early by one of the two women servants (Monique thinks they are some sort of slaves) who feed her her breakfast of cold cereal and fresh fruit. She can only have skim milk or juice to drink. Afterward she is taken to the bath for what is an after meal bath. Every meal is the same routine. After the bath she is massaged by the women with fragrant body oils. She was permitted to wear an outfit similar to those in the photograph, with or without veil (she chose with) or remain naked. She gave herself a post-meal exercise regimen, but otherwise looked at the water from inside the room. Mostly she laid down with her blindfold (she always wore it because there were always lights on in the room). There she’d wait for Amine. When he’d arrive she was alerted so she could kneel near the door, her hands out to her side and her palms facing the ceiling. No eye contact whatsoever, even during sex.

Amine would approach her and permit her to stand. He signaled this by tugging at her collar. When he was alone with her he was gentle. After positioning her on one of the kneeling cushions he would raise his robes and guide Monique’s head into a BJ position. Most often he was flaccid and stayed in her mouth only long enough for her to arouse him. She said it felt funny to feel him harden in her mouth. He signaled the end by grabbing the back of her head and thrusting deep into her throat. If he caught her unaware she would gag from a breathing reflex. He would only hold her there for a few seconds, other times she thought she would pass out. Then he would drop his robes and leave the room.

When he had friends (which was at least once daily) matters were much different and longer. Monique was made to wear a blindfold and ear plugs so she could neither hear or see the guests. She could hear muffled voices with the plugs. Most of the men were Arabs. She knew this by the thick and course body hair most of the Arabs she knew had much hair. A few of the guests were hairless or nearly hairless.

In the presence of his friends Amine was much more physical. He would grab, squeeze, twist, and even slap her tits very hard. Because she couldn’t see or hear it always came as a shock. One of the times he hit her she lost her balance and she could hear muffled laughs from the guests.

One time she thinks there were four or five men present when she was led to stand and received some slaps to her tits. She was then guided to the edge of her bed and bent over it over a pillow. She felt a robe brush her thighs and then her anus lubricated. After a minute of finger probing she felt the head of a penis press its way in her. She pushed back only to realize the man was very small but with a big head. Once in he grasped her hips very hard and pounded away harder than any man had ever done with her during anal sex. The next morning she had handprints on her hips.

Most of the other encounters were more traditional, oral or vaginal sex.

Monique reconfirmed her feelings for Amine. Annie thinks she merely likes the lifestyle, not Amine. Despite the severe treatment she wants to stay with him. He pays her about a thousand dollars a day. I mentioned to Annie, however, it is cheaper to pay that than to marry her and pay a divorce settlement. So it’s a good deal for both.

The lesson here is that prostitution can take on many faces and types.

Sex and Taboos in the Islamic World

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Sex is a taboo in conservative Islamic countries. Young, unmarried couples are forced to seek out secret erotic oases. Books and play that are devoted to the all too human topic of sex incur the wrath of conservative religious officials and are promptly banned.

Rabat, Morocco. Every evening Amal the octopus vendor looks on as sin returns to his beach. It arrives in the form of handholding couples who hide behind the tall, castle-like quay walls in the city’s harbor district to steal a few clandestine kisses. Some perform balancing acts on slippery rocks and seaweed to secure a spot close to the Atlantic Ocean and cuddle in the dim evening light. The air tastes of salt and hashish. On some mornings, when Amal finds used condoms on the beach, he wishes that these depraved, shameless sinners — who aren’t even married, he says — would roast in hell.

Cairo, Egypt. A hidden little dead-end street in Samalik, a posh residential neighborhood, with a view of the Nile. Those who live here can stand on their balconies at night and see things that no one is meant to see. The cars begin arriving well before sunset, some evenings bringing as many as a hundred amorous couples. Almost all the girls wear headscarves, but that doesn’t prevent them from wearing skin-tight, long-sleeved tops. The boys are like boys everywhere, nonchalantly placing their arms around their girlfriends’ shoulders and even more nonchalantly sliding their hands into their blouses.

The locals call this place “Shari al-Hubb,” or “Street of Love.” The gossips say that children have been conceived here and couples have been spotted engaging in oral sex.

Beirut, Lebanon. As techno music blares from the loudspeakers in the dim light, patrons shout their drink orders across the bar. Boys in tight jeans and unbuttoned, white shirts, their hair perfectly styled, jostle their way onto the dance floor. The men shake their hips, clap their hands and embrace — but without touching all too obviously. After all, those who go too far could end up being thrown out of “Acid,” Beirut’s most popular gay disco. Officially, “Acid” is nothing more than a nightclub in an out-of-the-way industrial neighborhood.

As liberal as Lebanon is, flaunting one’s homosexuality is verboten. Gays are tolerated, but only as long as they remain under the radar and conceal their activities from public scrutiny.

For many in the Arab world, discretion is the only option when it comes to experiencing lust and passion. There are secret spots everywhere, and they are often the only place to go for those forced to live with the contradictions of the modern Islamic world. In countries whose governments are increasingly touting strict morals and chastity, prohibitions have been unsuccessful at suppressing everyday sexuality. Religious censors are desperately trying to put a stop to what they view as declining morals in their countries, but there is little they can do to stop satellite TV, the Internet and text messaging.

A counterforce to Western excesses?

Do the stealthy violations of taboos and moral precepts foreshadow a sexual revolution in the Arab world? Or is the pressure being applied by the moralists creating a new prudishness, a counterforce to the perceived excesses of the West?

For now, everything seems possible, including the idea that a man can end up spending a night in jail for being caught with a condom in his shirt pocket. Ali al-Gundi, an Egyptian journalist, was driving his girlfriend home when he was stopped at a police checkpoint. He didn’t have his driver’s license with him, but it was 4 a.m. and he was in the company of an attractive woman. For the police, this was reason enough to handcuff Gundi and his girlfriend and take them to the police station. “On the way there, they threatened to beat us,” says the 30-year-old. At the station, they took away his mobile phone and wallet and found an unused condom in his shirt pocket.

“They were already convinced that my girlfriend was a whore,” says Gundi. The couple ended up behind bars, even after telling the police that they planned to get married in a few months. Only after the woman notified her father the next day were the two released from jail. For Gundi, one thing is certain: “If the officer who stopped us hadn’t been so sexually frustrated, he would have let us go.”

The sexual frustration of many young Arabs has countless causes, most of them economic. Jobs are scarce and low-paying, and most young men are unable to afford and furnish their own apartments — a prerequisite to being able to marry in most Arab countries. At the same time, premarital sex is an absolute taboo in Islam. As a result, cities across the Arab world — Algiers, Alexandria, Sana’a and Damascus — are filled with “boy-men” between 18 and 35 who are forced to live with their parents for the foreseeable future.

There is one exception, and it’s even sanctioned by the Islamic faith: the “temporary marriage” or “pleasure marriage” — not a bond for life but one designed for intimate sins. Such agreements, presided over by imams, are not regulated by the state. They can be concluded for only a few hours or they can be open-ended. But particularly romantic they are not.

Separating the sexes

Another frustrating development for young Islamic men is the growing separation of the sexes. More and more women are wearing modest clothing. Some choose to wear headscarves or cover their entire bodies, and some even wear black gloves to cover the last remaining bit of exposed skin on their bodies.

A porn site on the Internet: 56 percent of young men in the Mahgreb region admit to watching porn on a regular basis.
Zoom

A porn site on the Internet: 56 percent of young men in the Mahgreb region admit to watching porn on a regular basis.
Nowadays a woman walking along a Cairo street without a veil stands a good chance of being stared at as if she were from another planet. Journalist Gundi is convinced that “oppression brings out perversion in people.” The men want their women to be covered and veiled because they are afraid of women — “afraid of the feelings women provoke.”

Most Egyptian women now wear a headscarf, but for varying reasons. Ula Shahba, 27, sees the trend toward covering one’s head as an expression of a new female self-confidence, not as a symbol of oppression. For the past two years, Shahba has worn the headscarf voluntarily — out of conviction, as she emphasizes, insisting that no one forces her to do so. But, she adds, the decision wasn’t easy. “I love my hair,” she says, “but it shouldn’t be visible to everyone.” Shahba doesn’t believe that the headscarf is a sign of religious devoutness. “It’s more of a trend,” she says.

A Moroccan study published in early 2006 in L’Economiste, a Moroccan business publication, shows how paradoxical young Arabs’ attitudes toward religion and sexuality can be. According to the study, young Muslims in the Maghreb region are increasingly ignoring the clearly defined rules of their religion. Premarital sex is not unusual, and 56 percent of young men admit to watching porn on a regular basis. But the respondents also said that it was just as important to them to pray, observe the one-month Ramadan fast and marry a fellow Muslim. When seen in this light, young Muslims’ approach to Islam seems as hedonistic as it is variable, almost arbitrary.

Betraying the message of Muhammad

Muslim novelist “Nedjma” (“Star”), the author of “The Almond,” a successful erotic novel, describes Moroccan society as divided and bigoted. Despite progressive family and marriage laws, she says, the country is still controlled by patriarchal traditions in which men continue to sleep around and treat women as subordinates. It is a society in which prudishness and sexual obsession, ignorance and desire, “sperm and prayer” coexist. “The more repressive a society is, the more desperately it seeks an outlet,” says Nedjma, who conceals her real name because she has already been vilified on the Internet as a “whore” and an “insult to Islam.”

Men like Samir, 36, a bald waiter who wears a formal, black and white uniform to work, could be straight out of Nedjma’s novel. Samir grins at the prospect of catching a glimpse of unveiled girls in his café in Rabat. But in the same breath, he admits that he would never spend a significant amount of time in the same room with a woman he doesn’t know. “No man and no woman can be together without being accompanied by the devil,” he believes, adding that he is quoting the Prophet Muhammad.

But most sources paint a completely different picture of the religious leader, describing him as a hedonist and womanizer who loved and worshipped women. Indeed, he married 12 women, including a businesswoman 15 years his senior, to whom he remained faithful until her death. Author Nedjma says that Muslim men today are “betraying the message of Muhammad,” whom she describes as a delicate, gallant man. She doubts that the prophet was afraid of female sexuality, as many of the men in her social circle are today.

Even conservative theologians emphasize the compatibility of pleasure and faith — but only after marriage. They can even evoke the Prophet Mohammed, who said: “In this world, I loved women, pleasant scents and prayer.”

This presents an odd contradiction to the puritanical present, which represents a fundamental departure from Islam’s more open-minded past and has instead made way for a humorless and rigorous Islamism.

Journalist Ali al-Gundi believes that Muslim men have a troubled relationship with their own sexuality. “Most men only want to marry a virgin,” he says. “What for? Isn’t it much nicer to be with a partner who has experience?” Gundi talks about his girlfriends who have done everything but actually have sex, so as not to damage their hymens. That would mean social death.

Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Khalid devoted his first short film, “The Fifth Pound,” to the topic of taboo. The film tells the story of a young couple who use a bus ride to be together and exchange more than just a few innocent, tender words. Every Friday morning, when everyone else is at the mosque for prayers, they meet on the third-to-the-last bench on the bus, a spot where none of the other passengers can see what they are doing. As they sit there, shoulder-to-shoulder, staring straight ahead, they stroke each other’s bodies. Their only fear is that the bus driver will see what they are doing through the rear view mirror. He watches the couple, fully aware of what they are doing, all the while indulging in his own fantasies.

In his imagination, the driver sits down next to the girl, carefully removes her headscarf and unbuttons her blouse. She closes her eyes and presses her fingers into the armrest. The headscarf slowly slides off the seat. Both reach climax, the girl in the bus driver’s fantasy and the boy through his girlfriend’s hand. In the end, the couple pays the driver four pounds for the tickets and a fifth for his silence.

Of course, Khalid was unable to find a distributor for his scandalous, 14-minute short film, and even Cairo’s liberal cultural centers refused to run “The Fifth Pound” without it being censored first. Even though, or perhaps precisely because the film does not depict any actual sexual activity, it excites the viewer’s fantasy — an especially odious offense in the eyes of religious censors.

Part 2: An ‘Islamic Vagina Monologues’

The Internet is a refuge for hidden desires, even though it offers only virtual relief. Google Trends, a new service offered by the search engine, provides a way to demonstrate how difficult it is to banish forbidden yearnings from the heads of Muslims. By entering the term “sex” into Google Trends, one obtains a ranked list of cities, countries and languages in which the term was entered most frequently. According to Google Trends, the Pakistanis search for “sex” most often, followed by the Egyptians. Iran and Morocco are in fourth and fifth, Indonesia is in seventh and Saudi Arabia in eighth place. The top city for “sex” searches is Cairo. When the terms “boy sex” or “man boy sex” are entered (many Internet filters catch the word “gay”), Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the first four countries listed.

Homosexuality is more than just a taboo in the Islamic world. In fact it is considered a crime, punishable by imprisonment or even the death penalty.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an imam who lives in Qatar and has a television show on Arab network Al Jazeera, considers homosexuality as an especially decadent monster created by the West. It is against the “divine order,” says the religious scholar, citing verses in the Koran that describe homosexuality as a common practice in pre-Islamic Arabia.

Homosexuals are referred to in Arabic as “Luti,” or people from the city of the Lut, which is mentioned in the Koran and the Bible and is described as having been destroyed by God’s wrath. The sources seem to clearly support this notion.

As a result, very few gay Muslims even attempt to reconcile their faith with their sexual orientation. Most, says George Assi, a spokesman of Helem, the only gay and lesbian organization in the Arab world, are in despair over the fact that they cannot be as virtuous as their religion prescribes.

Helem, a Lebanese organization that is neither completely legal nor prohibited, has its office in an Islamic business district in Beirut, a city that offers greater political and sexual freedom than any other place in the Arab world. But even here the organization faces protests and threatening phone calls, especially from the Gulf states. “Many talk about us as if we were sick people who must either be healed or abandoned,” says Assi.

“Shocking, sad” stories

Unlike Lebanon, Egypt is a place where freedom of opinion is always in jeopardy. The country’s once-blossoming worlds of art and literature are especially affected. This makes it all the more astonishing that a play could be produced on a Cairo stage that deals exclusively with sex. Even the play’s title, “Bussy,” is a provocation. It resembles the English word “pussy,” but it is also a slang term Egyptian men use to tell a woman to “look here.”

And this is precisely what the directors wanted: to attract attention — to discrimination, lack of respect and mental immaturity. “We had no intention of being daring or of provoking anyone. We merely wanted to tell the truth,” says director Naas Chan. The performance was created as an analogue to the famous New York play, “The Vagina Monologues.” When the American production was performed at the American University in Cairo, it was met with disgust, indignation and — enthusiastic applause. But because it had little to do with the problems of Egyptian women, a group of students decided to stage a sort of “Islamic Vagina Monologue” with amateur actors.

Ordinary women were asked to talk about love and sex. “Their stories were so shocking, so touching, sad and amusing that they needed no editing,” says Chan. And that was how “Bussy” was created.

In one scene, a girl, her voice choking with tears, talks about the day her mother took her to the doctor, without telling her that he was going to circumcise her. “When I woke up I felt the pain. Something was missing … the flesh that they had stolen belonged to me!” Another woman describes her experience with an imam who, when she was 10, forced her into a closet and raped her. “When I told my mother about it, she said that I was making it up.”

“I was surprised that almost all the stories we got were serious,” says director Chan. The women talked about their experiences with abortions, rapes, female circumcision and plain, everyday discrimination. Each of the 50 stories submitted reflects a slice of Egyptian reality. Telling the stories required a great deal of courage, says Chan. The mere knowledge that one’s own story will be performed in front of an audience represents a break with tradition. Sexual abuse, says Chan, is considered a family matter, and if it is disclosed to outsiders, the family feels dishonored and believes the woman has been deprived of her value.

Abir embodies yet another archetype in Arab-Islamic moral society. She is 32 years old, petite, dark-skinned and wears an expensive, long black wig. She lives alone in a small but tidy apartment. Images from the days of the Pharaohs hang on her walls next to large, white pencils — souvenirs from a trip to Germany’s Rügen Island. Abir sits on a white wooden couch with pink upholstery. She wears shorts and a pink T-shirt. A tattoo of the sun adorns her right upper arm and she has a nicotine patch stuck to her left arm.

Abir married for the first time when she was 23. Her mother was dead, her father bedridden and she had been making a meager living as a maid. The marriage was a nightmare. Her husband beat her, and on one occasion her mother-in-law cut off her long black hair and hung it on the wall — as a warning. Abir obtained a divorce and took a job in a bar, where she met wealthy foreigners.

Abir spreads out a series of photos on her coffee table. They show two happy people, swimming in the ocean, sitting on a park bench, shopping in Germany. But when the man in the photograph, a German named Ingo, still didn’t want to marry her after three years, Abir broke off the relationship — on the phone.

“Why should I waste my life?” she asks.

She also has photos of her and Luis, an American, with whom she had a relationship for a year. Luis wanted to take her home to the United States. “A wonderful man, he spoiled me,” she says. But then they had a falling out and Luis left without her. He married another woman and Abir was beside herself. By the time she had come to her senses, she had lost her job as a waitress and decided to do what she had done in the past. She sold her body.

“Egyptians pay 200 pounds (about €28), and Saudis pay 1,000 pounds or sometimes even more,” says Abir. “Foreigners pay me $200. Condoms are required.” She shows us the results of her most recent AIDS test, which was negative. Without the test she would not have been granted a German visa. Today she is afraid of being alone, says prostitute Abir. Almost all of her siblings are married.

“The police give you a hard time, sometimes for no reason at all. It’s enough for them to see an unmarried woman sitting alone in a bar.” Prison terms and beatings are the minimum. If a couple is caught in the act, the woman is the one who suffers.

Abir wants to get married as soon as possible. She says that she has just met another American. She wants to take him to the mosque. As a Muslim woman, she can only marry a Muslim man. And she says the American is going to convert soon and learn more about her religion.

When that happens, she says, the first thing she will do is get out of Egypt.

Arab Men and Sex

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A Jordanian guy came to America earlier this year with his mother to visit some relatives, and rented an apartment close to mine. Being a single Arab, this guy started hunting for girls to have sex with. In less than a week he started sleeping with his German neighbor and later another American neighbor.

Sometimes I call his mother who seems to be a relatively conservative religious old lady, and when I ask her if Salem (fake name) is available, she’d just laugh and reply “Walla Salem ma3 el banat, beshrab gahweh!!” I would guess what (beshrab gahweh) means and she knows very well what (beshrab gahweh) means! But it looks like she’s not very concerned.

Today I called and asked again “where is Salem?”
and she answered “walla ya khalti hayyo ma3 Amanda bel berkeh, ballahi i7keelo bekaffeeh hamaleh!!”

So she knows everything. She knows that he is having sex with all these women but the only thing she does is asking me to do is help him stay away from women. I was wondering what if that lady had a daughter sleeping with American men instead? Would she have the same response?? Wouldn’t that Arab girl be killed or at least dismissed from the family?

Salem called me again today and he told me the good news: He’s returning to Jordan to get engaged to a girl who is very conservative, never ever had a boyfriend, doesn’t talk to guys and doesn’t even have the cell phone number of any guy. Way to go!

I don’t blame it all on men. I think women and mothers are to blame for raising such men with this sick mentality, men who regard themselves and gods who can sin then repent in a scheduled manner, and women are ready to forgive their husbands anything in their past but know that their husbands or fancies would leave them if he discovered that she ever dated a guy.

Mustafa The True Gentleman

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Mustafa The True Gentleman

After spending an afternoon watching the Turkish wrestlers in their erotic leather pants, I was as horny as hell. From what I had heard they don’t like gays turning out to watch them wrestle, I wasn’t sure why but for some reason they hated it. I didn’t think these guys were gay but the way they slipped their hands quickly down inside the leather pants it did make me wonder.

I was unsure how to find a guy to help me with my problem so I decided to enjoy the delights of the private outdoor pool at the hotel, where I had made my home for the next week.

After finally finding my way back to the Hotel Europlaza on Tarlabasi Bulvari in Tepebasi Istanbul it was a pleasure to sit back and relax for a while, but it didn’t take away the throbbing ache in my balls.

It was where I met Mustafa. I’d been lying back daydreaming of horny guys licking and sucking my balls and cock when I realised that this gorgeous dark skinned guy was swimming not far from the sun lounge where I was laying. The Hotel Europlaza’s outdoor pool was incredibly divine. The view was sensational overlooking Istanbul, the spectacular scenery of the Golden Horn, really heightened my sexual want and needs.

Mustafa was sensually erotic in the way he moved. My eyes focused on him and I wondered what he was up to. It was almost as if he was teasing me with his body and when he caught me watching him I almost died of embarrassment especially since my cock was straining to be released.

I’d never been with a guy before, but for some reason I needed to feel his arms around me, to touch me, to feel me in a way that only an erotic Turkish man could do.

He caught my attention and I found myself willed into his arms in the warm waters of the relaxing pool. With the sun beating down on us, we were as one…

Mustafa, dark hair, dark eyes, young, vibrant, and very handsome was a true gentleman. He took me, a tourist, mature aged (a little grey around the edges), a man who was possibly twice his age into his strong arms and held me. This man knew what I wanted and desired and I knew that he would take me, gently but firmly until I was screaming for more.

Holding me, he smiled and his tongue slipped into my mouth in search of mine as we kissed passionately. I could feel the blood racing through my body and his cock against mine. It was at that moment that in the outdoor pool over looking the spectacular scenery of the Golden Horn that he took me. Slowly he kissed his way down my hairy body until he came to my speedos.

I could feel him breathing against my bulge when he slipped his fingers into the band and pulled them down over my hips finally releasing my throbbing cock. Mustafa closed his mouth over the head, letting his tongue work its magic, licking and teasing and making me tingle all over. With one hand holding my ass cheek and the other my balls he pulled me to him, my cock slipping into his mouth until the head hit the back of his throat almost making him gag. Without warning it happened. My balls ached, my whole body rocked as I exploded in a wild mind-blowing orgasm shooting gallons of hot man juice down Mustafa’s throat.

He had completely engulfed every inch of my pulsating organ, drinking my juices and not spilling a drop. The feelings were incredible. I kept coming and coming and as he let his tongue slide over the head I came again, it was almost as if it were an ongoing orgasm of multitude proportions.

Finally I had no more to give him, but from the look on his face I knew that there was something… my ass. Looking down at his cock I knew that when he fucked me it was going to hurt. His cock was huge, my virgin ass was tight and I was as nervous as hell.

Mustafa encouraged me to follow him out of the pool. There was no one around due to it being a quiet period for whatever reason, so as if in a trance like state, I obediently followed him over to the sun lounges.

I lay on the sun lounge with my ass pointing to the sun. I could feel Mustafa’s thick circumcised cock sliding up and down between my ass cheeks, allowing me to feel the soft by firm flesh of his cock against my tight hole. He encouraged me to relax and using his spittle as lubricant I felt him pushing the head against the tight puckered flesh of my ass.

He knew I was a virgin, he pushed so gently against me, a little a time, telling me to relax, to enjoy the feeling. In my mind, I was screaming, I was hungry for his cock but scared at the same time that his thickness would rip me open when his cock slides deep inside me.

I could feel the pressure as he thrust his hips forward. I tried to relax but for some reason my ass was resisting him. Mustafa held my hips firmly and thrust forward, my ass finally opened up to him and a bubble of wild and enormous pain burst inside my mind. I could see stars; I could feel the pain racing through my body, as I was stretch wide, my anal virginity broken and my mind was screaming for him to stop!

Which he did… Mustafa heard me scream out, begging him to stop, pleading with him to pull his cock from my ass. But all he did was stop. And he waited. Waited for me to become accustom to his size.

Behind me he was perfectly still. I could feel his thickness filling me, the head of his cock buried just inside my tight hole, my throbbing painful hole but with his touching me, with his fingers, lightly stroking my body, touching me I relaxed.

I relaxed enough to begin slowly pushing against him. Mustafa the true gentleman that he was still hadn’t moved. He let me take control as I impaled myself onto his thickness and it was then that I suddenly changed.

My movements became erratic, I wanted him, I desperately needed him to fuck me and within moments of me getting used to his size I wasn’t begging him to pull his cock from my hole I was screaming for him to fuck me hard. I wanted to feel his young body fucking me, his young flesh against me, his thick cock deep inside me.

I could feel him bending over me, pulling me onto him as he buried his thickness deep in me. Every throb was mind-blowing, every touch was earth shattering, every movement was captivating. I could feel my cum boiling up inside me, I wanted to explode but I wanted to feel Mustafa’s hot juices first.

I begged him to fuck me… he pounded into me, harder and faster with each cry from me. My body ached for him and when he thrust his hips forward sinking his cock deeper into my anal canal we climaxed together.

As the day welcomed the night, the colors of the city faded away and the horizon was set on fire, with golden and crimson reflections on the sea as our cries echoed down over the city lights of Istanbul.

Das Schwulencommunity in Istanbul

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Die heißesten Jungs der Türkei zeigen alles bei IstanBoys.com

“Sex and the City? ist für Minderjährige verboten, der größte Verband, der sich um Schwulenrechte bemüht – Lambda – ist ständig bedroht, es wurde sogar darüber nachgedacht eine Moschee speziell für die Schwulengemeinde zu erbauen…In der Türkei und vor allem in den Istanbuler Stadtteilen Beyoglo und Taksim, ist Sex und Sexualität ein absolutes Tabuthema, aber dies hat die Entstehung von Discos, Bars, Hammams, Hotels speziell für Schwule, Lesben, Bisexuelle und Transsexuelle nicht verhindert…es ist alles eine Frage der Diskretion und Zeit.

Das homosexuelle Erwachen

Seit Anfang der 90er haben homosexuelle Verbände in der Türkei Raum gewonnen: Mit Belästigungen durch die Polizei konfrontiert, organisierten sie Gaypride und Aktivitäten, denunzierten Homophobie und organisierten Treffen. Bei dem letzten Treffen, was Lambda Istanbul organisierte offenbarte sich, dass in der Türkei 40% der Schwulen und Lesben sich dazu verpflichtet fühlen heterosexuelle Beziehungen zu führen, 56% ihre Sexualität mit vielen Schwierigkeiten ausleben und dass 88% dieses Geheimnis vor ihrer Familie haben – Quelle: rue88.com.

Aber die Homosexualität wird nicht als Delikt angesehen…Istanbul, eine Stadt mit einer grossen Schwulenbevölkerung, ist voll von Lokalen, wo jeder willkommen ist. Und der Stadtteil Taksim ist einer der Hauptadressen: Club 14, 5.KAT, Barbahce, g_LAB, 20&19 sind einige der beliebtesten Bars und Diskos. Aber es gibt noch viele mehr, genau wie Büchereien, türkische Bäder, Sexshops, spezielle Fitnesstudios…und nahe der Istiklakstrasse wächst die Anzahl an Schwulenbars langsam. Für mehr Info besucht die Webseite http://www.qrd.org/qrd/world/europe/turkey/guide.

Diskretion um Akzeptanz zu erlangen

Was deine sexuelle Orientierung auch sein mag, du wirst den Charme von Istanbul geniessen und wenn du dich für dieses delikate Thema interessierst, setz dich zugunsten der Rechte dieser Gemeinde ein. Ein schwuler Ausländer macht einen grossen Beitrag, da er offener sein kann und mehr Visibilität zulässt und dies dazu führt, dass die Gesellschaft mehr Respekt bekommt. Handle mit Diskretion, das ist der beste Rat den wir dir geben können, weil Provokationen und Gewalt nichts effektiv sind. Jedes Land hat seinen eigenen Rhythmus.

Zöger nicht und miete günstige und bequeme Appartments in Istanbul, um einen Pärchenurlaub zu genießen.

Sex & The Middle East: True Or False?

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Like many other women across the country, my girls and I hit the movies at midnight late last week to catch the first screening of Sex & The City 2. I was super excited to see the mouth-watering fashion, the developing storylines of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda and the glittering locations of New York City and Abu Dhabi. However, I was most interested to see if critics’ rumors of a prejudiced portrayal of Middle Eastern culture (women in particular) were true.

The first telling scene occurs early in the movie, when the Arab hotelier who offers Samantha and her girlfriends an all-expenses paid trip to his resort dramatically announces “Dubai is over. Abu Dhabi is the NEW Middle East.? Not so new, it seems—the actual film had to be made in Morocco instead of Abu Dhabi because the government would not allow it, and theaters across the emirate have actually been banned from showing the movie.

When the ladies arrive in “Abu Dhabi? and are lazing by the resort pool, they observe women in full niqabs (complete face coverings) lounging, as well. “The veil across the mouth freaks me out,? Carrie quietly comments. “It’s like they don’t want them to have a voice.? The group then comically observe one woman in full niqab eating the most American of foods—french fries—and marvel over how she does it. Carrie’s honest observation of the niqab, which is commonly worn in Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, does not reek of ignorance to me. It’s an interesting take on the prevalent rationale based on the Quran and Hadith, where the many wives of the Prophet Muhammad were made to cover themselves in the company of other men. However, the verses do not clearly refer to covering the face itself, and many have argued that full-face veiling is a custom that has nothing to do with the Islamic faith.

As they witness less-covered women in “burkinis? swimming in the hotel pool and belly dancers in revealing costume in the hotel nightclub, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda—and probably most of their audience—gradually learn more about the varying standards of acceptable dress for Muslim women today. In perhaps the film’s strongest statement of female empowerment, the ladies do a group rendition of Helen Reddy’s classic “I Am Woman? during a night of karaoke. The number gets the entire club on its feet, with women of all backgrounds (predominately Muslim women) emphatically singing, “Oh yes, I am wise/But it’s wisdom born of pain/Yes, I’ve paid the price/But look how much I gained.?

While the ladies—all highly educated and successful career women—come across as a little too naive throughout their trip to Abu Dhabi, their honest (and common) questions are refreshing. That’s until we’re given by far the most ridiculous scene of the film (and actually, the entire series). Samantha, suffering from the combined effects of menopause (hot flashes), being arrested for indecent exposure on the beach and the stifling heat of the desert country, gets into a tug of war with a crooked merchant who believes she’s stolen a bag from him (when in fact it’s her own, very expensive, Birkin bag). As they pull the bag back and forth the strap breaks, and to everyone’s horror, Samantha—already dressed provocatively in a tank top and mini-shorts—goes wild like a banshee. “Condoms! Condoms! See them?!?!? she yells to the shocked crowd as the bag’s contents spill onto the street. “I have sex! I love sex!? While the vignette is meant to be comical, the disrespect of the entire scene is almost too overwhelming to watch. Samantha, Carrie Charlotte and Miranda are then led by women dressed in abaya (cultural dress) into a private room. The women have come together for their American-themed “book club,? where they’re reading the latest self-help guide from American actress Suzanne Somers. To show solidarity with the girls from New York, they pull their all-black robes off to display similar high-fashion designer clothes. This entire scene is born of stereotypes. While the intention of the message may have been “we are all the same,? unfortunately, it comes across as a condescending statement devoid of any cultural awareness.

Cynthia Nixon, who plays cynical lawyer Miranda Hobbs in the series, was asked about some critics’ negative response to the portrayal of Middle Eastern women in the film on the Today show last week. She replied, “I think it’s crazy. There’s a lot of love for the Middle East in the film. I think there’s a lot of looking at the similarities between us and the women of the Middle East and also the differences.?

That may be true. However, a storyline focusing on one of their Abu Dhabi counterparts might have done the trick a little better, instead of viewing the complex female experience in the Islamic world through the eyes of privileged Western women.

Queer Arabs?

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Although I’m not happy about it, they have the second largest “Gay Pride” parade in the world right here in Toronto. (The biggest is in San Francisco…… naturally!)

At this moment there is a raging debate over a group who calls themselves ‘Queers Against Israeli Apartheid’ over whether they should be allowed to march in the parade or not!

The use of the slogan has put the Pride organizers on a collision course with the City of Toronto, which says the name of the group violates its anti-discrimination policy.

(Other pride sponsors, Jewish advocacy groups and some Toronto mayoral candidates have expressed their displeasure since the city gave the Pride festival $121,000 to help defray costs.)

But now, the decision by organizers to ban the group has led to other activists in the gay and lesbian community denouncing the action as censorship!

“Our decision to restrict the use of the words “Israeli Apartheid” was not made easily, independently, or absent of a commitment to respectful expression,” Pride organizers said in a news release.”Let us be clear, criticism of Israeli government policy is legitimate. However, the atmosphere created by the use of the words “Israeli Apartheid” in the last three years of the Pride festival are not.”

On Monday, about 20 former grand marshalls of the Pride parade returned their awards as part of the growing protest.

Elle Flanders, a member of the group, says the decision flies in the face of an organization that is based on “free speech and of democracy, and of trying to win our rights to speech.”

“They have to an extent betrayed the community,” said gay activist Gareth Henry, “and have betrayed me personally — my trust in Pride and what Pride stands for.”

Well I don’t know about you folks, but unless all Palestinians are gay……………, I don’t know what “Gay Pride” has to do with Israel!

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Help gay Muslims ‘ease into’ civil society

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Last night (2010.06.07), author/autobiographeuse, apostate, defender of freedom, fashion plate, and polyglot Ayaan Hirsi Ali visited Toronto on her book tour. She was observable in her natural state – surrounded by protection from Muslims who want her dead.

During Q&A, I asked: “I have read of violent anti-gay attacks, allegedly by recent Islamic immigrants, in countries like the Netherlands and Norway.? She was looking right at me. She looks right at everyone she talks to no matter who they are or what they think of her. Nerves of steel. “In Canada and the United States, in your opinion under what circumstances should a gay or lesbian person support Muslims or Islam?? I asked, using the pluperfect pronunciation of “Muslims.?

A gay or lesbian person should never support Islam, she said immediately, because it is anti-gay. But such a person should support gay or lesbian Muslims, to “ease them? into civil society. Islam is opposed to homosexuality, she continued. The Koranic admonition to throw a homosexual off the top of the tallest building was one thing in Mohammed’s time when that was only a few feet, “but now we have the Sears Tower. So that is obviously a dealbreaker,? Ali said to chuckles and applause from the crowd.

I gave her a little bow of the head – in the Orientalist style, to use the term in various senses. It is pleasing to be treated like royalty by someone who, in a just universe, actually would be.

Gay rights should not be harnessed to an Islamophobic agenda

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In a brilliant exposé the Guardian reported how a lone man held up a pink triangle at a demonstration of the English Defence League – one of the most openly anti-immigrant and Islamophobic organisations in the country. When the reporter asked him what it was for he replied nervously: “This is the symbol gay people were made to wear under Hitler. Islam poses the same threat and we are here to express our opposition to that.”

Given fascism’s history of violent and outspoken homophobia, the news that the EDL would have a 115-strong lesbian, gay and transgender wing would appear, at the very least, incongruous.

But in fact it just the most glaring example of the misguided and ill-informed shift in our nationalist discourse that has moved the emphasis from creed to culture and race to religion in a bid to erect a moral rampart between the a mythological modern, enlightened, progressive west and the demonised medieval, backward, bigoted south. Far from being a contradiction confined to the far right, these issues have taken on totemic significance in the mainstream in the broadside against both multiculturalism in general and non-European immigration in particular as though they were inimicable with the principles of social equality.

Laws and Practices Governing Sexual Minorities in Morocco, Iran, and Turkey

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New York University School of Medicine’s Colloquium on Medical Ethics (Loren Wissner Greene, M.D., Chair)1, part of the Master Scholars Program, in conjunction with its Medical Humanism Program (Allen Keller, M.D., Chair, and, also, Director of the NYU School of Medicine Center for Health and Human Rights and Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture2), presented a combined human rights and Islamic Law program at a well attended conference at NYU Langone Medical Center entitled Homosexuality in Muslim Countries: A Comparative Study of the Legal Status of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender People, on May 26, 2010. Also attending the event was Mekbib Gemeda, the Assistant Dean for Diversity Affairs and Community Health and the Director of the Center for the Health of the African Diaspora at NYU School of Medicine. The Masters Scholars program and their chairs hold the NYU Colloquium monthly during the school year on a variety of topics.
The featured speaker was Hossein Alizadeh, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, who surveyed the legal and extra-legal discrimination against the non-heterosexual practices of sexual minorities in Morocco, Iran, and Turkey. According to its website, the Human Rights Commission is “dedicated to human rights advocacy on behalf of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.?3

Mr. Alizadeh addressed the variety of penal approaches to non-heterosexual conduct (Morocco, punishment of up to two years in prison, limited fine; Iran, punishments may be flogging or capital punishment, depending on the conduct concerned; Turkey, a secular but majority Islamic country, no codified sanctions). He paid special attention to the particularly harsh and graphic laws in Iran on sodomy depicting in virtually X-rated fashion precisely what is permissible and what is not and with whom and when and to what extent. Despite the absence of laws prohibiting non-heterosexual conduct in Turkey, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) minorities nonetheless suffered appreciable discrimination and harassment there. 4

In discussing the different countries’ legal systems (particularly the complex and religious-dominated Iranian system of government), Mr. Alizadeh observed some outlandish medical diagnoses in Iran, such as “diabetes,? that is inappropriately applied to attribute a disease to transgender persons; contrasted the treatment of persons within the various LGBT categories; and reported on the status of the overall effort to improve conditions for these populations, both legally and practically. He also mentioned the peculiar reasoning that leads the government in Iran to give government support to (and even urge) transgender operations, so that by 2009, there were at least 4,000 self-identified transgender people in Iran. At the same time, Mr. Alizadeh noted that in the case of male to female operations, some resulting women suffered “gender shock?– that is, the realization that by becoming female, they degraded their social status and worsened their position in society.

Despite the general harshness of some laws against sexual crimes, including non-heterosexual or LGBT conduct (especially in Iran), Mr. Alizadeh said that there are also ameliorating features, at least in theory. These include the intentional difficulty of enforcement because of onerous proof requirements in Iran, such as the requirement of having four men as witnesses and the extent of observation required to convict of various acts. For proving any sexual crimes, witnesses are needed to observe the sexual act in question from start to finish, which would undoubtedly be rare. Other deterrents to prosecution include severe punishment for “sexually malicious accusations? either for homosexual or heterosexual crimes. He also touched on patriarchal domination affecting heterosexual relationships in most Muslim countries where Sharia law is being enforced by the courts, including the requirement that married women be “available at all times,? and under some circumstances, the allowance of marriage of very young girls. (By law in Iran, puberty is defined as 9 for girls and 15 for boys). In contrast, the 2004 reform of the Moroccan family code legislatively disapproved such underage marriages, but in some areas, enforcement is concededly lacking.

Mr. Alizadeh observed that the Koran does not expressly condone discrimination against sexual minorities – let alone punishment for non-heterosexual practices. “Most of the religious discourse on punishing homosexuality,? for example, he said, “is based on the Sunnah and Hadith (narrations from the Prophet and his deeds), but there is an ongoing debate about the authenticity of those quotes from the Prophet as well as the accuracy of the reports about his deeds. Some scholars also argue that sexual taboos are cultural and traditional values repackaged as religious norms.?

“Also, in Islam, sin is a private matter, and publicizing a private sin is a bigger sin,? said Mr. Alizadeh. “Talking about other people’s private lives, let alone accusing them of committing a sin, is often compared in religious literature to committing rape in public. Islam strictly forbids Muslims from speculating about other members of the society and gossiping about the private lives of other Muslims. Protecting individuals’ privacy, and their good names, is repeatedly emphasized in the Koran. This is important, since most legal cases against ‘homosexuals’ in Muslim societies are often based on speculation and gossip, rather than witnessing the sexual act itself, which is the only way one can claim knowledge of someone’s sexual orientation.?

That Islam is opposed to discrimination based on sexual preferences also finds scholarly support. Thus Reza Aslan, in his classic history of Islam, notes that “acknowledging human rights in Islam is not simply a means of protecting civil liberties, it is a fundamental religious duty.?
5 While Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan has recognized that Islam opposes homosexuality, he confirms “that we must avoid condemning or rejecting individuals,? regardless of that position.6 He further observed: “It is quite possible to disagree with a person’s behavior (public or private), while respecting that person as an individual.?7 In addition, he noted that “justice is a condition for peace, and the Prophet kept insisting that one cannot experience the taste of equity if one is unable to respect the dignity of individuals….The message was a call for religious, social and political liberation.?8 Indeed, Muhammad showed his respect for all persons by his own example. “Throughout his Muhammad’s life, he kept listening to women, children, men, slaves, rich, and poor, as well as outcasts.?9

Resolving the position of Islam or any other religion on sexual minorities was beyond the scope of the conference and certainly of this article. However, at times the existence of repressive legislation may reflect a perversion of fundamental religious teaching whether as a result of the legislation’s overall substance or severity or through its legislative or prescriptive detail. Even if it does not, one must separate what one views as correct as a religious matter from what should be enshrined in a nation’s legal system as positive law. Although this is a basic principle in the United States, not all countries make that important distinction. Moreover, religious interpretations need not carry on outdated and unkind views indefinitely but rather may evolve over time if they are to remain relevant, appropriate and just. Undoubtedly religious justifications may have been devised in many religions for discrimination and bigotry, but religious people may set those positions aside in favor of human rights in support of a better world.

Dr. Loren Greene, the Chair of the Colloquium, said that her knowledge and interest in Islamic law and society has been escalating through her increasing exposure to the area, including her attendance and acknowledged assistance at a conference on women’s empowerment in Morocco in March 2010 in Washington, D.C. and other events. “When Hossein Alizadeh and his organization’s work came to my attention,? she said, “I was especially receptive to it. Not only did it seem to present an interesting idea for one of our programs, but I thought that it would attract a large segment of the NYU community as it in fact did.?

She added that she has been personally interested in the subject of the conference and related areas (including moral relativism) since her undergraduate studies with a major in anthropology and as a result of her regular attendance at the NYU Colloquium in Medical Ethics since she was a medical student at NYU School of Medicine before becoming Chair. She has also recently expanded her involvement in such areas through ongoing studies as a student and faculty member of the new Masters Program Bioethics and Environmental Ethics at the NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

According to Dean Mekbib Gemeda, programs like this seminar fit perfectly within NYU’s educational approach. “Topics that look at the intersection of medicine and humanism help provide the knowledge and skills needed to navigate across cultures and are of great interest to us at NYU,” he said, “as we continue to serve increasingly diverse patients in the US and globally.” He added that this seminar, however, is just “one outstanding example.” Among other things, NYU’s Institute of Community Health and Research “hosted a one-day conference on Islam and Health in 2007 to discuss issues related to caring for Muslim patients in the US and abroad,” which “included mental health, reproductive health, and Islam and medical ethics,” Dean Gemeda observed; and “NYU looks forward to hosting similar programs in the future.”10

Besuch am Wochenende

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Es war schon spät an einem Juli-Vormittag, ich räkelte mich, mit einem Krimi, noch am späten Vormittag, in meiner Falle und genoss den freien Tag. Sonst war ich um diese Zeit schon lange in der Tischlerei, wo ich im dritten Lehrjahr war. ,,Bernd, morgen kommt Onkel Magnus zu Besuch”, rief mein Vater laut durch die Wohnung, ,,dann bist Du wenn ich zur Arbeit gehe nicht so allein”.”Das ist ja Klasse” erwiederte ich und dachte an Morgen. Morgen, das war einer der langweiligen Sonntage im unserem Mini-Nest und ich freute mich daher auf meinen Onkel, war er doch ein fröhlicher immer zu Scherzen aufgelegter Mann. Das Buch beiseite legend, dusselte ich ein wenig vor mich hin und dachte an den morgigen Besucher. Der war ein großer, hagerer Mann, den man an seinen grauen Haaren die gut 50 Jahre nicht unbedingt ansah. Der Onkel wohnte mit seiner Frau und den beiden Töchtern in einem Haus, dass den davor liegenden Deich zur Weser überragte. Lemwerder so hieß das kleine verschlafene Dorf, an dessen gegenüberliegend Ufer die Vulkan Werft in Bremen-Vegesack lag. Dort arbeitete er seit vielen Jahren im Schiffsbau als Schlosser. Der Beruf hatte den langen, drahtigen Kerl geformt, er sah genau so hart und unbeugsam aus wie der Stahl den er hämmerte und schweißte.

Seit meiner frühesten Kindheit war ich in den Schulferien in Lemwerder und mein Onkel war mir dort ein guter Freund geworden. Täglich, nach seiner Arbeit gingen wir, mit einer Decke beladen, an das Ufer der Weser. Dort hockten wir am Abhang des Deiches und beobachteten über Stunden die großen Frachter, träumten und fabulierten von großer Fahrt und aufregenden Abenteuern auf See. Onkel Magnus war dann nicht mehr die erwachsene Respektsperson, er wurde dann das was ich war, ein Junge — Kumpel – Kamerad. Wenn keiner der großen Pötte kam ging ich oft schwimmen und mein Onkel wartete dann mit dem Handtuch auf mich, trocknete mich immer ab und wickelte mich anschließend in das mitgebrachte Handtuch ein. Da hatte er nicht viel zu tun bei einem langen, rothaarigen Bengel, der so dünn war das ihm die Rippen aus der Haut drückten. Dann lagen wir beieinander auf der kleinen Decke und ließen die Sonne auf uns scheinen bis das nächste Schiff kam. Glücklich lag ich dann da und hoffte die Ferien würden nie enden. Am Abend arbeitete Onkel Magnus immer in seiner Werkstatt im Garten und ich hockte auf der Werkbank und sah ihm gerne dabei zu, wenn er geschickt Motoren zerlegte oder zusammenbaute. So verging ein Tag nach den anderen und ehe ich mich versah, waren die Ferien vorbei und ich musste wieder nach Hause.

Heute war es so weit, ich schlenderte zum Bahnhof, um den Onkel abzuholen. Mein Vater war schon lange zur Arbeit gegangen. Er arbeitete hier in der Kreisstadt im Krankenhaus als Krankenpfleger. Auf der Brücke über dem Bahnhof stehend, schaute ich einer in weißen Dampf gehüllten Rangierlok bei ihrem geschäftigen Treiben zu. Es war faszinierend wenn die Lock ihre Waggons über die Drehweiche mit den vielen sternförmigen Anschlüssen schob und ich malte mir aus wohin wohl die vielen Locks und Waggons fuhren.

Endlich war es so weit, aus dem Lautsprecher quakte eine blecherne Stimme etwas kaum zu verstehendes. Laut pfeifend, zischend und dampfend donnerte die Lock mit den angehängten Waggons heran. Stahl auf Stahl quietschte und der Zug hielt an. Aus den Fenstern guckten einige Fahrgäste, andere stiegen ein und aus. Auf Zehenspitzen stehend hielt ich Ausschau nach dem großen Mann und sah den Onkel, mit einer Tasche unter’m Arm geklemmt, aus dem vorletzten Waggon aussteigen. Ich rannte rufend und winkend auf ihn zu und lächelnd umarmte er mich, nachdem er seine Tasche abgestellt hatte. Wir gingen durch den Ort nach Hause und hatten uns dabei viel zu erzählen. So verging der Tag wie im Fluge. Abends fragte Onkel Magnus plötzlich, „Wollen wir zusammen ein Bierchen trinken gehen?” Es war das erste Mal, dass er mir solches anbot und zögernd stimmte ich zu, obwohl ich das bittere Bier gar nicht so gerne mochte. Innerlich fragte ich mich, ob es nur wieder einer seiner Scherze war, oder er mich jetzt für soweit erwachsen hielt, dass ich jetzt in eine Kneipe mitgehen durfte.

Nicht weit von unserem Zuhause war ein hübsches Gartenrestaurant, in welches meine Familie des öfteren zum Essen ging. Es war ein warmer Abend und wir gingen in den Garten und er bestellte zwei Bier und zwei Korn für uns. So tranken und plauschten wir über einige Stunden und genoßen zwischendurch ein gutschmeckendes Abendessen. Irgendwann, wohl ziemlich spät, brachen wir auf und Onkel Magnus musste mich ganz schön festhalten, damit ich nicht umfiel.

Ich konnte mich noch schwach erinnern, wie wir nach Hause und ich in mein Bett gekommen war. Irgendwie hatte ich es dann doch geschafft aus meinen Klamotten zu schlüpfen, ohne dabei umzufallen. Nackig schlüpfte ich in mein Bett und zog mir die Bettdecke hoch bis zum Kinn.

Onkel Magnus war noch putzmunter und rumorte laut in der Küche herum. Nach einer Weile kam er mit zwei Tassen Kaffee in mein Zimmer. ,,Komm trink mal einen Schluck, das hilft und dann wird es dir schnell wieder besser gehen”, sagte er und hockte sich, die Tassen jonglierend, auf die Bettkante. Meinen Kaffee trinkend lag ich da und wir rekapitulierten das Geschehen des Abends, wobei der Onkel noch einige Witze und Anekdoten einflocht. Wir waren uns beide einig — es war ein gelungener Abend gewesen.

Die ungezwungene Unterhaltung reflektierte aber nicht mein Befinden. Innerlich erstarrt, unbekanntes erwartend lag ich unter meiner Zudecke, denn ich spürte die Hand meines Onkels unter der Decke an meinem Bein. Diese rauhe große Pranke streichelte sanft an meinem Bein, langsam auf und ab. Seine Fingerspitzen strichen dabei zielstrebig auf der Innenseite nach oben, am Schenkel entlang. Kurz vor dem Schritt kam die Bewegung zum Stillstand und die Finger bewegten sich wieder abwärts. Ganz steif lag ich da, auf dem Rücken, beide Arme an mich gepresst, wusste mit einem Mal, was er wollte, um was es ging. Er erzählte und ich antwortete ohne zu wissen was ich sagte, dachte ich doch nur an das was unausgesprochen gerade mit uns passierte. Ein eigenartiges Kribbeln durchflutete mich und der um den es wohl ging, der wurde ganz steif. Ich wünschte mir sehnlichst das seine Hand höher rutschen würde, sie blieb aber in ihrer Lauerstellung zwischen Knie und Schritt hin und her pendelnd. Ich merke schnell das er nicht den Mut hatte den letzten, den entscheidenden Schritt zu wagen.

So hatte ich einen Moment Zeit darüber nachzudenken, willst du oder willst du nicht. Ich wollte, aus Neugier, einer gehörigen Portion Geilheit und weil ich meinen Onkel mochte.

.Allen Mut zusammennehmend ertastete ich seine Finger und zog sie langsam nach oben, legte sie direkt auf das Ziel seiner Wünsche.

Plötzlich war es ganz still, die Luft knisterte, keiner sagte etwas, wir atmeten schwer

und sahen uns an. ,,Willst Du das auch wirklich”, fragte er mich ganz leise. ,,Ja”, war das Einzige was ich zitternd hervorbrachte. Onkel Magnus umfasste mit seiner großen Tatze meinen Schwanz und ich strampelte mit den Fußspitzen die Decke hinunter. Seine Augen wanderten an mich auf und ab, ich spürte das er den Anblick des nackten Jungen genoss, spürte in seinen an mich entlang streichenden Händen die ungezügelte Wolllust.

Ganz schnell war auch mein Onkel nackt und im Bett. Wir kuschelten aneinander. Ich fühlte seinen kleinen Pimmel der gegen meinen Bauch drückte. Spontan griff ich nach ihn und hatte einen eisenharten Schwanz zwischen den Fingern. Ein eigenartig knorriges Glied, dessen Vorhaut zurückgezogen war und von einer ganz blassen Eichel gekrönt wurde. Er erinnerte mich an einen Eichenast, verwunden, höckrig.

Schnell gerieten wir in einen Zustand der Ekstase und fielen übereinander her. Er zog mich auf sich, seine beiden Arme umfassten mich wie die Klammern von Handschellen. Seine Fingernägel kratzten zart über meinen Rücken und steigerten meine Gier weiter. Ich saugte an seinen winzigen Nippeln und presste mich gegen ihn, wollte seinen Penis an mich spüren. Irgendwann, wir rieben unsere Schwänze aneinander, war es geschehen, der Saft flutete aus mir heraus und erschöpft lag ich auf ihn.Was alles noch geschah, ich weiß es nicht mehr, mein Verstand hatte ausgesetzt. Früh am Morgen schliefen wir, eng umschlungen, total fertig ein.

So wurden mein Onkel und ich ein Paar. Unsere heimliche Beziehung endete erst, als ich in eine andere Gegend ziehen musste.

One Man’s Tale

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He was standing in the lobby of the Marriot Hotel in Cairo, just in front of the reception desk, when I first laid eyes on him. A chubby, pleasant-looking man in his mid thirties, he wore a fashionable black turtleneck and a pony tail that set him apart from the conservative-looking Arab businessmen congregated in the opulent lobby. I nodded at him and flashed him a copy of NEWSWEEK, as we’d agreed on the telephone; he gave me a little smile of acknowledgment and followed me out the glass door and onto the banks of the Nile. As we stepped into a taxi for a trip across town to Cairo’s bustling bazaar district, Horus, as he called himself, admitted that his pony tail was a risque statement in today’s conservative Egypt. “People give me looks,” he said, in near perfect English. “I’m now considered a ‘suspect’.”

These are perilous times to be gay in Egypt. During the past 12 months, a massive police crackdown against homosexual men has terrified the country’s deeply closeted gay community and raised a chorus of criticism from human rights groups in Europe and America. Nobody knows how many gays are languishing in Egyptian jails–the number is certainly in the hundreds–or what prompted the massive dragnet. But because of the strict societal taboos against homosexuality, Egyptian human-rights groups have shunned such cases, leaving it to a handful of local gay activists to raise legal fees and provide other support. The work can be hazardous. Gay activists in Egypt risk ostracism, arrest and even violence. But for crusaders like Horus, one of perhaps a dozen Egyptians who has ‘come out’ to friends and family, heightening the world’s awareness of human rights abuses takes priority over personal safety.

Born into an upper-middle-class Cairo family, Horus came out eight years ago, he told me, following a traumatic breakup with a longtime lover. The man had been a fellow performer in Horus’s theater group in Cairo; but he was so ashamed of the relationship that he kept it a deep secret, refusing to let them be seen together in public. Eventually he left Horus, claiming that homosexuality was a “sin”. At first, Horus felt betrayed and angry. “Then I thought to myself, ‘how can I blame him when I’m doing the same thing he’s doing?” he says, sipping thick Arabic coffee in an outdoor stall. ” I also was hiding who I really am.”

He first revealed his sexual identity to his theater colleagues, most of whom proved to be supportive. His immediate family was far less so. “My brother was very homophobic. He accused me of being sick, called me a faggot and told me I had to be treated by a psychiatrist.” His father, a chemist at a Cairo university, responded by walking out of the room and refusing to discuss the subject further. (His mother had died years earlier) Even sympathetic relatives responded with a measure of denial: A favorite aunt still invites him to her house for social engagements–to meet available women. “She still believes that I just haven’t met the right girl,” he said with a resigned smile.

Gradually, his activism deepened. In 1999 Horus wrote and directed an experimental play for a Cairo theater called ‘Harem’–a pun on the Arabic word ‘Haram,’ meaning forbidden–a semi autobiographical work dealing with homosexuality and other taboos. The play was praised by many Cairo critics and selected as a entry into an international theater competition in Europe. But some members of the Egyptian nomination committee called the work “immoral” and, after a heated debate, the play was withdrawn. Since then, Horus says, he has had difficulty finding financial support or a stage for his plays.

Even as his work in the theater dried up, he was finding a new identity. In 1998 Horus became the “moderator” of an Internet mailing list and chat room for homosexuals that caught on in the Cairo underground; within a year more than 800 subscribers had signed on.

The Internet brought Horus into contanct with other Egyptian gays who had similar stories of shame, self-loathing and deeply closeted lives. He encountered young men who had been locked out of their homes by their parents and forced to sleep on the streets, others whose fathers had savagely beaten them, some whose parents had forced them to seek psychiatric help so they could be “cured” of their “disease.” At the same time, he discovered that his chat room was providing a desperately needed service: it was allowing gay men to be candid about their identities, to discuss their frustrations, and develop a support network of fellow gays. “There were three optimistic years when people were finding their way to us and other Web sites, and we started to have hope that maybe one day people will understand that we exist, that we are visible,” he says.

Then came the crackdown. Apparently worried about spreading gay activism and anxious to placate its fundamentalist Muslim constitutency, the increasingly conservative regime of President Hosni Mubarak tightened the screws on Egypt’s homosexuals. In 2000, Horus says “we started to hear about an Internet crimes department–set up mainly to trap gray men on the Internet.” That year, two men who ran a gay Web site were arrested, convicted of various crimes and sentenced to lengthy jail terms. The government also intensified its harrassment and prosecution of gay men gathering in public places.

In 2000 eighteen homosexuals were convicted and jailed for two years following a dragnet of Cairo nightclubs and discotheques. Then in the spring of 2001, came the case that made headlines around the world and became a symbol of Egyptian intolerance: the arrest of 53 gay men at the Queen Boat floating discotheque on the Nile in Cairo, and their highly publicized trial last November before a special State Security Court normally used to prosecute suspected Islamic terrorists.

The Queen Boat case had a personal impact on Horus. Although he rarely attended parties on the boat, three of his closest friends were among those arrested that night. Within days, the Queen Boat case “took over my life,” he says. He pressured reluctant attorneys to defend the arrested men, contacted their families, raised funds abroad via the Internet, followed the trial and wrote lengthy reports for international human-rights groups. He even took the dramatic step of appearing undisguised on CNN International to talk about the case. In the end, 22 of the defendants were convicted on charges ranging from defiling religion to debauchery; one was sentenced to five years in jail, while the others drew prison terms of between one and three years.

The last few months have left Horus feeling increasingly pessimistic. His Internet chat room has all but disbanded. Most of the gay men he knows are frightened and have stopped going out at night. Every day brings new stories of roundups of homosexuals in Cairo and other cities; several friends have been held for as long as sixty days without charges and beaten badly in prison.

Horus is now trying to arrange attorneys for eight suspected gays picked up in the Nile Delta city of Damanhur and charged, like the Queen Boat 52, with defiling religion and debauchery; last week police refused to allow the lawyers entrance into the prison where the suspects are being detained. “Egypt was one of the most open minded countries in the area, but now we are more conservative than any other,” Horus said, leading me through the labyrinthine alleys of the bazaar. He flinches at the sight of a half dozen Egyptian security policemen making their rounds past souvenir stalls and coffee shops. “I get paranoid whenever I see the police these days,” he admits.

He points to a cluster of burqa-wearing women gathered outside a mosque: “Look at that. A few years ago those women would have raised eyebrows in Cairo. Now, nobody pays attention. The fundamentalists are taking over this country.”

Horus’s increasingly high profile as a gay activist in Egypt has begun to earn him invitations abroad even as he finds himself at growing risk at home. Next week, he is flying to the United States to attend a human rights conference, after which he plans to tour the country for the first time. He says he has often contemplated leaving Egypt for good. “I’m going through ups and downs,” he says. “One day I feel the country isn’t safe for people like me. Other days I think I should stay and fight.” At a taxi stand on the edge of Cairo’s old city, Horus bids me farewell. “I try to stay hopeful,” he tells me, shaking my hand. “But it’s a very dark time right now.”

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