Why Being LGBTQ = Death In Saudi Arabia
Although Saudi Arabia is a place often referenced in the news owing to foreign affairs, it is still an area of the world that is not often taught about in Western society and therefore there are misconceptions that run rampant. If you're a queer person in this day, Saudi Arabia is a place that, unfortunately, would not be wise to visit despite it being 2018. According to various polls and lists, Saudi Arabia is actually one of the worst places in the world for LGBTQ+ people. If this comes as a surprise to you, keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is an area of the world where culture is staunchly tied to the area's religious roots-- unfortunately for queer people, their love goes against religious texts which are used as ammunition for the prejudice.
The Saudi social norms and laws are heavily influenced by Arab tribal customs and ultra-conservative Wahhabi Islam, which are clear in their condemnation of same-sex love in all forms. If you're a man or a woman caught being gay, you're subjected to legal punishment as well as corporal punishment including jail-time, torture, and death. Although one can not conflate religious beliefs with acts of terrorism, the reality is that the country's general attitude towards homosexuality leaves queer people open to attack more often than not from vigilantes.
Do you remember Jamal Khashoggi who was a Saudi Arabian journalist, dissident, author, and a general manager and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel? He was assassinated at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 by agents of the Saudi government owing to his dissenting opinion of the prince....this is what LGBTQ people face every day in Saudi Arabia.
The reality is, LGBTQ = Death in Saudi Arabia, and the fact remains that outside press and tourists aren't even allowed into the country because the Saudi Royal family doesn't want the outside world to know about the human rights atrocities that are going on.
If you're gay and in Saudi Arabia, here are the dangers you face every day:
- Any display of homosexuality is subject to a fine. In 2016, when the US legalized gay marriage, some Saudi residents wanted to join in the celebration. One of the first to be silenced by the government was the privately run Talaee Al-Noor school in Riyadh which happened to have a rooftop parapet painted with rainbow stripes. The school was fined 100,000 riyals ($26,650) for displaying “the emblem of the homosexuals” on its building, one of its administrators was jailed and the offending painting was quickly replaced.
- Despite vehement crackdowns against same-sex acts, the appreciation of the male form is not considered "homosexual" in nature. Furthermore, homosexuality is largely believed to be a Western invention meant to poison and moral standings of men which means that the government only operates under the swift rule of punishment and has zero interest in exploring queer rights.
- Since Saudi culture does not recognize "transgender" as a term, it is this group of queer people that are, more often than not, face the most vitriolic hate. On 1 March 2017, two transgender Pakistanis – Amna and Meeno – were tortured to death in Saudi Arabia, after being packed in sacks and then thrashed with sticks.
- In 2002, three men were beheaded for ‘committing homosexual acts.
- Later on, dozens of men were arrested for attending a homosexual wedding.
- Under the new rule of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is determined to shape up the country with "moral integrity", the anti-LGBTQ+ agenda is only expected to expand
- It is extremely common for families with queer members to publicly disown them for their same-sex attractions.
- Most same-sex attraction in people living in Saudi Arabia must be explored online, although in the past dating apps have been used to entrap queer people into meeting up with vigilantes or government officials who wish them harm.
- There are absolutely zero federal protections or resources for queer people in Saudi Arabia.
- The Saudi Arabia government does not believe in free press, which is why a large amount of homophobically motivated attacks are not reported by the media there.
While it can be a seemingly impossible task to change the cultural norms of an entire society, it is important to keep in mind that the queer people of Saudi Arabia still find ways of silently rebelling. They converse in chat rooms and love in secret; an inspiration that light can touch even the darkest of places when you let love in.