MENA: International Day Against Homophobia Celebrated

May 17th marks the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Despite homosexual acts still being punishable by law in all of the Middle East and North Africa with the exception of Israel, there are nevertheless many initiatives throughout the region to mark the day, along with more established organisations building on the successes of previous years events.

A placard from the Beirut demonstrations. It reads “Mithly Milthlak”; a play on words indicating that homosexuals are no different from anyone else.

According to GayMaroc, 2010 marks the second year of local celebrations.
This year the programme of events was organised by KifKif, a Moroccan gay rights organisation which was established in 2004.
The programme of events included informative talks, such as the following:

La réalité contre les mythes:
“Tous les gais ont le sida, les homosexuels sont des pédophiles, les homosexuels sont un danger pour la continuité de la race humaine …”
Ces exemples et bien d'autres mythes et réalités manipulées intentionnément circulent par le Maroc quand on parlera de l'homosexualité. Dans cette conférence, Maryam Abdallah (ex coordinateur de Kifkif) essayera de répondre à beaucoup de ces questions.

Reality against Myth:
“All gays have AIDS, homosexuals are pedophiles, homosexuals are a threat to the continuance of the human race…”
These examples along with other myths and deliberately distorted realities come up in Morocco when homosexuality is talked about. In this conference, Maryam Abdallah (ex coordinator of KifKaf) will try and address many of these issues.

Along with a theatre piece, entitled “ma mère aime les femmes!” (“my mother loves women!”) addressing lesbianism in Morocco, a film dealing with homosexuality and how it is experienced in conflict zones was screened.

Meanwhile, in Beirut, Lebanon, the activities extended over a number of days, and were covered by Al-Akhbar newspaper in a positive light.
Helem, Beirut-based LGBT Association, organised events this year under the title أنا شاذ (I'm queer).

تنظم حلم هذه السنة اليوم العالمي لمكافحة رهاب المثلية والتحول الجنسي تحت عنوان :أنا شاذ!
قد تحمل تلك الكلمة في مضمونها معانٍ استفزازية للكثيرين، إلا أننا اخترنا أن ننضم إلى مَن يعتبرهم المجتمع بأطرافه الحاكمة شواذاً. أحرار الجنس في لبنان اختاروا واخترن التضامن.

Helem's theme for this years IDAHO is entitled: I'm queer. This word itself is provocative and may upset many people, but have chosen to support all those who are regarded as queer, or deviant, by the governmental aspects of society. The LGBT community in Lebanon has decided to stand together in solidarity.

LGBT activism in Lebanon is the most active in the Arab World, spanning 10 years.
The events listed included the following:

عرض وثائقي عن النشاط السياسي للم.م.م.م.م. خلال العقد الأخير
منتدى مسرحي حول رُهاب المثلية والتحول الجنسي, الجنسانية, التضامن, عمّال وعملات الجنس, إلخ..
ندوة حول التمييز، والتضامن: غسان مكارم, رشا مومنة, نرمين الحرّ, نادين معوّض
اعتصام في شارع الحمرا, مسرح المدينة

Documentary on the 10 years of Activism on LGBTQ rights in Lebanon.
Forum Theater on Homophobia, Transphobia, Sexuality, Solidarity, Sex Work etc…
Panel on Discrimination and solidarity: Ghassan Makarem, Rasha Moumneh, Nermine Al-Horr, Nadine Moawad
Sit-in: Hamra Street, Al-Madina Theater

Activists in Al-Hamra, Beirut, on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

A set of photos of the day can be seen here.

Nadz, who attended the activities, remarks on the progression of events at Meem‘s online magazine, Bekhsoos:

The event raised many questions in my head – and in the heads of many in the audience who posed things like: “Where do we go from here?” “What now?” “What have we really achieved in the past decade?” Examining the faces of the 80-something people in the audience, I recognized many as either activists or familiar faces from the LGBT community. And I see we have fallen yet again into the same cycle of preaching to the converted

The post is followed by a lively discussion on how to move forward with the movement in a Lebanese context.

Meanwhile, in blogospheres from the rest of the Arab World, discussion of any celebrations or events have been silent;- perhaps a reflection of the LGBT rights situation in this region, and the need to maintain privacy.

The group Iraqi LGBT, who states their aim as the following:

Our immediate, urgent priority is to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans Iraqi's facing death, persecution and systematic targeting by the Iraqi police, Badr and Sadr Militia and to raise awareness about the wave of homophobic murders in Iraq to the outside world.

and operate out of the UK, are however holding talks on Wednesday 19 May, in London, from where the group can securely work, and are offering a programme of events with a special focus on gays in Iraq.


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