|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
Sabq reports that a man who wrote his mobile number on the walls of a local Mosque's toilet, asking to meet for gay sex, has been arrested by the "Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice," the religious police known also as the mutaween (or hay'ah). A case is now being prepared against him in court.
According to Sabq, the Imam of a mosque in Ta'if, a city near Mecca, noticed a mobile number written on the toilet wall of the mosque, with a message about meeting for gay sexy. The Imam erased the message only to find it reappearing each time (five times in total). The imam proceeded to inform of this incident to the Mutaween who coordinated a plan to entrap the man.
The Imam and the mutaween coordinated a phone call to the man asking him if he wanted to meet for sex at his home. An arrangement was made for meeting upon which the mutaween proceeded and arrested the man. He is said to be a 35 year old married man with children. His mobile phone was also checked and found to have gay porn. The case has been referred for prosecution and Sabq news ominously wrote that the "necessary procedures and actions will be taken against the man."
If the mutaween learn that a person is homosexual or engaging in homosexual activity they are likely to be subject to lifelong harassment (including sexual) and blackmail. This often leaves the person extremely vulnerable and subject to a life of fear, misery and in some cases leads to suicide.
The number of people falling victim to the mutaween is thought to be very significant but information, understandably, is very difficult to gather. We have recently reported two stories about similar issues, one of a British Citizen, another of a Saudi who got entrapped via the internet.
Sami Al Ali, an activist from the region, commented that "unfortunately such cases are quite common in the Gulf States and in particular, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia." He added that "many men and women, and in particular gay men, are blackmailed for sex and money," making their life very difficult if not intolerable. GME notes that in some cases it is the agents of the mutaween themselves blackmailing gay men or just attempting to entrap them.
Saudi Arabia is a deeply gender segregated country which therefore exacerbates sexual tensions that have been, for centuries, channelled discretely into same sex acts. Such acts are common place but publicly disavowed and frowned upon. Many men, for example, who engage in such acts are not necessarily primarily "gay" in their object choice, nor are they
likely to ever identify as such. Publicly being identified as a homosexual is seen as deeply offensive, nicknamed Makhaneeth or Luti a faggot, effeminate, sinner and even scum.
GME calls upon the Saudi authorities to release the man and take steps to decriminalise homosexuality.