Treatment of LGBTQ people across Middle East examined in new report

Lethal homophobia exists in a number of Muslim-majority countries, according to the report, and the death penalty is a common punishment for same-sex activity in multiple countries.

The rainbow flag, commonly known as the gay pride flag or LGBT pride flag, is seen during the first Gay Pride parade in Skopje, North Macedonia June 29, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/OGNEN TEOFILOVSKI)
The rainbow flag, commonly known as the gay pride flag or LGBT pride flag, is seen during the first Gay Pride parade in Skopje, North Macedonia June 29, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/OGNEN TEOFILOVSKI)

The  International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) published a report on Tuesday covering the criminalization of consensual same-sex relations, stating that the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority countries are suspected of executing gays.

“Possible executions were identified in at least two countries (Iran and Saudi Arabia), with an additional number of summary executions carried out by insurgent groups that gained effective control over a certain portion of territory in at least six other countries (Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan),” noted the ILGA World report.

Lethal homophobia exists in a number of Muslim-majority countries, according to the report, which states that “there is full legal certainty that the death penalty exists as a prescribed punishment for consensual same-sex sexual activity in Brunei, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Indications are that Pakistan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates may also be able to enforce the death penalty under existing legal frameworks.”

Qatar's regime is slated to host the World Cup in 2022.

The ILGA World study—Our Identities Under Arrest—analyzed state-sponsored persecution of LGBTQ+ communities in 72 countries over the last two decades. Israel was cited two times in the 210-page report with respect to the persecution of Israeli trans men in Egypt and the Iranian regime's ban of travel to the Jewish state.

 People take part in a rally marking the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, on June 3, 2021.  (credit: NOAM REVKIN/FLASH90) People take part in a rally marking the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, on June 3, 2021. (credit: NOAM REVKIN/FLASH90)

According to the study,  “in October 2019 a British-Iranian anthropologist studying child marriage and female genital mutilation in the country was arrested, with reports in November 2020 indicating that he had been sentenced by Iran’s Revolutionary Court to nine years imprisonment and a fine of USD 700,000 for 'promoting homosexuality,' as well as 'visiting Israel [...], cooperation and communication with foreign and hostile media, infiltration aimed at changing the law, and sending false reports about the country to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran.”’

The report said “From 8 May 2021 onward it was reported in several international news outlets that two Israeli trans men had been denied entry into Egypt where they had come to spend a holiday, on account of their passports not matching their appearance and gender expression.82 Border officials detained them temporarily and mocked them, but it is not clear whether this was the result of any State policy on identity documentation and legal gender recognition (either directly or indirectly), or rather a case of personal prejudice by the officials involved.”

The Islamic Republic of Iran has engaged in mass killing of gays and lesbians. The Jerusalem Post previously reported that a 2008 British Wikileaks cable said that Iran’s clerical regime executed 4,000-6,000 gay and lesbians since the 1979 Islamic revolution in the nation.

The ILGA World report said that “Under the Iran Islamic Penal Code (2013), the death penalty can be imposed for the acts of liwat (sodomy), tafkhiz (rubbing penis between thighs or buttocks), and musaheqeh (lesbian sex). Article 237 also criminalizes ‘homosexual acts of a male person, ’which includes ‘kissing or touching as a result of lust.’ This is punishable by 31 to 74 lashes.”

Iranians can be convicted of “collusion against national security by normalizing same-sex relations.”

According to the ILGA World report, “ The Iranian Human Rights Documentation Centre has indicated that between 1979 and 1981 nearly 750 people were executed, of whom 20 were killed for engaging in same-sex sexual activity. More recently, a Monash University report indicated that between 1979 and 2020 at least 241 executions for same-sex sexual conduct took place, with at least 79 suspects killed between 2004 and 2020. The report notes, however, that a majority of the executions that occurred since 2004 involved allegations of sexual assault and rape.”

In 2019,  the Islamic Republic of Iran’s former foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, justified  Iran's execution of gays  as a "moral" issue, saying "these are moral principles concerning the behavior of people in general.”

The authors of the IGLA World report wrote that “Those who are imprisoned are reportedly subjected to torture or otherwise dire conditions, with most gay and trans detainees in the capital, Tehran, allegedly held in Ward 240 of Evin Prison. In Ward 240, which some prisoners have nicknamed ‘Tomb 240,’ people are said to be held in isolation with only limited access to fresh air, light, food, or phone calls to family. This in addition to regular beatings and other forms of physical abuse. “