Monday, July 31, 2006

Gay.com Sorta Covers Lebanon, Almost

Two articles on Lebanon recently appeared on Gay.com, one about Helem helping out in relief efforts, and one semi-interview with a Helem member about the war. The articles aren't very good, but here's the first one:

Remy is a member of the Montreal chapter of Helem, an Arabic acronym for "Lebanese Protection for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender People." As Israel massed tanks and troops on the Lebanese border July 21 in readiness for a likely ground invasion, Remy shared with Gay.com some background on the crisis in Beirut, its impact on LGBT people, and his feelings about the upcoming observation of WorldPride in Jerusalem.

Helem is a Lebanese group, which started in Lebanon, so we are always in close contact with the chapter there. Helem has the one and only LGBT center in the Arab world. That center is now being offered by Helem as a relief center for refugees. Helem is offering its offices, computers, Internet access and volunteers to help with the crisis.

The thing Helem Beirut members miss the most (as gay people) is probably the fact that they can't be together right now. Everyone is with his or her family, and some are giving volunteer time in different places, so they are not meeting every week as they used to; they don't gather and do group activities. I suspect they are going back to a stage of isolation -- being gay, and having to stay within the mainstream community (which can be difficult for some who have had Helem as a support for a while now).

Gays and lesbians have always lived in Lebanon (and other Arab countries) a life of isolation and fear. The law is against us (article 534 of the Lebanese penal code). Society is against us; religion is against us. All we have is each other . . . and Helem (the Dream!). We are seeing an evolution in mentalities (younger people are more open-minded than older generations), but things are changing slowly.

Lebanon has always been known for its more modern way of living and thinking than other Arab countries. Gay clubs, gay shops, gay cafes and restaurants were starting to allow LGBT people to lead a kind of normal life. I say "kind of" because even though there seems to be more freedom for gays to meet and go clubbing and organize events, it is still a sense of freedom, an impression that we are free at last. But living as a gay man or woman is still a day-by-day situation: You never know when the government will decide Helem is not allowed to exist anymore, or when the government will start jailing LGBT people. But the situation was more or less improving.

I was personally in Lebanon for three weeks last spring, and I was very impressed by how far we have gone as LGBT community. Gays and lesbians are working as a community. They are supporting each other, doing business with each other, empowering each other, clubbing with each other. It could be seen as creating a ghetto, but that ghetto is doing wonders because LGBT people now rely on themselves and each other instead of relying on heterosexual society. [...]

WorldPride in Jerusalem -- a parade for love and acceptance in an occupied land, a land which knows no acceptance nor love? Helem supports the international boycott of Jerusalem WorldPride. Lebanese (and many other Arabs) have no right to enter Jerusalem. If our passports are stamped by Israel, we are considered to be fraternizing with the enemy or condemned for treason.

Right now, Helem Lebanon (as well as Helem Paris and Helem Montreal) is putting all its efforts toward the crisis in Lebanon in different ways: volunteering in Beirut, fundraising in Paris, marching for visibilty and fundraising in Montreal. Our main priority right now is to save Lebanon.
And here's the interview:

As Israel massed tanks and troops on the Lebanese border July 21 in readiness for a likely ground invasion, a Lebanese member of Helem, an Arabic acronym for "Lebanese Protection for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender People," made time for a short interview with Gay.com about the current situation in Beirut and what it's like to be gay in wartime.

What's happening with gay people there now? Are gay clubs closing?

Almost all the clubs -- gay and nongay -- are closed since the Israeli aggression, so I suppose that means the gay clubs are closed.

How is the war affecting gay people in Lebanon?

The war is affecting gay people the same way it is affecting straight people for the moment. It is depressing for both gay and nongay people to see that all the effort Lebanese people have made for the past 15 years has been destroyed within five days.

Are gays able to support one another at this time?

Helem Lebanon joined a network of NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) working to provide aid for refugees coming to Beirut from south Lebanon and the city's southern suburb. We also suspended our normal activities and transformed our offices to a relief center. Somehow it is nice to see gay and heterosexual people working together to help the refugees.

That is all I can say for the moment -- but I will provide you with more information when possible.
Even though I'm glad Gay.com is covering the Arab World, the articles aren't very informative.

In the first article, why did Gay.com not consult anyone in Beirut to get information? Helem liss phone numbers on its webpage, can Gay.com not afford an international call? It seems like simple journalistic methodology to me.

In the second article, why is gay clubs the first thing they ask about? How superficial! Plus, who is this guy they're talking to? Is he someone who's word is important? Also, al-Fil told me that his friends are still going to gay clubs. Is he lying?

I'd like to find out more details on what Helem is doing in Beirut, not about World Pride, which is not so important now, or on the status of the clubbing scene. Nice try, Gay.com. Next time, do some legwork.

Google Does Care - We Heart Google

As al-Fil is currently in the desert, I promised him I'd actually post stuff while he was away. Well, here's an update on the Google mini-scandal from mid-July which began with the finding of a derogatory translation of "gay" and an unsympathetic letter from Google, but is now A-OK:

In the MEGJournal e-mail, al-Fil received this from Google:

Dear Sir,

I have just seen your complaint re the translation tool offered by Google. First of all please accept Google's apology if this translation has offended you. As you may well be aware this tool is still in Beta phase and hence some bugs or incorrect translations will occur. During the Beta phase many of our users provide us feedback on issues such as this, so we can take corrective action. I thank you for bringing this to our attention and strongly encourage you to provide us with extensive feedback of any other mistranslations you might come across.

Also, allow me to take a few minutes of your time to explain the mechanics of how the translation engine works. Our solution is built around a statistical model that depends on previously translated material to statistically determine translations for new sentences. The system continuously learns to update and improve translations. As a starting point we have ingested a number of translated documents and use this to provide the service you now see. Unfortunately many sources on the web use the translation you have seen.

[Here is a link he put in the e-mail here, but is so long, it messes up our formatting, and I saw the complaints about our formatting before, thank you very much!]

As we continuously improve the service and add more documents such occurrences should decrease. In the meantime we are working on fixing this error in the very near future and hope you accept our apology and understand the nature of this service and how it provides translations based on parallel data and not through human intervention.

Once again please accept my thanks for highlighting this issue in our feedback and feel free to provide us with any feedback you feel might improve or enhance our translation service.

Best Regards

Sherif R. Iskander
Regional Business Manager
Middle East and North Africa

Is that sweet or what? Pink News also ran a story on the issue. It said:

Despite the abundance of more derogatory slang in Arabic, Ali Asali, administrator of GayEgypt.com, one of the Middle East’s leading pro-gay websites, agrees that the term [luti] is unsuitable, he said: “It's not the term used on the street for abuse, there are hundreds of these which vary from country to country and indeed from region to region within countries. You could argue that the terms “khawal” in Egypt, “pédé” in Algeria and “ajala” (meaning bicycle) in upper Egypt and I could list many more, are much more abusive. However the term looti is still inappropriate.”

The controversy over “luti” arose about a week ago when the administrator of a blog called The Middle East Gay Journal wrote an open letter to Google upon his discovery that the international company's translation tools translated the word "gay" derogatorily into Arabic. Upon receiving a perfunctory, perhaps automated, response, the administrator was irked and spread the word to numerous other blogs, which spawned more letters to Google.

From his office in Egypt, Sherif Iskander, Google’s business manager for the Middle East and North Africa, told PinkNews.co.uk that he would fix the problem. He said that he had been out of the country for a few days and had learned of the problem upon his return.

“The machine is learning,” he said, emphasising that Google’s translation tools were still in their early phases, and they often went into the system to re-teach it better translations. “Several examples like this have come to my attention,” he said, adding, "Issues like that should not stay in the system." He said that the problem should be fixed in a few days.

Nevertheless, Mr Iskander welcomed the input, "We totally depend on user feedback to fix issues," he said, adding that when problems with translation are reported to Google, it allows them to improve the system.

Google’s translation tools use an approach similar to the methods used to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone – they take identical bodies of work in two languages and compare them side by side.

In Google’s case, they use the immense corpa of the United Nations. Despite using documents that totalled over 200 billion words, however, there were still some terms unknown to the tools.

To solve this quandary, the Google tools access online dictionaries to search for translations. “This is where most of the problems arise,” said Mr Iskander, indicating that the dictionaries often offered inadequate or imprecise translations, without context. Sadly, many of these online dictionaries employ “luti.”

Mr Iskander reiterated that Google’s translation services are a “very powerful tool” that is “opening up the Middle East” to non-Arabic speakers.

He said that the translations are far from ideal, but are meant to give people an idea of what is being written in other languages, without having to actually learn to speak them, "It's like a five-year-old that knows two languages…it's better being stuck with a five-year-old than someone who speaks only one language," he explained.
On checking Google's translation page today, I remarked that when "gay" is put into the system, "مثلي الجنس" is now returned instead of "اللوطي". Thanks, Google!

I must say that Google did a great thing. I doubt, although I have no proof to back it up, other companies would be so quick to change such an error. Anyway, kudos.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Poetry, Religion, and Philadelphia

This is my last night in Amman. I'm leaving tomorrow, going for a small journey before joining my sister in America. I plan to return to Lebanon after the war.

Before I leave Jordan, I'm going to visit the ancient lands of Sodom, the baneful inheritance of gay people worldwide, and the namesake of "لوطي" and "sodomite". I wonder if it will change me in some way, but I don't yet know the manner. Will the earth open like an awoken, bitter clam and swallow me? Will the lapping of the sea greet me like the friendly tongue of a lonely dog? My heart is swarming with quietly whispering bees.

I spent the night eating falafel and onions (quartered perfectly, with just a hint of brown skin to give texture), and I wrote this poem:

With the molten night still flowing slowly over the hillsides,
not yet hardened into its opaline shell,
the cafes crowd with starched white shirts
and immaculately pastel peasant skirts,
every eye turned to the burning hillside of Jebel Achrafieh.
The words "amber" and "ochre" and "cinnamon" quiver in the air,
clumsily weighted by their Germanic accents
and clattering like bits of copper on the tiles.

Every house on Jebel Achrafieh is the exact same color,
an indistinguishable sandstone that rises organically from the earth.
If you run quickly, civilization disappears in a whirling panorama:
smeared in the rushing drab of the dirt and the bright of the sky.

If I had a house on Jebel Achrafieh, I'd paint it blue
with chalk, just once a year, in a month without holidays,
like Shaban or Thu al-Kadah,
months that dim in the light of Ramadan and Thu al-Hijra.
On that day, the women washing clothes would shout
"Such beauty held in sapphire walls!"
The sun would stop high in the sky, resting and admiring,
and the blinded women would spill their buckets of frothing water.

Every day the lazy strollers on the steep avenues of Amman
absorb the muffled beauty of endlessly rolling ginger hills.
But for one sunset in the year, the glory of difference would shine,
and before the mullahs could run from their hilltops and shout their curses,
would be washed away in the swirling rivers of the washer-women,
left to nothing but azure streams by the cold morning light.
I've been thinking a lot about the wars in the Middle East, and all the burdens that come with it. What comes to mind are the intangible riches of the ancient world: the philosophy of Greece, the law of Rome, the magic of India, and the wisdom of Persia.

What did the lands of Arabia bring? Religion. The East boils in religion, heated by the boiling sands of the Arabian desert, while the West fidgets with cool, calculating legality. The U.S. and Europe fight over what is legal, what is agreed-upon, what is enforcable, while the East argues over right, wrong and God, infinitely more difficult conceptions. Arabs have never really put faith in the United Nations, and the Arab League is a porcelain vase that is endlessly dropeed and glued back together. Religion is both the glory and the curse of the Middle East: it brings it light and it brings it war.

I remember watching "The Neverending Story" on television as a child, with the hungry "Nothing". It gave me nightmares. More than any other figment that terrorized me - Chucky, the djinn, the man under the bed - the idea of the Nothing tortured me. Chucky would stab me, the djinn would eat me, and the man under the bed would do something horrible. But what would happen to me when the Nothing came?

The deserts of Arabia are expanding, eating away at the Arabian nations. I once heard an American compare the deserts to the American plains, an awful comparison. While they may be alike in stark beauty, the plains give life - corn, wheat, and cattle - the desert gives empty gifts wrapped in shimmering brown paper. I wonder if I'll start dreaming of the desert, as I used to of the Nothing.

I may not post for a while, because of my stay in Sodom, so I am going to leave with a good post: the review of Unspeakable Love that I promised to do a while ago. It'll be right under this one, when I finish it. I'll also leave with this excerpt of one of my favorite poems, "La colère de Samson". It's a fight of lovers, of men vs. women, but it means so much more than that:

Bientôt, se retirant dans un hideux royaume,
La Femme aura Gomorrhe et l'Homme aura Sodome,
Et, se jetant, de loin, un regard irrité,
Les deux sexes mourront chacun de son côté.

Book Review: "Unspeakable Love"

I've been saying I'd review Brian Whitaker's Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East forever, but I haven't done it. I'm tired, but I'm going to do it now. So here goes:

There's a lot I like and don't like about the book. Firstly, I love Whitaker's writing style. He's very eloquent, and sometimes this leads to strikingly persuasive paragraphs. Here's one I liked on the Universal Declaration of Human rights, from chapter 4, "Rights and Wrongs", page 110:

The essential principle here is equality, and there is no room for selectively excluding some human beings on the pretext of local circumstances or cultural norms. Either the equality principle is accepted in whole or it is not; there are no half measures. The equal rights established by the declaration include an equal right to life, equal freedom from arbitrary arrest, equal freedom from torture and ill-treatment, equal freedom from torture and ill-treatment, equal freedom of expression and association, and equality before the law.

Despite this, and despite ample evidence of abuses in various parts of the world, the United Nations has been slow to grapple, with what, for a large number of it members, is a highly sensitive issue...
I think that's beautifully stated.

Unspeakable Love has repeatedly been called "groundbreaking", and in many ways it is. Never before has such a comprehensive study of gay civil rights been published, or so widely available to the public. The fact that it was the number 1 seller for a huge period of time at the Virgin Megastore in Beirut attests to the fact that a book such as this is long overdue. Brian Whitaker organizes this book expertly - information is easily accessible, easily understandable, and meticulously footnoted.

My favorite chapter is by far chapter 3, "Images and Realities". In this chapter, Whitaker analyzes media coverage of gay people in the Middle East. One of my favorite paragraphs, from page 72:


News media about same-sex marriage and gay clergy in the West tend to be reported factually and straightforwardly by the Arab media, often with quotes from opposing sides. Besides the stories dealing specifically with these topics, there were many others during the American presidential campaign of 2004 that mentioned gay rights as an election issue. The relatively calm tone of these reports in comparison with the more hysterical stories about local homosexuality may be partly explained by their reliance on Western news agencies. As with the nineteenth-century writings of Richard Burton, however, they can be read in different ways by different readers. They can be interpreted either as confirming Arab perceptions of Western decadence or as familiarizing readers with alternative views of sexual behaviour. The problem, though, is that the dearth of coverage about Arab homosexuality encourages the idea that it is entirely a foreign phenomenon.
Fantastic. Whitaker outlines here a major issue facing gay people in the Middle East: the push to portray them as foreign, thus making them at least non-Arab and non-Muslim, at worst traitors. If gay people are not seen as a true facet of Arab culture, then their rights are not something that needs to be addressed in Arab society. Whitaker, by laying out numerous examples of terrible media portrayals of gay people by the Arab media unfolds the institutionalized prejudice like a Chinese fan.

But now let's get into some of the things I don't like about the book. In the introduction, Whitaker states on pages 9-10:


There are twenty-two countries in the Arab League (if we include) Palestine, and to try to give a country-by-country picture would be both impractical and repetitive. Instead, I wanted to highlight the issues that are faced throughout the region, to a greater or lesser degree, by Arabs whose sexuality does not fit the public concepts of 'normal'. Most of the face-to-face research was done in Egypt and Lebanon, two countries that provide interesting contrasts. This was supplemented by a variety of other sources including news reports, correspondence by email, articles in magazines and academic journals, discussions published on websites, plus a review of the way homosexuality is treated in the Arabic media, in novels and in films.
First, I'm not sure if I agree with lumping modern Arab societies into one whole. The modern states are so different, and there has been an orientalist history of blurring the Arab people into one united, faceless mass. I mean, would you write a book on gay rights in the Western World, jumping from France to Britain to the U.S. to Poland to Greece to Australia? Actually, you might. I'm not sure there's actually an ideal way to approach such a book, and I don't fault Whitaker here. I just wanted to mention a possible drawback. If someone wrote a book just discussing each country individually, without pointing out trends, that would pose difficulties, too.

The problem I see is that, in effect, Whitaker ended up doing exactly what he promised he wouldn't do. He gets so involved in the legal issues facing gay people in Middle Eastern countries that he gets stuck in a country-by-country discussion of legality, which reads tediously. In many chapters, especially 2 and 4, Whitaker hops from country to country, trying to explain their individual situations. He he can't avoid this - it's impossible to put the legal structures of the Arab World, which are extremely complex and often very dissimilar - into a general thesis. Lebanon has no equivalent of Egypt's "Queen Boat" incident, just as Saudi Arabia has no equivalent to Lebanon's sectarian government. Essentially, Whitaker writes himself into a corner here; he spends so much time explaining political issues that he can't easily go back and discuss the social ones, which are much more important in the Arab World in the ways they affect gay people.

This is where the Western point of view really comes through in the book. Gay rights won't go anywhere in the Middle East unless gay people are more socially accepted first, roughly the opposite of the West. In America, there was Stonewall then Will and Grace. In the Middle East, the reverse is needed. A Stonewall in Egypt or Saudi Arabia will amount to bloodshed, with no real political gain. Whitaker consistently compares the movement the Arab World with the West, namely Britain, creating false parallels. He doesn't seem to consider that the Middle East might need a different form of activism than the West.

There is a vast amount of social issues that are never addressed in Unspeakable Love that are immediatly apparent to anyone who's lived in the Middle East. What about the thousands of men who marry and have sex with men on the side? The gay prostitutes on the corniches of Beirut, Aqaba, Manama, and Alexandria? Gender separation and sexism? The adopting of gender roles in the gay community? Class issues? Racial and Sunni/Shia schisms? The book says it's about "Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East", when really it only deals with politics, the media, and some insights on religion. Except for a discussion of family life, the book hardly touches on everyday gay life, at least for the majority of the people in the Middle East. When you finish the book, a lot seems to be missing.

For the interviews that Whitaker cites as research, his selection of people seems like a skimming of fat from a bucket of milk. They are almost all male, almost all in their twenties, and seem to be from higher classes of society. When I went to the book opening at the Zico House in Beirut in March, it was clear that Whitaker did not speak very good Arabic. He seems to have done all the interviews himself, which explains this problem: young, gay, wealthy men are the easiest segment of gay society for someone like Whitaker to find. They are more likely to speak English, have more social freedom, and go to places where a Westerner can find them. Unfortunately, they are hardly representative, and thus give a skewed view of gay life in the Middle East, as does the fact that they are from the Levant and Egypt, which are very different from the Gulf. The Levant and Egypt, sadly, dominate the book, leaving everyday gay life in the Gulf shadowed in uncertainty.

I don't want to come off as too negative about the book; I feel that there is a lot to be gained from reading it, especially chapter 3, and especially for Westerners who are unfamiliar with Middle Eastern politics. This book definitely has an important purpose there. However, a Beiruti friend of mine said he really liked chapters 1-4, but found the rest of the book tiresome, explaining that the book, in general, was interesting, but didn't tell him anything new about what was going on in the Middle East. I'm inclined to agree with him on the last part. If you're a gay person living in the Middle East, the book won't open your eyes to anything groundbreaking, or great analysis on how to help the movement for gay civil rights progress. It will, however, provide an amazing encyclopedia of modern gay history in the Arab World.

I'll finish with another paragraph I liked, from chapter 7 "Paths to Reform", page 212:

The debate is often presented as a choice between cultural authenticity on the one hand and the adoption of all things Western on the other. In fact, neither is a realistic proposition. Exposure to foreign ideas and influences cannot be prevented, but nor are Arabs incapable of making critical judgments about them. Equally, Arab culture cannot be treated as a fossil; it is a culture in which real people lead real lives and it must be allowed to evolve to meet their needs. The issue, then, is not whether concepts such as 'gay' and 'sexual orientation' are foreign imports but whether they serve a useful purpose. For Arabs who grow up disturbed by an inexplicable attraction towards members of their own sex, they can provide a framework for understanding. For families - puzzled, troubled and uninformed by their own society - they offer a sensible alternative to regarding sons and daughters as sinful or mad.
One more thing: I love the copper eyeshadow on the two men on the front cover. It's artistic, subtle, and beautiful. While politically, it might not have been the best choice to put men in eyeshadow on a book about gay rights in the Middle East, it added a gorgeous softness to the men's complexions.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Under the Flames of War in Lebanon

The ladies of Aswat, an organization for Palestinian lesbian women, sent out this e-mail today, entitled "Under the Flames of War in Lebanon":

To all our friends and colleagues,

Thank to all of you who have contacted ASWAT to ask about our safety as we are based in Haifa . It is much appreciated that you are thinking of us in these days. We want to thank you again for your support and the ongoing friendship.

We in ASWAT, our friends and families are safe and we will keep you posted if anything changes. Our reason to write you is to let you know that in these days our hearts and thoughts are in Lebanon , not forgetting Gaza and the West Bank in Palestine and Iraq .

We have a lot of pain and sadness, watching all the pictures as a result of the hits, seeing people killed, and hearing about all the refugees; it makes us stop and raise our voices in ASWAT and say out loud STOP THIS WAR on our sisters and brothers in Lebanon and start negotiating!!!

We have received some news from activists and friends from Helem, an LGBT center in Beirut . After the influx of refugees from the southern suburbs of Beirut as well as from the south of Lebanon , Helem center, together with other NGOs, has begun providing shelter, food, and supplies for the refugees.

More information can be found at http://www.helem.net

Helem also pointed out a few blogs so as to allow people to get first hand information from the civil society in Lebanon:
http://sanayehreliefcenter.blogspot.com/
http://lebanonupdates.blogspot.com/

Other important links:
http://arab-americans.blogspot.com/
http://www.aswatgroup.org/english/article.php?article=106&category=
http://www.aswatgroup.org/arabic/article.php?article=107&category=107

In solidarity,

ASWAT-Palestinian Gay Women
E-mail: aswat@aswatgroup.org
Website: http://www.aswatgroup.org/
Join Aswat's mailing list at: http://www.aswatgroup.org/english/newsletter.php
I'm glad they're safe, and the links are great. I have one issue though: their site is incredibly difficult to navigate, and when they post new articles, they seem to have no easy links to them. If you click on "activities", it only goes up to 2005. It's frustrating! Am I being trivial? Probably.

Turkish Government Seizes Gay Magazine

According to a press release by KAOS GL, a gay-rights organization in Turkey, the most recent issue of its magazine, also called KAOS GL, has been seized by the government. The issue, which discusses pornography and gay culture, was found to be pornographic by the 12th district court in Ankara. All issues were ordered by Judge Tekman Savas Nemli to be confiscated, as some of the content and pictures in the issue were deemed to breach general morality. A quote:

In the decision of Ankara Chief Republican Prosecutor's Office Press Crimes Investigation Bureau, the _expression that some texts and pictures are against "protection of general morality". But this _expression does not state which pictures and texts should be banned on what ground.
And another:

It is the first time that our magazine is banned on the same day it was delivered from the printing house even before it is distributed to bookstores. Kaos GL, which started to be published in 1994, was recorded legally at the end of 1999 and the Republican Chief Prosecutor did not find it "pornographic or obscene." Two of its issues following its registeration by officials were distributed in closed envelopes because of the Prime Ministry Council for Protection of Juveniles from Obscene Publications. Other than this, Kaos GL has not faced any investigation
And one more:

Today presentation of views on women bodies with a sexist mentality makes no problem but scientific, cultural and artistic criticism of pornography via gay-lesbian sexuality is seen and banned as an attitude against 'general morality'.

In the magazine with contributions from writers Ahmet Tulgar, Fatih Özgüven, Güner Kuban, Hasan Bülent Kahraman, Mehmet Bilal Dede, Meltem Arıkan, painter Taner Ceylan and photography artistı Bikem Ekberzade', the relation of pornography with homosexuality is discussed.

The file with headline "Visuality of sexuality, sexuality of visuality: Pornography", the doors of the world of pornography that invades the globe are opened and we question how all the images that confuse our minds turn into pornographic elements.

Now with the demand of Ankara Chief Republican Prosecutor and decision of Ankara 12th Justice Court, examination and questioning of pornography by writers, artists, academics, feminists and gay-lesbian individuals have been banned.
Interestingly, the press release points out that the ruling coincided with Turkey's Press Festival on July 24. Irony?

I wonder how this will affect things. Turkey, even though its population is still overwhelmingly against gay rights, has seemed to adopt a policy of "laissez-faire" towards gay people in the past. Is this a sign of bad things to come?

How will the European Union, with its progressive stance on gay rights, view this? Turkey wants to become a member; will they care about this? This is probably the worst time for something like this to happen. The West is increasingly being seen as meddling too much in the affairs of the East, and criticizing one of the more moderate states might not be a good tactical move. I predict that Western nations will remain silent.

It also seems from the press release that only the one issue is banned, and that KAOS GL can continue to publish, which makes the ruling not only seem less extreme, but minimizes the chances that anyone in the West will speak out, but will rather hope that it blows over. Maybe it's prudish, maybe its cowardly - it depends on how the Turkish government act in the future.

It's a dangerous precedent, nonetheless.

Yacoubian Building a Hit in Tunisia

In an article titled "The Film The Yacoubian Building Attracts Great Interest at a Carthage Festival in Tunisia", Radio Sawa shows how the Egyptian film is turning heads. A quote, translated by me:

The Egyptian film The Yacoubian Building by director Marwan Hamed attracted a great interest Saturday night during the 41st installment of the Carthage Film Festival and the critics pondered a while on its dimensions and content.

The film was presented in a Roman amphitheatre in Carthage in front of about 12 thousand viewers who did not leave during the entire three hours despite the repeated interruption of video and sound.

Raouf Ben Omar, the director of the Carthage festival, praised the interest in the film in a statement for Agence France-Presse and said that the Carthage festival always searches for high-quality, important performances that avoid stereotypes.

He added that it is not logical that the film and the novel, which were featured in a cultural event in France, would remain unknown in Tunisia. Tunisian journalist Saber Samih Bin Amer journalist Saber Samih Bin Amer praised the work of the young director Marwan Hamed, considering him to be bold in addressing social and political topics with great professionalism.

He added that although the film foreshadows Hamed's future works, it includes shots that are reminiscent of Hollywood films. Bin Amer confirmed that The Yacoubian Building allowed viewers to identify with the deep characters played by the Egyptian actors, especially with actor Khaled al-Sawi, who played the role of a young homosexual (Radio Sawa uses "sexual deviant" here). He called on Tunisian filmmakers to watch the film to gain the benefits of this rich experience.

In The Yacoubian Building, Director Marawan Hamed draws the image of life in a district in the center of Cairo through bold language that addresses the issues of the homosexuality (Radio Sawa uses a neutral term here), liberation, corruption, the caste system, and torture without bias.
All in all, it's a good sign. A movie deals with difficult issues, and people respond well. Plus, the media doesn't use "luti". Only one question remains: when am I going to be able to see the movie?

Also, I haven't read any updates anywhere on what's going on with the inquest of the Egyptian parliament into the film. Maybe it was lost in beaurocracy?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Advocate Published My Letter

The American magazine The Advocate just published my letter in regards to James Kirchick's inflammatory and factually-incorrect commentary piece, which I commented on before here. I have to admit one mistake, though. The original interview with Rauda Morcos spelled her name correctly. Kirchick then spelled it incorrectly, as Marcos, as if she were Spanish. I didn't notice this and misspelled her name, too. Oops! Anyway, here's my letter:

I take extreme issue with the commentary piece by James Kirchick published on you website on July 11 entitled "Palestine and gay rights". I feel that it is biased, one-sided, and gives a gravely inaccurate portrayal of the situation of gay people in the Palestinian Territories.

Primarily, I am concerned about Kirchick's treatment of Rauda Marcos from her interview with the Advocate on May 23. He's correct in his condemnation of "culturally relativistic posturing", but may be mis-analyzing her assertion. She is probably saying that Western countries are able to deal with gay issues as matters of higher priority because they are not facing occupation, high unemployment rates, lack of education, and other issues which, frankly, are more pressing. This can lead to a different "scale". It's clear from the interview that Marcos's English is far from perfect, and Kirchick affords her no leeway.

Secondly, I am horribly disappointed by Kirchick's blind bias towards Israel, painting it as a bastion of gay rights in the Middle East, which it certainly isn't. He fails to acknowledge many of Israel's major shortcomings, including anti-gay members of the Knesset, the stabbing at last year's Jerusalem Pride parade and threats of violence at this year's World Pride, the shunning of Dana International when she visited the Knesset, and many other factors. Worst of all, he fails to acknowledge the systematic abuse of gay Palestinian youth by Israeli intelligence.

Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, published an article called 'Queen Hussein' which documented the workings of the Israeli government. It says: "The Israel Security Service (Shabak) cynically uses Palestinian homophobia and coerces gays to choose between recruitment in its ranks and forceful outing. Most Palestinian gays choose the first option in order to save their lives. As such, every gay is considered a potential collaborator."

There are numerous other articles which attest to the same situation, and I personally have friends in Palestine who have told me of similar experiences. Kirchick says, "Unfortunately, Marcos appears to be a woman so blinded by her ethnic nationalism that she is unable to appreciate the advantages of Israel's liberal society. " It seems the reverse may be true of Kirchick, who is too blinded by his love of Israel to write objectively. Throughout his short journalistic career, Kirchick has continually written pro-Israel pieces, and it seems his vision has become clouded. This is shown by his blatant implication that Marcos is anti-Semitic, which he has no real proof for, and his constant allusions to the Palestinian Authority murdering gay people, which is horribly inaccurate, and unfounded.

I am not writing this because I am anti-Israel, or because I believe the Palestinian Territories are better for gay rights than Israel. I recognize that Israel is far ahead of the Palestinian Authority in these respects. But slandering the few pro-gay activists in the Arab World and falsely portraying Israel as a shining haven for gay people not only severely clouds the truth, it supports the prejudice that Arabs are backward and barbaric.

Al-Fil
Beirut
Thanks, Mike Davis, for suggesting I write them! I feel better now!

What is Going on in Morocco?

This article from The Sunday Times in the UK makes me cringe - what is going on? A quote (most of the article, actually):

Locals are up in arms over a wall that Bernard-Henri Lévy, the writer and philosopher, and Arielle Dombasle, his actress wife, have erected around their sumptuous clifftop villa in Tangiers. It partially blocks the view of the bay from the terrace of a famous cafe next door.

The view of the Straits of Gibraltar and Bay of Tangiers was said to have inspired writers such as Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams, once regulars at the Hafa cafe. Rachid Taferssiti, a Tangiers writer, referred to Lévy’s wall of of breeze blocks as an example of the “ransacking of the countryside”.

Sensitive to local concerns, Lévy is said to have put up his wall to shelter the shapely Dombasle from public gaze as she suns herself by the swimming pool of the villa. The spectacle of women sunbathing topless plays into the hands of a growing Islamist movement striving to turn Morocco, one of the more liberal countries in the Muslim world, into a strict theocracy.

At first it was only super-rich foreigners who came to live in Morocco, among them Yves Saint Laurent, the French couturier, and the late magazine magnate Malcolm Forbes, who flew in 800 friends from all over the world, including Elizabeth Taylor, for his 70th birthday party at his palace in Tangiers in 1989.

Since then, having tired of the south of France, the Who’s Who? of French society has taken up residence in Morocco, from sportsmen and politicians to captains of industry. Morocco has also been attracting more ordinary tourists, becoming a haven for westerners in search of exotic thrills just a few hours by air from London or Paris.

The bombings in Casablanca in 2003, in which 45 people were killed, do not appear to have harmed that traffic. Yet the rise of the Party for Justice and Development, as the Islamist organisation is known, could cast a shadow on the horizon if, as some predict, it becomes the dominant force in parliament after elections next May.

After it first gained seats in parliament, the party was associated with a campaign against the Miss Morocco contest, which it regarded as “pornographic”. All of those involved were denounced as “un-Islamic” and the competition had to be held in secret.

The group favours sharia, which would enforce a widely ignored prohibition on the sale of alcohol and oblige all women to wear the veil. It has won a big following among a Muslim population depressed by the spectacle of young men and women — and sometimes even children — prostituting themselves to foreign “sex tourists”.

An Islamist newspaper warned recently that the tsunami that devastated parts of Thailand and Indonesia was God’s punishment for immoral behaviour and that Morocco risked a similar disaster unless it mended its ways. Partly in response to such pressure the government of Mohamed VI, the modernising monarch, recently launched a crackdown on vice.

Dozens of women have been rounded up in raids on bars in Marrakesh and other Moroccan cities this month on suspicion of prostitution. Several bar owners have been thrown into jail.

At the same time, the authorities decided to make an example of Jack-Henri Soumère, a well-known French opera director who has been visiting Morocco for three decades.

He was given a four-month suspended prison sentence and fined £500 for homosexuality — which is illegal in Morocco — and possession of cannabis.

Aniko Boehler, the co-ordinator of Hands Off My Child, the organisation that brought the case against him, said many foreign visitors to Morocco seemed to think they were in Marbella. Their “neo-colonial attitudes”, she added, were disrespectful to local customs.

Yet it was not just the immoral behaviour of foreigners that was fuelling the indignation of conservatives and the ranks of Islamist supporters.

“The children of the Moroccan elite are just as bad,” she said. “For them, Marrakesh is just as much of a playground. They go there to use and abuse.”
I'm sorry, but is the country going insane? At least this article points out the roots of the Islamicist backlash - idiotic, careless, spoiled Westerners with no regard for how their actions will affect society. I mean, seriously, why would you go to a Muslim country and sunbathe topless?

Morocco does have a serious problem with the sex trade. And Westerners who shamelessly take advantage of it should not be surprised of such a backlash. Islamicism may be be destructive, restrictive, and - dare I say it - unmodern, but sometimes people in the Arab World see no other way to protect themselves from Western decadence. The Western media likes to say that the Orient is afraid of McDonald's and Hollywood, but it's more than that. It's the disrespect that comparitively rich - and therefore powerful - visitors to Islamic countries show the residents' culture there that poses the greatest hazard.

The far majority of the tourists in Beirut are benign - they check out the clubs, the restaurants, and the museums. They buy hookahs and rugs and go home. But there is the tiny percent that tries to buy and sell the local population that causes an extreme amount of damage. You can see the same, to a greater extent, in Morocco, and to an infamous extent, in Thailand.

When there is a backlash, it hurts much more than just the Westerners who tour Islamic countries. It hurts all aspects of liberalism - gay rights, womens' rights, economic freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. Westerners who cause the problems can then just stay home or go somewhere else, leavng the residents to deal with the consequences.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Beautiful Article on Arab Coverage in Haaretz

An article in Haaretz titled "Nasrallah and Me" about broadcaster Zvi Yehezkeli really warmed my heart. It's realistic, beautiful, and culturally open-minded. It's funny, sometimes - some media outlets in Israel, the country with the most strife with the Arab World, often portrays the Arab World much better than American media, which only focuses on Arab "radical Islamic terrorists" and how America will be affected, i.e. the rising price of oil. (Not that some of the Arab stations are very good in their coverage of Israel and the U.S.) A quote:

On the show, "London and Kirschenbaum" [Zvi Yehezkeli] has a daily spot that is also broadcast during these days of fighting and covers the Arab world from diverse angles. "From the gyms in Dubai to the ringtones in mosques in Damascus and single women in Saudi Arabia," he says and quickly explains: "It's just as important to show the faces behind Assad or Mubarak. I say, 'these are people just like you. Let's take a look at them.' We have prompted a revolution in this regard."
That's how it should be. After reading the article, I wanted to give Yehezkeli a big hug and some kisses on the cheek. More journalists, in all countries, should be like him. Another quote:

During his three years on the job he managed to sneak into the Jericho prison to interview the murderers of Rehavam Ze'evi. He had exclusive interviews with the wanted man Zakaria Zubeidi and with Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and Arafat.

Of course, presenting the residents of Arab countries, including those that are hostile to Israel, with all their human diversity, is an ideological matter. Yehezkeli shows how similar they are to the audience here ("how much we're like them," he corrects himself)

Yehezkeli did not vote in the last elections. "I didn't find any party that would represent me. All of them are short-sighted when it comes to Arab affairs," he says. "The political division between left and right is stupid. I also want to pull the rug out from under that."
There's also a bit of the gay in the article, so it's quite germane to this site:

"I explain the Arabs differently," he says. "They are always treated as political entities. For me, there are more colors, scents and sounds. Two days before the attack in Beirut I spoke about a play showing there, 'Women's Dialogue,' a sort of Lebanese version of 'The Vagina Monologues.' We did a report on a cell of wanted terrorists in the West Bank. How they have shirts with logos. Someone who has a Nike logo, that says something about him, doesn't it?" Another report he did covered sex change operations in Iran. "They do seven times more of them in Iran than anywhere else in the Western world," he says. "Khomeini once said 'if you have an obstacle in life, find a way around it.' That is how they cope with homosexuality. Obviously I'll also include the most recent dispute among the different sects in Iraq. I'll always deal with politics. But I have no sources in Military Intelligence. I don't need them to tell me what Arabs are thinking. I live there."
It's an interesting way to put the Islamic view on how to deal homosexuality. It's not perfect, but it's close.

Folktales, the War, and Philadelphia

Not much has been happening these last few days in Amman. It's very quiet here. If the newspaper didn't report that there was a war going on, you probably wouldn't know it. Sure, thousands of Jordanians from the Muslim Brotherhood took to the streets on Friday to show solidarity with Hizbullah, but the police stood in their way because of lack of permits. If you weren't in the vicinity of the protests, you wouldn't even know it was there. And, just as the Lebanese Political Journal reports as happened in Syria, it was full of Hizbullah flags, not Lebanese ones.

I've been spending a lot of time online, reading the news, commenting on blogs, talking to friends in Lebanon, and writing this blog. There's no real gay life in old Philly, just some cafes and bars which gay people sort-of frequent, but they kind of blend in. I'm not really in the mood to meet new people anyways. It's weird - in one of the few Arab countries where being gay is not illegal, there's no real scene. Even Egypt's scene is more cohesive. But Jordan is a traditional country, so there are plenty of reasons for it.

I've also been spending a lot of time sleeping and thinking, recounting old folktales in my head. It's strange...I think of old Greek epic poems and mythology. There were always two main themes - finding love and being far from home. Like the story of Persephone - Hades finds love, and Persephone is dragged from her home.

Throughout the years, it appears that the West and East have divided up these old stories as they have attempted to divide up the world, each taking their own part.

In the West, folktales have seem to have come to favor the plot of being without, then finding, love - Cinderella, the Frog Prince, the Little Mermaid. Sure, there are exceptions, like Hansel and Gretel, but the majority of the famous ones, at least the ones I'm familiar with, follow the same theme.

In the East, there's Sindbad, Juha, and Lubayna. Love is there, but the predominate theme is loss of and distance from home, family, and familiarity. It's echoed in songs. In how many Arabic songs has the singer found love, but is painfully separated from it? I'm kind of feeling that now.

In Amman, all the houses look the same, bland sandstone-colored structures that seem to rise organically from the sprawling brown hills. It's easy to get lost - every stairway is similar, and miles of walking will give you nothing but bloody feet. If New York is the city that never sleeps, then Amman is the city that always sleeps.

The food makes me feel sad. Restaurants with the Lebanese flag are a common sight on many corners, and at any time of day, delivery cars (there are no motorbikes here) whiz by for establishments like "Lebanon Snack". But the food isn't as good, and I don't eat at those places. I want nothing more than a chouarma from Barbar.

Anyway, there's one story that my mother used to tell me that's been sticking in my head, about when Juha went to sell his donkey:

In one day of many days, Juha decided to take his donkey into town and sell it. It was a strong, sturdy donkey, and Juha thought he could get a nice price for it. Besides, he needed the money. So he put his young son on the donkey and started the long journey into town, with Juha walking alongside the donkey.

On the way into town, they passed a shepard, who scolded the young boy. "How can you sit there so comfortably while your poor old father has to walk the whole way behind you? You are young and have strong legs, it should be you who is walking! Have you no respect for your father?" So the boy got down and Juha climbed on the back of the donkey, and they contined on their way.

A little while later, they passed some women hanging clothes to dry. "Shame one you," they called to Juha, "making your poor little boy walk next to you. He is so young!" So Juha picked the boy up, placing him in front of him, and they continued on together.

The donkey was sturdy and strong, but not strong enough to carry two people easily, and the donkey began to sweat, showing his strain. As they continued on their journey, they passed another traveller. "You know, you shouldn't both be on the back of such a poor creature. How is such a poor animal supposed to carry two people? A donkey is Allah's creation as well; have some pity!" Juha thought the man was right, so he and his son got off the donkey.

"What shall we do?" Juha asked his son. "When you were on the donkey, we were scolded because I am too old to walk. When I was on the donkey, we were scolded because you are too young to walk. When we both were on the donkey, we were scolded because the donkey is too weak. What is there to do?"

Juha thought for a while, then came up with a solution. He and his son picked up the donkey, and carried it all the way into town. The people of the town had never seen such a thing, and many an eye stared at Juha as though he were crazy.


The moral of the story? No matter how you try to fix things, someone is going to complain. I think it applies to a lot of things, such as Hizbullah, Israel, gay rights, religion, and what to eat for dinner. In a way, it's funny. In another way, it's depressing.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Egos and the Gay Division Over How to Treat Iran

I found this excellent article on the July 19 protests against Iran in the Gay City News. It says a lot, and made me realize that I still have a lot to say about the issue. The quotes are long, but I think it's worth reading, and I put time into the commentary. A quote:

A year later, as dozens of cities worldwide, including New York, held vigils July 19 to mark the anniversary of the executions, HRW has hardened in its insistence that there is no support for the charge that the Mashad men were killed because of their sexuality. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) offers a more agnostic assessment, saying that Iran must clear the air but also warning against inflammatory actions by LGBT activists that could worsen conditions for gays there.

Despite a skeptical stance that has persisted, IGLHRC initially stepped up to organize New York’s July 19 vigil, but in the wake of a scathing memo last week from HRW’s gay rights specialist Scott Long criticizing the accuracy, rhetoric, and motivations of anti-Iran activists, IGLHRC abruptly dropped its sponsorship.

Instead, IGLHRC joined HRW and other groups including the Al-Fatiha Foundation, a group for gay Muslims, in hosting a competing forum at New York’s LGBT Community Center, scheduled at the same time as the vigil in front of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations.
And another:

Early reports on the Mashad executions last July quickly caught the attention of Peter Tatchell, the head of the militant LGBT rights group Outrage! in London, and was picked up by conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan as well as by Ireland, who posted his first story on his Web site prior to covering the story for Gay City News. Tatchell and Sullivan—but not Ireland—used the term “Islamo-fascist” in describing the Iranian regime, a hawkish formulation that raised red flags among human rights activists unwilling to align themselves with right-wing Western critiques of the Muslim world and Bush foreign policy adventuring (though on that score Tatchell was an unlikely bedfellow).
And another:

Those who disagree with Long question whether it is he who has been uncritical—in accepting official Iranian accounts of the executions. When the story broke, he sent an unsolicited e-mail to Gay City News saying, “It is reasonably certain they were executed for sexual assault on a 13-year-old” and told Ireland that HRW was “90 percent sure” rape had taken place. Yet, Hadi Ghaemi, the group’s Iran expert, said that certainty was based on one source, a story in the newspaper Qud, controlled by regime supporters. Months later, according to Ireland, Long e-mailed him that the group had additional sources for its view.

Another point Long made in his memorandum last week is that those who believe the Mashad executions were based in homophobia are “imputing a Westernized ‘gay’ identity on these youths,” the suggestion being that a level of cultural insensitivity and naiveté is involved. That perspective was echoed by a number of panelists at the IGLHRC forum Wednesday evening, most passionately by Iranian-American filmmaker Kouross Esmaeli, who voiced harsh criticism of Gay City News reporting about his homeland.

Yet in at least four stories Ireland has written since last September, based on interviews with Iranians still in their homeland or in exile—Amir, a 22-year-old gay exile in Turkey (gaycitynews.com/gcn_438/nexttimeyoullbe.html), Sam, a 28-year-old gay exile in Pakistan (gaycitynews.com/gcn_502/anothergayiraniantorture.html), Mekabiz, a self-described “transsexual man” still living in Mashad (gaycitynews.com/gcn_506/transsexualansstuck.html), and Mani, a 24-year-old gay man living in an Iranian city he was afraid to disclose (gaycitynews.com/gcn_527/gayandunderground.html)—he has demonstrated there are young people there who talk about their sexual and gender identity in ways many Americans would understand. It is, in part, this increasingly Westernized identity that Iranian authorities use torture and worse to stamp out. This is the reporting Long acknowledged was “authentic and compelling.”

Based on this reporting and other sources who told him so directly, Ireland wrote that Ahmadinejad had stepped up repression of gays when he assumed the presidency last year. The assault on gay Iranians amounts to a pogrom, Ireland concluded. Borrowing the term used to describe the episodic ouster and genocide aimed at Jews throughout European history was bound to stir controversy and clearly some believe more detailed documentation is required.

Long explained his discomfort with the characterization. “Crying wolf is a bad strategy for achieving change,” he wrote last week. “Because if human rights advocates don’t deal in facts instead of speculation, they lose all credibility in future crises… These misrepresentations actually work against the interests of Iranian asylum-seekers… and could play into the hands of the Iranian government if these claims are proven wrong.”

One more:

Asked to explain her group’s abrupt bailout from leadership of the New York July 19 vigil, [IGLHRC Executive Director Paula] Ettelbrick voiced concern that the protests worldwide might have an “inflammatory” impact on the Iran situation, creating a link between gay life there and a Western agenda in the regime’s eyes.

“I wanted to make sure that our participation was consistent with our approach,” she explained. “What can we do to be effective? The name of Peter’s group is Outrage! The name of our group is the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.”
How do I begin? This article truly is excellent - it expertly outlines the divide in gay activist between bullish revolutionaries and tiptoed precautionaries.

I have said before that I think Tatchell and Sullivan hold extreme views, and their irresponsible use of "Islamo-fascist" reaffirms that. I've also said that the protests might make not make things better for gay people in Iran, but I don't think it'll make it worse. I really don't think Iran's regime would confuse the West's opposition to it getting nuclear technology with gay rights organizatiosn protesting the hanging of gay teenagers - the may equivalate the two publicly, but that's propaganda, and they would do that anyway, regardless of the protests.

It was wrong for IGLHRC, HRW, and the Al-Fatiha Foundation to hold a competing event. If you disagree with another gay group's actions, it's fine to say so. It's also fine to abstain from supporting them, or distribute materials which contradict their stances. These groups, however went beyond that. The groups in the vigil, a lot of which had Iranian support, were there for a good cause. It's one thing to say they're overreacting, but another to vehemently oppose them.

IGLHRC acted like a cowardly dog, shying away in fear rather than barking at danger. It's overtly clear that they acted out of pressure from Long, rather than of their own accord. Sure, they don't want to overreact (evidenced by Ettelbrick's inane comparison of organization names), but if this is not a time for action what is? Are two young lives not enough? Many similar cases have been reported. Would 50 be enough? 100? How many does she need? I, personally, side with the groups supporting the protests, for I've seen numerous Iranian sources that side with them, but none that oppose them (Al-Fatiha doesn't really count).

It's also clear that the entire debate overstepped the boundaries of being about Iran. Many of the participants in the dialogue, especially Long, seem to have gotten their egos mixed up in their politics. All the name-calling and verbal attacks are dispicable. Throughout the article, it becomes increasingly clear that the players are less concerned with learning the truth than they are about being right, which is absolutely shameful. Long, for example, seems to have less facts than the rest of them, but is more adament than they are - how does that work?

Long does make one semi-germane point, though. It's true about what he says about crying wolf. If the sources are proven wrong, it would be detrimental to the human rights movement, gay people in Iran, asylum seekers, etc. But proving the claims wrong is as about as likely as solving the Bermuda Triangle mysteries. It's extremely doubtful that all these Iranian sources are in a huge conspiracy to fraud the human rights movement, or that they are wrong. Even if it's not a "pogrom", it's still horrifying.

I guess it all boils down to the word "pogrom". Are the killings in Iran really worse than the killings in Saudi Arabia? Or the torture in Egypt? Probably not. "Pogrom" just makes them seem worse than the others, because it envisions the Jewish holocaust. So, in effect, gay activists went from arguing about the extremity of gay persecution in Iran to its validity, as if disproving a "pogrom" would invalidate everything.

As a final note, I hate what Long says about "imputing a Westernized ‘gay’ identity on these youths", which is a steaming pile of donkey-#$%@. Islamists are putting a gay identity on people in the Middle East just as much as the West is. Gay people in the Middle East didn't experience the current level of persecution until the 1990s, when the gay movement began to gain momentum in the West. Why? It's simple - Islamists want to distance the East from the West. By showing how gay the West is, and how gay the East isn't, they accomplish their goal. Why do you think there has been so much coverage of gay marriage in Western nations? Gay people are a group that evokes relatively little sympathy in the Middle East, and are an easy target for the Islamists. The current crackdowns targeting gay people are merely an extension of the Islamist vs. Western Imperialism battle that has been raging for decades. Islamists superimpose the term "gay" just as much as Westerners, and it's uninformed - and a bit ethnocentric - to say otherwise. (This is going to have to be another post; I have loads to say about this.)

Mithliyoun or Mithliyeen?

Someone sent me an e-mail today, asking why I say "mithliyoun junsiya" (مثليون جنسيا) is an Arabic term for "gay" when Helem lists "mithliyeen junsiya" (مثليين جنسيا). The answer is simple: they are equivalent.

In Arabic, simple masculine plurals take the "-oun" (ون-) or "-een" (ين-) endings. Both mean the same, but are added depending on where they occur in the sentence.

"-oun" is for subjects.

If I want to say, "Gay people are beautiful", I would say "مثليون جنسيا جميلون".

"-een" is for objects.

If I want to say, "I love gay people", I would say "أحبّ مثليين جنسيا".

That's why Helem stands for "Hemaya Lubnaneeya lil-Mithliyeen". It's just grammar. I hope that makes sense.

Religion and Evil

In a comment to my last post, a reader of this blog told me she liked it in a very flattering comment. I blushed. But she said something which didn't really sit right with me: "Overall, the common theme is that religion is the source of all evil."

I'm not sure whether she was referencing the current Israeli-Hizbullah war, or posts in my blog. I hope it's not the latter.

I don't agree that religion is the source of all evil, however, and I desperately hope that my postings in this blog don't indicate that I do. I am a very religious person, and believe strongly in the good of God. I think it's the misuse of God that is a great source of evil, for many people project their own prejudices onto God and then use God as justification for their evil deeds.

I am against misuse of religion, not religion itself.

In respect to gay people, for centuries, religious texts has been mistranslated, misinterpreted, fabricated, and deleted to support anti-gay rhetoric. It's like painting a white horse black - no matter how much paint you put on horse, it is still pure underneath.

I believe in the white horse and I believe in salvation, redemption, and the power of God against evil. That's why I'm al-Fil (it's from the Qur'an, sura 105 - maybe I'll explain my name someday, I'm sure it might be misinterpreted as well).

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Anti-Gay Turkish Advice Columnist Dies

This war is taking its toll on me. I spent the day in a cafe, and around me were young, rich Beirutis carrying on. I heard the words "A.U.B." about a hundred times. I don't tend to like rich people. I'm not really enjoying Amman.

This blog is keeping my mind off the bad things, and the fact that the United States is sending Israel an express shipment of bombs for continued attacks. The whole world seems to want the war to end, except for Israel, the U.S., Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah. Hmmmmm.....

Anyway, about the dead woman:

The Turkish Daily News reported yesterday the death of Fatma Güzin Sayar, 84, the woman behind the famed Güzin Abla, which gave advice to thousands of Turkish people about their lives. A quote:

Men are from Mars:

Coming from an elite Istanbul family, Güzin Sayar began her journalism career in 1952. In the 1960s, she began an advice column, “Sorun Söyleyelim” (Ask and We Shall Tell) in Son Havadis newspaper. The brand name “Güzin Abla” began as the column title in the 1970s, as she continued answering letters from the readers.

She married a commander when she was 16, despite the reactions from her family. Her marriage ended with a daughter and a cheating husband. When her second marriage also ended with her husband cheating on her once more, she channeled her frustration to her column, cautioning thousands of young women towards marriages and men in general.

At one point, she was among the 30 most powerful women in Turkey. Güzin Abla, naturally, appealed to the more conservative and the uneducated. Although she was strictly against women losing their virginity before marriage, she also sent the message that women who were not virgins should not be socially excluded. Homosexuality, for Güzin Abla, was a deviation, a disease that needed to be cured. It was treated as a disease with very low chances of being cured, next to cancer and AIDS.

While she advised women to be more passive in relationships, asking them to be patient when heart-broken, she asked men to be more assertive, to talk to women when there was a problem.

Careful readers would notice how emotional she could get about adultery, as a woman with two broken marriages for the same reason. She was very harsh on affairs with married men, something definitely to stay away from. Most of her answers treated women as “victims,” who were forced to get married or who were stuck in unwanted relationships. And as far as Güzin Abla was concerned, men could hardly be trusted.

A secure platform:

Some of the readers' letters acted as cautionary tales. Güzin Abla deliberately published some of the letters trying to give lessons about premarital sex, homosexuality and adultery. She always became an important barometer of sexual relationships and took pride in acting as a power figure and an expert, despite her lack of education on psychology, sociology or gender. She didn't have any problems with recommending doctors and gynecologists to her readers, another one of her eye-brow raising quirks.

When we look back at Güzin Abla's role as the advisor to millions of Turkish people for almost four decades, we see how little has changed since her first columns in the 1960s. Young women are still scared to death of premarital sexual relationships, men are still cheating on their wives, afraid of becoming gay and not satisfied with their penis sizes. And women are still left for younger women.

It's not really fair only to look at what Güzin Abla advised millions of readers throughout the decades, as she went through cycles of her own. But it's important to see how she managed to create a secure platform for decades for all the cries of help coming from unhappy and confused people throughout Turkey.

I think the article says a lot. First, it seems to me that the author, Emrah Güler, doesn't agree with Güzin Abla's advice: she makes extra effort to point out the reasons behind her advice about marriage, and is extra cautios about making sure Alba's views on homosexuality are seen as only belonging to Abla. To me, it seems that Güler likes Abla, not because she gave good advice, but because she was a strong woman who sttod up for what she believed in. That I can respect.

I really like the article. I can't say I'm not happy that this woman is no longer writing anti-gay advice, but this article inspired me in ways I can't explain. May God watch over her soul.

World Pride Parade Cancelled

For the second year in a row, World Pride has been affected by Israeli politics. Last year, the entire event was postponed due to Israel's unilateral pullout from Gaza. This year, only the parade is cancelled due to the war with Hizbullah, but the other events will go on.

The cancellation of the parade was announced last night, but no press release has appeared in on the Jerusalem Open House website, yet. Jerusalem Open House is the lgbt-rights organization responsible for organizing World Pride this year. Pink News has an article. A quote:

The Jerusalem WorldPride parade has been postponed until "after the war."

The organisers of the event, Jerusalem Open House (JOH), announced last night that the rally will no longer take place due to the demands it would be making on security which is currently caught up in escalating tension in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

A JOH statement said: “This is not the time for celebrations.

“The parade, which requires extensive security, will not take place due to the situation.”

A JOH spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: "The week of events will go ahead, from 6-12 August, but will be toned down to suit the situation in Israel.

"All the conferences and congresses will go ahead as usual and there will also be some form of demonstration in favour of pluralism in Jerusalem."

JOH Director Hagai Elad told Israeli news website, Ynetnews.com, “We are determined to fight for our right to march in Jerusalem this year.

"We will not succumb to the violent incitement against our community and against all the proponents of democracy in Jerusalem.”

The situation may appease some sections of Israel's Orthodox Jewish community and politicians who have protested against the march and in some cases offered rewards for killing a gay person.

Over 2000 leaflets were distributed in Jerusalem, reading; "During this parade, 300,000 corrupt animals are anticipated to march through the holy city of Jerusalem, waiting avidly for the chance to put themselves on display before our children and our sacred Torah. They will try as hard as they can to defile as many of our innocent children as they can."
Well, that pretty much says it all. I still support World Pride, by the way. If you are still planning on going, however, may I recommend a hotel/hostel in the Arab quarter? The discrepancy between Jewish and Arab economic situation in Jerusalem is incredible, and a lot of it is due to the fact that Arabs have a difficult time finding work in the Israeli state, especially with the new influx of Russian immigrants. As Russian immigrants flood into Israel, they are takig jobs on kibbutzim with have been held by Arab Israelis and Palestinians.

Arabs in Jerusalem depend somewhat on tourism, and are unfortunately overlooked by many tourists. The Arab quarter of the city is definitely safe, and much more friendly and lively than other sections of the city. Give it a try.


Update later on June 22:

I found this post on News Fit to Post. It's amazing!

Helem is Silent

Right now, Helem is observing a 10-minute moment of silence at Martyrs' Square in Beirut to recognize all of the dead who have fallen in the recent Israeli aggression. Pamphlets bearing the names of dead children will be distributed and held.

Helem is part of "Lil-Hayat", a group of progressive civil society organizations in Lebanon, which is organizing the moment of silence. All of the participating groups can be found here.

In other Helem news, the Helem center at Zico House is taking on refugees, offering them shelter, food, and supplies. It's not only humane and generous, it's great political strategy. It's very difficult to say, "Gay people gave me food, shelter, and safety, but I don't think they deserve equal rights."

If you are in Lebanon and would like to help out or donate needed items, please go to the Helem center on Spears Street in Senayeh or call Georges (03-031428), Rasha (03-35664), or Sara (70-917001). Helem especially needs people with cars to transport medication and supplies and to survey refugee needs in the schools.

Helem is amazing.

Google Doesn't Care If It's Homophobic

I just received this e-mail from Google in response to my letter asking them to change their offensively anti-gay Arabic translation tool:

Hi Al-Fil,

Thank you for your note. Although our translations are produced automatically by state of the art technology, unfortunately even today's sophisticated software doesn't approach the fluency of a native speaker. We recognize that the results may be less nuanced than what a human editor might provide, and we're continually working to improve the quality of our automatic translation. In the interim, we hope the service we provide is useful for most purposes.

Thanks for taking the time to write.

Regards,The Google Team

Why do I feel like I've seen that before? All they did was copy and paste from their help section. It looks like a complete brush-off to me: the message shows no intention of fixing the problem. Now I'm angry! Write to them (I posted how in the last post)!

Also, I wrote Google this follow-up e-mail:
Dear Google Help,

I find it troubling that your e-mail shows no intention to solve the problem, but merely restates what is posted in your help section online. I feel that it shows great insensitivity and a lack of foresight. I want you to know that I've informed everyone I know, posted on numerous gay blogs, and written to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the International Gay and Lesbian Association. I will continue to work to spread the word until the situation is fixed.

-Al-Fil

Friday, July 21, 2006

An Open Letter to Google

I sent a letter to Google today, after I found that their Language Tools translate "gay" as "اللوطي", a highly-offensive term. In Google's help section, they have this entry:
Do you know that your translation tool sometimes suggests inaccurate translations?

Although our translations are produced automatically by state of the art technology, unfortunately even today's sophisticated software doesn't approach the fluency of a native speaker. We recognize that the results may be less nuanced than what a human editor might provide, and we're continually working to improve the quality of our automatic translation. In the interim, we hope the service we provide is useful for most purposes.

Well, I don't know what kind of state-of-the-art technology used such arcane vocabulary. Here's the letter I wrote, and I encourage other people to do the same:

Dear Google,

I recently discovered your Language Tools for translation have included Arabic, and I was quite pleased. As someone in the Middle East, I think it's important that foreigners have an ability to read the Arab media, which often lists news stories not covered in the West. My happiness was short-lived, however.

When I put in the word "gay", I received "اللوطي" (al-luti) as a response. As you may know, "luti" is a religious and extremely derogatory term for gay people, equivalent to the English word "sodomite". Furthermore, it is more slang than standard Arabic. I have used Google for a long time, and find this discriminatory translation to be troubling and atypical of Google.

Even Arabic media has been shying away from using "luti". Al-Arabiya, which is certainly not pro-gay in any way, uses "شاذة جنسيا" (shatha junsiya), an equivalent of "sexual deviant". This term, though not great, is still less offensive than "luti".

I was further distressed to see that gay-positive terminology adopted by the gay movement in the Arab World, such as "مثليون جنسيا" (mithliyoun junsiya), the semantic equivalent of "homosexuals", returns garbage in your translation tool.

I don't know where you got your Arabic dictionary from, but it seems antiquated. I sincerely hope you rectify the situation, or you may lose me as a customer. Gay people in the Middle East have been fighting hard for recognition and equality, and continuing the usage of derogatory terminology only makes the struggle more difficult. How can one fight for equality using the word "sodomite"? I would expect better from an enlightened company such as Google, which has strived to reach out to cultures across the globe.

-Al-Fil, Beirut, Lebanon


You can reach Google at:

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
phone: (650) 253-0000
fax: (650) 253-0001

It's very hard to find somewhere to send an online complaint. But you can do it here or here.

Yesterday's Protests Against Iranian Treatment of Gay People

Because all of the protests were in Western countries, and I didn't want to spend my night online (time zones work like that), I'm writing about this a day late. But it'll be worth it! (wink, wink)

All in all, the protests seemed mildly successful. I don't really think the Iranian government cares about the protests, and due to the crises in the world, they never really made it out of gay media. I couldn't find one mention of the protests in Arab media (I don't read Farsi). Still, almost ant showing of gay solidarity is a good thing, and even the smallest amount of progress still makes the road to freedom shorter.

There are tons of article and posts about the protests, but I'm going to quote IRINNews, an offshoot of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. IRINNews always has great, unbiased pieces, and this one especially focuses on the perpective of Iranian gay people, rather than just the protesters in foregin countries. A quote:

Arsham Parsi, secretary of human rights affairs for the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO), said the situation left gay men with no option but to hide.

"There is no room for rights as their mere life is threatened by law," he said from Canada.

"They can not report the abuse because they will have to state that they're gay, and that calls for harsh punishments and death."

In a letter to the United Nations, PGLO said that under Islamic law the penalty for sexual relations between two men was death, with a judge deciding the method of execution. The options included stoning, hanging, hurling from a height or death by sword.

"This brutality occurs within the Islamic regime of Iran, while the agreement of social and political rights of the world organisation [the UN] has banned torture and execution punishments for consensual relations between adults," the letter read.

It added that under Islamic law there was no boundary between "sexual abuse" and "homosexual relations", warning: "What we are highly concerned with and urgently ask from you is that a ban be placed on the execution of homosexuals and legal protection be provided to them in Iran." ...

Homan, a non-profit support organisation for the Los Angeles Iranian lesbian, gay, and bisexual community, believes that up to 4,000 lesbians and gay men may have been executed since the Iranian revolution in 1979.

According to various right[s] groups, an estimated 100,000 Iranians have been put to death during the past 27 years of clerical rule including women who had sex outside of marriage and political opponents of the government.
There are scores of good posts on the protests in many blogs, and I'm just going to list them. I'm working hard on my next post, which is important to me (not that Iran isn't). Besides, I've said almost all I can say about the events in Iran here, here, here, here, here, and here, among other. I like the post on the protests on Towleroad.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Appalling Acts of Murder and Gay Bribery in Kurdistan

I found this article on al-Arabiya. The newspaper claims it's from Agence France-Presse, but I can find nothing to back that claim up. Titled "They Confessed to Cutting Off Heads in the North of Iraq for Training: A Kurdish Group Practices Sodomy and Drinking Wine to Establish Islamic Intelligence", the article documents the slaughtering of a number of civilians in Irbil, Iraq, and the use of forced homosexual acts on videotapes as bribes for loyalty. I am shocked, dismayed, and disgusted.

The picture posted is a member of "Supporters of Islam" with inset pictures of murdered victims.

The majority of the article, translated by me:

The television channel "Kurdistan", owned by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan under the leadership of Massoud Barzani, aired yesterday evening, Tuesday July 12, 205, the confessions of four people accused of belonging to a group called "Supporters of Islam". In their confessions, they admitted having carried out dismemberment and explosions in the cities of Irbil and Dahouk in the north of Iraq.

It was said that the leader of the group is a sheikh called "Layla al-Sheikh Abdul Karim al-Borzanji", [Sheikh Zana], (35 years old) from the city of Irbil (350 km
north of Baghdad) and a graduate of the Faculty of Engineering in the mechanics department. He said, "We have carried out the killing of a number of citizens after drawing them to houses in the center of Irbil, with the goal of training the group that has been working with me to slaughter citizens, then cutting them up and placing them in bags which are dumped in remote locations."

During the confessions, the Kurdish satellite channel broadcast scenes of the slaughter of young men after it hid the victims' faces, in addition to sexual exercises that were carried out among them or with girls.

The satellite channel warned citizens that the scenes should not be seen by people under 18 years of age. It was admitted that Sheikh Zana trained his group using sodomy [i.e. gay sex] and sex with girls, drinking wine, and gambling so that the security services do not doubt them.

The television channel presented shots from the house that was used for the commission such acts. Sheikh Zana spoke about his commitment to the Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam. The Kurdish television channel presented footage of the highly-explosive materials, muffled guns, and other materials used in their operations.

To explain his side, Dlir Haidar said in his confessions, "To me, Sheikh Zana said we need Islamic intelligence, and to achieve this, all of the practices, ncluding sodomy and sex with girls, drinking wine, gambling, and mixing with all kinds of people is necessary."

He continued, "At first I was not convinced, but it was insisted on, and I was given narcotic pills, then we engaged in sex and it was recorded on videotape." Dlir explained that the leader of the group, Sheikh Zana, informed him that "the tapes would be used against any member that tries to commit treason against the group or that does not carry out his duty properly."

He added, "Two of the men refused to have sex, and the sheikh ordered their killing. We killed them using a silenced gun and then cut them up and put them in nylon bags to be thrown in remote areas." The Kurdish satellite channel broadcast the confessions of four people and promised to air more confessions in the next few days .

Neither security sources nor other press releases offered more information about this group or their affiliation with "Supporters of Islam."

Firstly, I don't know if this is true. I don't trust al-Arabiya. But the same article was also printed on al-Watan (but that doesn't give it that much more credibility). Is this anti-Kurdish propaganda? It's not unheard of to tie disliked groups to homosexuality to disgrace them, and al-Arabiya has shown that it really doesn't like gay people or Kurds.

Secondly, I hope it's not true. It is disgusting, deplorable, and every bad word I can think of. But deep down, I believe it's true. I think al-Arabiya would make up a lot of facts, but I don't think it would create a television broadcast of another station that never really existed. I don't know Kurdish, so I can't really check. My heart hurts.

Helem Helping Refugees

Helem, the first lgbt-rights organization in the Arab World, is now accepting donations in its efforts to help Lebanese refugees from the war.

Donations can be sentto the following temporary bank accounts:

Credit Libanais S.A.L Beyrouth
Agence Sassine
SWIFT CODE: CLIBLBBX
Client Name: Al Azzi Georges
Account number: 043.001.180.0006817.35.6

or

SGBL Hamra Branch
SWIFT CODE: SGLILBBX
Client Name: CHIT Bassem
Account number: 007.004.367.092.875.014

or

donate through PayPal through their donations page.

Their hotline, +961 (0) 1 745 092, is also coordinating help for refugees as well as addressing gay issues.

It just shows that the gay community is always ready to lend a hand.

Breaking News: World Pride 2006 Caused the Bombing of Beirut and Haifa

It had to happen eventually. Why talk real politics when you can just blame everything on gay people and God's wrath? According to WorldNetDaily, some rabbis in Israel are blaming the current war between Israel and Hizbullah on World Pride 2006 in Jerusalem. To be honest, I expected someone to blame gay people eventually, but I wasn't sure whether rabbis in Israel or clerics in Lebanon would be the first. Both countries have been increasingly tolerant of gay people, and both have been experiencing radical backlash. Anyway, a quote:
Are Israel's troubles in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and the Hezbollah rockets slamming daily into major Israeli population centers here a result of the Jewish state's tacit support for a homosexual parade slated for next month in Jerusalem?

Some rabbis seem to think so, and they are attempting to block the event from taking place in Judaism's holiest city.

"Why does this war break out this week, all of sudden with little warning? Because this is the exact week the Jewish people are trying to decide whether the gay pride parade should take place in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv," Pinchas Winston, a noted author, rabbi and lecturer based in Jerusalem told WND...

"This [parade] is an attack against God himself," Winston said. "God has told the Jewish people, 'If you are not going to fight for my honor, you will be forced to fight for your own honor.'"

Winston points to the clashes that broke out after Hezbollah staged a raid last week in which two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and eight more soldiers were killed. Israel has been retaliating inside Lebanon while the Lebanese terror group has fired hundreds of deadly Katyusha rockets at northern Israeli population centers, killing 18 civilians and wounding hundreds, some seriously.
And another quote:

Lazer Brody, an author and dean of the Breslov Rabbinical College in Ashdod, Israel, concurred with Winston.

"When God’s presence is in the camp, nothing can happen to the Jewish people," Brody stated. "But If the Jewish people bring impurity into the camp of Israel, this chases away God's presence."

Brody contends the "removal of God's presence" led to the recent violence here, but he said he still feels the Jewish state is being protected.

"Over 1,000 Katyusha rockets have been fired thus far, and the damage has been equivalent to scratches," Brody said.

One more:
The Rabbinical Congress for Peace, a worldwide coalition of over 1200 rabbinic leaders and pulpit rabbis released a statement this week asking Israelis to "increase the holiness" of the country while it was at war by praying and among other thing cancelling the World Pride event.
And one last one:

Meanwhile, Yehuda Levin, a member of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, has come to Israel specifically to prevent the homosexual celebration from taking place. He said a homosexual parade is akin to a parade of "prostitutes promoting prostitution, or adulterers encouraging others to try adultery at least once in their life."

"Israel is the Holy Land, not the homo-land," Levin told WND.

I can't help but laugh. What else an we blame gay people for? Does gay sex cause global warming? Do gay beaches cause tsunamis in Indonesia? How about gay dance music causing earthquakes in Iran? How can people take these arguments seriously?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mr. Gay Lebanon and Other Non-War News

Well, some good stuff I found to take my mind off the war:

The Mr. Gay Competition, set for October, is hosting three contestants from the Middle East, representing Iraq, Israel and Lebanon. The competition is neither big nor important - the contestants seem to nominate themselves - but it brightened my day.

Funniest yet, the contestant from Lebanon, Elie Ballan, is a server from Club Social in Gemmayzeh, one of the bars that tries to pretend it's not a gay bar. He's not my cup of tea (I like Mr. Gay Venezuela), but I wish him luck.

In other news, Barra is having a logo competition to replace its boring red box. I was going to post on this about a month ago, but I forgot. The deadline is August 1, so hurry!

Worker's World Confuses Protests with Imperialism

In another terrible article, Leslie Feinberg of Workers World again denies the anti-gay pogrom in Iran, as she did less than a month ago. Now, I'm not necessarily pro-protest, but Feinberg's article is obnoxious, ridiculous propaganda. Here's what she says to justify that there's no anti-gay pogrom:
It turned out that OutRage! had based its charge that the two young men were executed for consensual sex on a mistranslation of a July 19 Iranian Students News Agency article and a report from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) ...

Human Rights Watch revealed that the rape charge had been mistranslated from Farsi. Scott Long, the group’s LGBT Rights Project director, stated, “There is no evidence that this was a consensual act. ... A whole tissue of speculation has been woven around mistranslations and omissions and this has been solidified into a narrative that this is a gay rights case.” (Kim)

Many other sources, none of them “soft” on Tehran, also reported that the two young men were executed for taking part with at least three others in abducting and gang-raping a 13-year-old boy at knife point. These included the New York Times, Associated Press, Fox News Channel and Times of London and Radio Free Europe.

She then takes the charges for face value. She hurries over the fact that the gay news sources admitted their mistake, twisting it to make it seem like they admitted they weren't executed because they were gay, which has become increasingly certain, especially with the new evidence.

What is most troubling is that she turns the reporting of the execution of the two boys into a Western campaign for the destruction of Iran. Her claim hinges on quotes by Peter Tatchell of London's OutRage! and American blogger Andrew Sullivan, both of whom are hardly good examples of the mainstream gay community in this case. In fact, I would say that they are both rather extremist, especially Sullivan, who has been berated for consistently spewing out absurdly pundit-like propaganda.

She continues to follow in the errors that I outlined before, but with an even worse flaw: she omits that it's an Iranian organization which is a large party behind the protests. In an effort to make it seem completely imperialist, Feinberg omits the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO). If she mentioned that it was Persians behind the protests, that would show her entire arguments to be the trash that they are.

A quote from Arsham Parsi, secretary of the Human Rights Commission of the PGLO:
“We urge cities all over the world to show solidarity with our freedom struggle. Your solidarity is tremendously important and effective.

"We feel great pain when we see human rights advocates ignoring the evidence and failing to speak out against the torture and execution of gay people in our country.

"We know first-hand, from the violent abuse of our members and supporters, that the jailing, flogging and hanging of gay people is official state law and policy.

Furthermore, the PGLO does not call for the sanctions and regime change that Feinberg chastises Tatchell for, but merely an and to the arrests and executions, a halt of the deportation of gay asylum-seekers back to Iran, and support for Iranians struggling for democracy, social justice and human rights.

Feinberg's article is horrifyingly bad journalism. A list of all she does wrong:

1) She takes old news and presents it as new news, ignoring the actual new news - i.e. focusing on the mistranslation a year ago and not the newest findings.

2) She takes quotes from one end of the political spectrum and uses them to represent the whole - i.e. Tatchell and Sullivan.

3) She omits data that doesn't fit her thesis - the PGLO.

4) She confuses Iran's support for transgendered people with support for gay people.

5) She connects non-govermental organizations to the United States government with no evidence that they are related. This is the worst one. She creates huge comspiracy theories and presents them as facts.

It can be all summed up in one quote from Feinberg's article:
The year-long charges of a systematic state pogrom in Iran against gays have
coincided with U.S.-led attempts to stop the sovereign country from developing
nuclear technology.
That is true. But because they happen at the same time does not mean they're connected. I shouldn't need to explain this. Fenberg's reasoning is simplistic and incredibly faulty.