Israel prepares to celebrate Gay Rights;
Syrian Regime Abducts Gay Blogger
- Blogger, a Syrian-American, seized from Damascus street
- Homosexuality illegal in Syria
- Israel is lone outpost of gay rights in Middle East
Washington, June 8 – Two events sharply contrast Israel’s open civil society with Syrian repression this week.
In Israel, activists will celebrate gay rights in Tel Aviv’s 10th annual LGBT parade Friday. A short distance away in Damascus, a Syrian-American lesbian blogger was kidnapped from the streets of Damascus as part of President Bashar –al Assad’s brutal crackdown against protesters seeking democratic rights.
Amina Arraf, 35, an English teacher who was born in Staunton, Virginia, writes openly about her sexuality in a blog, A Gay Girl in Damascus. She was seized by unknown men who forced her into a vehicle as she walked with a friend Monday in the streets of the Syrian capital.
A day before her kidnapping, Arraf wrote, "I am complex, I am many things; I am an Arab, I am Syrian, I am a woman, I am queer, I am Muslim, I am binational, I am tall, I am too thin; my sect is Sunni, my clan is Omari, my tribe is Quraysh, my city is Damascus... And I am also a Virginian.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Syria and other Arab nations, punishable by death in countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In Syria, male homosexuality is illegal but the law is less clear for women, stating, “Any unnatural sexual intercourse shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of up to three years.”
By contrast, Israel is a lone outpost of gay rights and openness in the Middle East, with Tel Aviv known for embracing gay culture. As one Israeli blogger stated in a post about the upcoming parade, “It is a well known fact that Tel Aviv has become one of the main gay metropolitans of the world. Some even say that in certain aspects (probably the craziness and loudness), Tel Aviv is even a competitor to cities like Berlin or New York.”
Rania O. Ismail, a cousin of Arraf’s, wrote on the blog that Arraf’s family doesn’t know who abducted her, but that according to a witness, “Amina was seized by three armed men in their early 20’s,” one of whom covered the woman’s mouth as he pushed her into a car with a window sticker of Assad.
“Unfortunately, there are at least 18 different police formations in Syria as well as multiple different party militias and gangs,” Ismail wrote in a post Monday. “We do not know who took her so we do not know who to ask to get her back.
The men are assumed to be members of one of the security services or the Baath Party militia. Amina’s present location is unknown and it is unclear if she is in a jail or being held elsewhere in Damascus.”