Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

Homosexuality

LGBT Rights in Iran

Shima Houshyar 10.21.2015

Over the last two decades, issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity have gained significant visibility and attention across the globe. The case of Iran is particularly fraught, and has received plenty of coverage due to the work of international non-profits.

Another Struggle: Sexual Identity Politics in Unsettled Turkey

06.25.2010

What happens when almost 3,000 men, women and transgender people march down the main street of a major Muslim metropolis, chanting against patriarchy, the military and restrictive public morals, waving the rainbow flag and hoisting banners decrying homophobia and demanding an end to discrimination? Or when a veiled transvestite carries a placard calling for freedom of education for women wearing the headscarf and, for transsexuals, the right to work?

Another Struggle

Kerem Öktem 09.15.2008

What happens when almost 3,000 men, women and transgender people march down the main street of a major Muslim metropolis, chanting against patriarchy, the military and restrictive public morals, waving the rainbow flag and hoisting banners decrying homophobia and demanding an end to discrimination? Or when a veiled transvestite carries a placard calling for freedom of education for women wearing the headscarf and, for transsexuals, the right to work?

The Trials of Culture

Session after session, the men stood packed against the cage bars, their eyes furtive behind masks made from torn handkerchiefs or underwear. That and their white jail uniforms gave them a ghostlike look: disincarnate in the sweaty chaos of the courtroom, incarcerated wraiths.

Unlocking the Arab Celluloid Closet

Images of same-sex love and sexual dissidence from the heterosexual norm have long been portrayed in literature, theater and cinema in the Arab world. While the explicit depiction of homosexual acts in film has been the subject of strict censorship, cinematic references to gays and lesbians abound, if often in heavily coded forms.

Power and Sexuality in the Middle East

In early 1993, news of President Clinton’s proposal to end the US military’s ban on service by homosexuals prompted a young Egyptian man in Cairo, eager to practice his English, to ask me why the president wanted “to ruin the American army” by admitting “those who are not men or women.” When asked if “those” would include a married man who also liked to have sex with adolescent boys, he unhesitatingly answered “no.” For this Egyptian, a Western “homosexual” was not readily comprehensible as a man or a woman, while a man who had sex with both women and boys was simply doing what men do.

Bezness

Nouri Bouzid, Bezness (1992).

What happens when a poor Arab country with a high birth rate, an enormous youth population and endemic unemployment bases a significant part of its development strategy on attracting European tourism? In Nouri Bouzid’s film, Bezness, the Tunisian coastal town of Sousse is the site for just such an experiment, with disastrous consequences for the local population.

An Unusual Hunger Strike in Istanbul

Sporting bleached blond hair, black stockings, heavy mascara and mauve-tinted lenses, some 30 homosexuals from Istanbul began a hunger strike at Taksim Park on April 27, the first day of Ramadan. Nearly all of them transvestites, and all proudly wearing bright pink boutonnieres, they said they would continue “until arbitrary police violence ends.” Eighteen of the strikers claim to be recent victims of police violence, and they have medical certificates to back them up.

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