“What we see is filtered”
Violence. Unfortunately, this is a term that can easily be applied to the current situations going on in the Middle East. Recently, media has continuously talked about ISIS and all the spiraling violence that follows it. These issues will continue to remain at the forefront of world affairs as long as they are covered in the media. What many may not be as informed about is the hidden battle for the rights of human sexuality that has occurred in the Middle East. From a perspective of someone living in the United States, I have been surrounded by people who have openly expressed their love for someone of the opposite sex and the struggle for this same lifestyle for people in the Middle East has really opened my eyes. I couldn’t imagine being tortured for expressing my feelings for the person I love and this thought is what helped me empathize for people fighting in this war. I have always wanted to be aware of issues going on in the world, but it was up until recently that I actually took the time to let these issues sink in. The best way to see the underlying differences between cultures is to see through a new perspective. I feel as if the fight for homosexual rights around the world is something that people should be made more aware of and there are many other wars going on than what has been and will be covered in the media.
To the Middle Eastern states homosexuality is not only looked down upon, but is considered a crime. Many lives have been at stake in areas such as Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Kuwait, and Iran where death is the punishment for homosexuality, according to Heather Simmons in the article, “Dying for Love: Homosexuality in the Middle East.” For these people, it is easy to perceive that life is like living in a fishbowl where you are constantly being watched. It is also important to note that in the Middle East the notion of being “gay” or “homosexual” is not considered the same as it is in the West. In some areas of the Middle East culture, if you resist any cultural norm you can be labeled as homosexual; a label that can place you in a state of constant danger of torture, harassment, and even death. Homosexuality in the Middle East also has a strongly embedded relationship with Islam that is used to justify the arrests and murders of homosexuals. When translated into Arabic, “homosexual”, roughly means, “the people of the Lot”, according to Simmons, in reference to the religious narrative. This means that homosexuals are being arrested under contempt of religion. Now, imagine if you have the freedom to dress however you want, talk however you want, and express who you truly are. In a lot of areas, people have to filter their whole identity to live a secure life. Where is the freedom?
What is even more indirect is that some countries such as Egypt do not have explicit laws against homosexuality, yet people believed to be homosexual are still tortured and arrested under sodomy laws. Is evidence needed? No, all it takes to be arrested is to be suspected. Despite the perception that comes along with being labeled as a “Homosexual”, many still continue to embrace their sexuality as shown in the picture below.
For many, this is the only way of life they have ever known while people who have never lived in the Middle East may take this as an extremely bizarre way to live. Unfortunately, it is evident that the conflict will continue to unravel. We don’t have to be inactive bystanders, however. What we can do is educate ourselves to better understand many of the other reasons why this hidden war is being waged in the Middle East.
Simmons, H. (2014). Dying for Love: Homosexuality in the Middle East. Retrieved from https://www.du.edu/korbel/hrhw/researchdigest/mena/Love.pdf