Excellent piece written by Rasha Moumneh, a researcher for the MENA region at Human Rights Watch and an LGTB activist in Lebanon. Read the whole article here.
A few weeks ago I was introduced to a gay European activist, a lovely, earnest, well meaning fellow who had this insight about Iran to share with me; he said: “you know, something has changed for the average person in your average Western democracy. We now see that people in Iran wear Chanel sunglasses and high heels and use mobile phones just like us, and that’s led to an amazing transformation. They’re like us, we can relate to them now, we can support them.” Of course he was making a point about how the media has the ability to shatter stereotypes, but that statement in itself is so incredibly loaded. Does that mean that if they didn’t possess the trappings of “modernization” then people from Europe would be less likely to support them? Or that “like us” amounts to having the latest mobile phone? Or that we need to start proving our credentials in order to earn European support?
Before this conference, I had the privilege of being part of the first ever meeting of queer Arab activists from all over the Middle East, North Africa, and the diaspora in Europe, around 80 people in total from organizations, individuals, and unorganized groups put together by Sabaah, an Arab LGBT organization here in Copenhagen. It was awe-inspiring to sit there with all these incredible people who were really putting themselves at risk in their home countries to engage in the difficult struggle for their rights as queers living in Arab societies. Interestingly, and this occurred to me only after we were done, the words “Islam,” “Islamism,” or “religious extremism,” did not come up once in the three days we came together. Not once.