Would You Be My Palestine?

We can buy Almaza and get to your uncle’s place while he’s having his Argileh with his friends outdoors.

We can buy some of the Armenian nuts you like.

We can sit next to each other on the Sofa.

We can get nervous.

We can allow silence to be so loud.

This is it.

We can turn Valentine into a sacred sin.

Would you break the law with me?

We can wait till we finish our first bottle.

We can forget about your tomorrow and mine.

You can let me start right here and now.

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Helem replies to Massad: We are not agents of the West

Ghassan Makarem founding member and current Executive Director of Helem replied to Joseph Massad’s interview conducted with him by Reset Doc website. Here’s an extract of the interview:

The real problem with Massad’s interview is the lies, fabrications, and insinuations of being agents of the West against the people in Helem. This is an opinion we have heard many times from Salafists and chauvinists. The contention that homosexuals are agents of the West, that they are “imposing Western values”, and that they belong to the upper classes was also used by Khomeini before rounding up homosexuals and executing them. It is the same justification given to call for the arrest of HIV positive persons in Egypt and elsewhere and to pass a viciously homophobic law in Uganda.

Read the whole article here.

Iraq's New Surge: Gay Killings

Excellent article on the killings of gays in Iraq written by Rasha Moumneh appeared yesterday on Foreign Policy:

Western attention has always focused primarily on sectarian attacks in Iraq. Yet al-Sadr’s militia and its counterparts in countless neighborhoods and towns have long had other targets in their cross hairs. These men claim to bear the banners of religion and morality, defending against any transgressors. They paint themselves as the caretakers of tradition, culture, and national authenticity — which often means keeping women, as well as men, in their rigidly enforced traditional roles. Ironically, they sell their violence as a means of security: Amid the total upheaval of Iraqi society over the last eight years, many people regard any relaxing of gender roles as a threat to public order, undermining patriarchal power. And since the coalition forces failed to provide security after the invasion, such cultural conservatives have moved in to fill the role. Many aimless, unemployed advocates of rigid traditionalism have taken up the task with their guns.

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Global LGBT movement not inclusive of other rights issues-Rasha Moumneh

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?

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Shame on Homophobic Al Quds Al Arabi

Taken from Improvisations: Arab Woman Progressive

Shame on Homophobic Arab Media

Al Quds Al Arabi insists on calling gays being murdered in Iraq “sexual deviants.” It has that in the title and throughout the news report about how they are being hunted down and killed. By refusing to use the neutral word “Methli,” which is what Arab gays like to be called, and by insisting on the expression that denigrates homosexuality and cast it as a disease and a sin, Al Quds al Arabi, under the guise of neutral reporting, are cheering on the killers.


Catholic problem with homosexuality?

The Catholic problem with homosexuality does not go back to the Bible, as it does in conservative Protestant circles. Catholics have never had difficulty reading the good book with imagination. In fact, when the pope recently visited France, he told congregations that strictly speaking, Catholics are not “people of the book” at all. Rather, the words on the page serve to point to the Word of God, which is to say Christ himself.

The Catholic issue here goes back to Augustine. This great theologian of the church asked himself an interesting question: what was sex like in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall? He presumed that prelapsarian love-making was a more orderly affair than it is now. In particular, man [sic] would have had full control of his genitals: they would not have swelled against his will.

That man lacks full control now is part of his punishment for eating from the tree. So when Adam and Eve covered themselves, it was not because they were ashamed of their nakedness; it was because they were ashamed of their lack of control. A reduced capacity for free will is a sign of sin. As the philosopher Michel Foucault put it: “Sex in erection is the image of man in revolt against God.”

Read the full article here.

Helem Wins 2009 IGLHRC's Felipa de Souza Award

From IGLHRC website:

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) announced on January 23rd 2009 that it would award its 2009 Felipa de Souza Award to the Lebanese group Helem. IGLHRC’s Felipa Award recognizes the courage and effectiveness of groups or leaders dedicated to improving the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) and other individuals stigmatized and abused because of their sexuality or HIV status. The first organization in the Arab world to set up a gay and lesbian community center, Helem’s work has consistently broken new ground in a country that criminalizes homosexuality and where violence and abuse are persistent problems.

“We are so pleased to be able to present our 2009 Felipa Award to Helem,” said IGLHRC’s Executive Director Paula Ettelbrick. “Helem works in very challenging circumstances to make a very real difference to the lives of countless LGBTI people in the Middle East and beyond. We applaud their courage and commitment to human rights for all.”

Founded in 2004, Helem (the Arabic acronym of “Lebanese Protection for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender”) is based in Beirut, with support chapters in Australia, France, Canada and the United States. The organization’s work is multifaceted, ranging from advocacy to public education. A major focus of its human rights advocacy work revolves around eradicating Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, which is used to criminalize homosexuality; another advocacy focus addresses HIV/AIDS. Its community center has consistently offered the local LGBTI community a wide range of services ranging from HIV testing and counseling to workshops and publications about how to respond to harassment and arbitrary arrest.

The Felipa Award embodies the spirit of Felipa de Souza, who endured persecution and brutality after proudly declaring her intimacy with a woman during a 16th Century inquisition trial in Brazil.

The Felipa Award will be presented to Helem as part of IGLHRC’s A Celebration of Courage gala event on March 30, 2008 in New York and on April 2, 2008 in San Francisco. For more information regarding IGLHRC’s Felipa de Souza Award and its A Celebration of Courage events, visit: http://www.iglhrc.org.

Read the whole thing here.

To Lebanese Only: Abolish Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code

The Gay-Straight Alliance in Lebanon is asking all Lebanese inside and in the diaspora to sign a petition that calls for an abolishment of the article 534 of the Lebanese penal code which criminalizes and illegalizes so called “sexual acts against nature”. If you’re Lebanese please help circulating this petition within your circles:

The Lebanese elections are coming up! Will the politicians listen to the real voices of their people? Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code criminalizes “sexual acts against nature” and is used to target homosexuals and promote a general public hatred towards LGBTs in Lebanon. It is high time we strongly demand that the government remove this article and ensure equality for all its population without discrimination.We are asking Lebanese people only (in Lebanon and abroad) to sign this petition so that we reach 10,000 citizens whose voices cannot be ignored in our country any longer. Gay or straight – it doesn’t matter. Our cause is about human dignity and the right to protection. It is time we all stood together and recognized that none of us are free until all of us are free.

Once this petition hits 10,000 people, we will send it to all 128 members of the Lebanese parliament (hopefully right after the elections in June), as well as to the parliamentary human rights committee, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Social Affairs.

Go to the petition to sign it here .