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This section includes an overview of the situation of LGBT persons in the twenty-two Arab countries. Since we had to limit the scope of the country profiles to a specific geo-political area, the choice rested on the twenty-two countries that are members of the Arab league and where Arabic is either the official language or one of the official languages. The country profiles section is divided into four parts: legal status, punishable acts and other laws, legal protection, and LGBT advocacy. The legal status part provides information on the laws that criminalize and target LGBT persons in the region. The translations provided here of the different laws have been quoted without changes, unless stated otherwise, especially when more than one version of the law exists or when there are certain problems that arise because of the vagueness of the original. In this case, we attempted to consult more sources and compare translations and different approaches to the law in question.

All references to laws related to LGBTs in the "legal status" part are taken from the following source (unless stated otherwise): Ottoson, Daniel, State-Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Laws Prohibiting Same-Sex Activity Among Consenting Adults. ILGA. May, 2009.

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We have retained the term "cross-dressing" or "imitating the opposite gender/sex", since they are the terms employed in the legal discourse of the region, while concepts of "Transgenderism" and "Transsexuality" are hardly present in the legal discourse; at least not in the laws or "other laws". Despite the fact that in some countries same-sex sexual acts and cross-dressing are not criminalized, the police can still arrest LGBT individuals relying on the manipulation of other laws such as "public indecency".

An overview of those laws and different acts that might also lead to the persecution of LGBTs is included under the second part, "Punishable acts and other laws". The third part, "legal protection", provides information on whether there are laws that legally protect LGBT persons in the country in question. The fourth part, "LGBT advocacy," includes names of existing organizations, groups, or online movements or initiatives that work on LGBT issues either wholly or as a part of their mission. It is important to mention that section isn't exhaustive, but lists examples of the better known forms of LGBT advocacy in the region. Although in some cases it says "N/A", there could still potentially be underground activist groups that have not gone public yet.


Accounts of attacks and censorship

Two men were arrested in May, 2013, on accusations of “breaching public morality” and “incitement to debauchery” because they allegedly announced their marriage on Facebook and addressed one another there as “husband” and “wife.” Some people who accessed the men’s Facebook profiles reported them to the police, which led to arresting both men. Ultimately, they confessed that they did this and were sent to jail temporarily.





Accounts of attacks and censorship

In the years following the Queen Boat incident in 2001, where 52 men were arrested on accusations of engaging in debauchery, the habit of entrapping gay men online became an all too common practice for the Egyptian police. They would set up profiles on gay social networks and seduce willing individuals into meeting them, and then arrest them. Allegedly, the arrested individuals would suffer torture and imprisonment. Although this practice was at its peak during the years that followed the Queen Boat incident, during the Egyptian revolution, the government and police still continued the practice of censoring and tracking individuals because of their online activities.

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Accounts of attacks and censorship

In 2009, a horrific wave of targeting gay men in Iraq started to gain momentum. A group of extremists started to entrap gay men using chat rooms; they would set up fake profiles and seduce target persons into meeting them, and after they met, the extremists would kidnap and torture the persons until they "repented" or, in some cases, died. Large numbers of homosexuals were targeted through the Internet, and this is unlikely to have changed. Recently, in a very extreme wave of hatred and discrimination against "emos" and LGBT persons, extremists have murdered many on the suspicion that they were homosexual, and pictures of the victims were published online as a means to threaten others and warn them of the consequences of "looking different" or behaving "against Islamic morals."










Saudi Arabia:



    1. Whoever commits Sodomy shall be punished with flogging one hundred lashes and he shall also be liable to five years imprisonment. (b) If the offender is convicted for the second time he shall be punished with flogging one hundred lashes and imprisonment for a term which may not exceed five years. (c) If the offender is convicted for the third time he shall be punished with death or life imprisonment." In the 2003 penal code of the south part of Sudan (known as New Sudan), homosexuality is also criminalized according to section 248 on "unnatural offences": "Whoever has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person and whoever allows any person to have such intercourse with him commits an offence and shall on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years and may also be liable to fine; and if such intercourse is done without consent he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years and may also be liable to fine; provided that a consent given by a person below the age of eighteen years to such intercourse shall not be deemed to be a consent within the meaning of this section. Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal knowledge necessary to the offence described in this section."



The incident of hacking the Tunisian Gayday magazine has probably been the most resonant online attack on LGBT individuals in recent years. In 2012, a group of malicious hackers managed not only to break into and deface the magazine's website, but also gained access to the Twitter and the e-mail accounts associated with it. They reportedly replaced "Gayday magazine" with "GarbageDayMagazine" as a clear homophobic statement. The founder and editor of the magazine claimed that the emails did not contain any sensitive or personal information. However, he stated in response to the attacks that, "We call upon activists not to panic because of such incident and to keep their continuous fight. Serious security measures need to be performed to protect online movement."

United Arab Emirates:

In March 2013, two Emirati men were arrested on charges of "breaching public morality" and "inciting others to commit a sin." The two men had profiles on the social network "WhosHere", where they allegedly posted pictures of themselves in women’s clothes and full make-up. The fact that the two men published their pictures on a public website led to the discovery of their profiles by the police, who communicated with them pretending to be a "customer" and set up a trap in order to arrest them. They were sentenced each to three years in prison. A week before this incident, a Filipino man was also arrested in the same manner, after the police tracked him down on the Internet, where he had a profile with his pictures and phone number, advertising himself as a sex worker offering services to male clients.

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Further reading


1. Whiteaker, Brian. Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East. London: Saqi Books, 2006. Print.



4. as 1

5. For the Arabic version of the law, see


Across the Arab countries, there is a dearth of reports and writings on the situation of LGBT persons. The cultural, social, religious and legal taboos that surround the topic of "non-normative" sexualities, sexual practices, and gender behavior make it all the more difficult to write publicly about these issues. Therefore, the country profiles chapter in this guide does not claim to be all-comprehensive and has been solely based on research from regional and international websites, blogs, organizations and books that have reported on LGBT-related in the respective Arab countries included. The volatile nature of the region and the cultural differences amongst the Arab countries have been taken into consideration, and thus this guide steers away from any claims of full inclusivity of all the nuances and the multiple cultural varieties of dealing with, understanding, and perceiving "non-normative" sexual practices and gender behavior respectively. Therefore, and due to the vastness of the geo-political area this chapter covers, we have attempted to focus on the most objective information on the subject, such as the legal situation, laws, and the level of activism in the respective countries included.