A survey published for BBC News Arabic reveals shocking rates of homophobia across the Middle East and North Africa.
The study was conducted by the Arab Barometer research network on June 24, during LGBT Pride month. The BBC wrote, “Acceptance of homosexuality varies but is low or extremely low across the region. In Lebanon, despite having a reputation for being more socially liberal than its neighbors, the figure is 6%.”
The study wrote that a mere 5% of Palestinians from the West Bank accepted same-sex relations. Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip were not surveyed.
Algerians scored the highest number of acceptance of gay relations with 26%. Morocco followed with 21% and Sudan with 17%. Tunisia tied Jordan with 7%. Palestinians harbored the most intolerance toward gay relations.
According to the BBC, “More than 25,000 people were interviewed for the survey across 10 countries and the Palestinian territories between late 2018 and spring 2019.”
Hamas enforces lethal homophobia in the Gaza Strip. In 2016, Hamas executed 34-year-old Mahmoud Ishtiwi, based on allegations of gay sex and theft, shooting him three times in the chest.
Regarding Jordan, the BBC wrote, “While Sharia law forbids homosexuality in the country, same-sex relationships are not criminalized.” The British media giant reported that Khalid Abdel-Hadi oversees an online LGBT magazine that is blocked by the Jordanian authorities in his country.
Volker Beck, a German Green party politician and prominent LGBT activist, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday: “Without freedom of the press and expression, there is no chance for education and social progress. It is tragic that even in Jordan, Islamists are more likely to have the freedom to speak than LGBT human rights defenders. One should encourage the Jordanian king to allow more free speech in Jordan. “
Abdel-Hadi told the BBC, “I don’t hate my society. I am not fighting it, and I’m not defying it in the way some people think. As a person who identifies himself as a gay Arab man, I struggle to find my place in my community, in a community in which I love.”
US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell – who is the administration’s most high-profile openly gay official – told the Post in February, “71 countries criminalize homosexuality and eight will put you to death for being gay. The Trump administration is launching a new push with our European allies to end this human rights outrage.” Grenell is spearheading the international effort to stop the persecution of the LGBT community in countries that impose criminal penalties – including the death penalty – on homosexuals.
The Post reported in January that Iran’s regime publicly hanged a man based on accusations of homosexuality. Iran’s prescribes the death penalty for gay sex. According to a 2008 British Wikileaks cable, the Islamic Republic of Iran executed 4,000-6,000 gays and lesbians since the country’s 1979 radical Islamic Revolution.
During a press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in June, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country executes gay people because of “moral principles.”
Benjamin Weinthal is a European correspondent at The Jerusalem Post and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.