Saturday, November 20, 2010

Still no word from QuAIA on my query about gay Saudi man...

It's been five days since I emailed Queers Against Israeli Apartheid about this tragic story of a gay Saudi man who's been sentenced a man to five years in prison and 500 lashes for having sexual relations with another man.

Perhaps they're short of volunteers at the moment? Despite their focus on the Middle East, perhaps they don't care about injustices outside of Israel's borders? Regardless, I'll continue to wait patiently for this community group, so vocal when it wants to be, to reply to my honest query.


Peter said...

Seriously, do you really expect a reply? That type of hate only follows a one way street.

Matt Guerin said...

To the anonymous jerk too cowardly to put his/her name on your recent comments, I have disabled the 'anonymous' option. If you have something to say, have the guts to put your name to it.

Matt Guerin said...

Peter, no I don't expect a reply. They're gutless cowards only interested in promoting their narrow view of the world. I hope they get shut out of the Pride parade next year. I will be one of many demanding just that.

Savannah said...

[part 1 of 2]

Hi Matt,

my name is Savannah and I do work with Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), though I'm not in any way speaking for the group as a whole, just myself.

Before getting into a detailed discussion, I'd like to start by asking you a simple question. QuAIA is a group of queers and trans people in Toronto engaged on Mid-east regional issues. Do you _really_ believe that the members of QuAIA do not care about issues like the one you've posted above, about a Saudi gay man receiving 500 lashes and prison time for his sexuality? Please, take your time thinking about this... go deep inside yourself and ask yourself seriously... do you REALLY believe that I personally don't care about this issue, or that I support or excuse Saudi's anti-gay, anti-trans (and anti-woman) policies??

If the answer you come back with on this is "Yes, I think QuAIA doesn't care about this" then the simplest thing I can say to you is that you are confused. You have built yourself into such a black-and-white, racialized view of Middle east issues that you actually believe anyone who criticizes Israel must therefore be incapable or uncaring about abuses that might be committed by a predominantly Arab country. How is it that someone who supports the Palestinian struggle to be free from occupation, human rights abuses and ongoing land expropriation (to name some of the relevant issues) must therefore support every action ever committed, not just by the Palestinians themselves, but by every Arab government in the world? Why should the Palestinians be held to account for every action by every Arab government? Just because they belong to the same race??

The fact of the matter is that I have friends who are personally affected by issues like the article you have referred to above. I have queer friends who live large parts of their lives in the middle east. There are members of QuAIA and supporters who come from that part of the world and many of them return there on a regular basis. Queers living in that part of the world are doing what they can to improve their own situation... believe it or not there are LGBT groups in the middle east that are fighting for their own rights on a daily basis. The approach that QuAIA has chosen is to let those organizations and individuals lead the way on these issues. The fact is that condemnations from the West may feel good for the Western person who gets to make condemnations and point fingers, but there is little evidence that it actually helps queers living in the Arab world. In fact people involved with queer Arab organizations like Helem and Al-Qaws have pointed out that such condemnations can actually complicate their work. Again, they understand the issues better than we do. They understand their own situation better than we do. It is better to follow their lead.

Here for example is a nice article on the work by Lebanese LGBT organization Helem:

And here is a great article on this subject:

(one of the authors is the director of Palestinian LGBT rights group Al-Qaws).

Savannah said...

[part 2 of 2] (hope the first part went through??)

On the other hand, Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is a very different issue. The fact is the West and Canada included is deeply involved in the issue, basically a partner to Israel's occupation and dispossession of the Palestinian people. The U.S. for example actually sells Israel the weapons that they use in the maintenance of their occupation, including the weapons used in the 08/09 attack on Gaza that killed over 1200 people, the vast majority of which were civilians (documented in the very fair Goldstone report that criticized abuses on both sides, most committed by Israel though). How does Israel recognizing same sex marriages performed out-of-country excuse that?? That is why QuAIA came into existence: to make clear that you cannot use LGBT rights as a cover-up for other forms of human rights abuses. And btw- the U.S./Canada did not pay for the switches that they will use on this unlucky gay guy... it fucking sucks but really, what control do we have over it??

Although finally I will point out than one interesting fallout from this whole ordeal has been a certain narrative for the promotion queer rights in the middle east. Supposedly the Toronto Pride march 2010 was actually broadcast on Al-Jazeera arabic, viewed by millions in the Arab world just because of all the hoopla around QuAIA... I have to say that is pretty cool!! [we're still looking for footage of this, but I've heard that this happened from multiple sources]

I also had an interesting conversation with a straight-identified Palestinian friend of mine the other day. He said that now whenever the subject of gay rights comes up in a homophobic context, he uses the example of QuAIA, queers standing up for Palestinian rights, as an example of why they should support LGBT rights! I gotta say, that makes me pretty proud... go QuAIA!!

Matt Guerin said...

Thanks, Savannah. You make some interesting points. I'm glad you don't sound anti-Semitic, but rather reasonable and supportive of human rights, which is a great relief to me.

Savannah said...

Hi Matt. Thanks for thoughtfully considering my comments. It's nice to step away from all the hyperbole around this issue for a moment.

all the best,