goodbye my friend
I was given permission to post this a few years ago, and I finally found it once again in my notes. Besides having read hundreds of books on the Middle East, Iraq, Archeology, Central Asia, Religions, Anthropology, and Cultures, I have thousands of documents on Iraq, so it's not that difficult to misplace things. Thus, I was pleasantly pleased when I rediscovered this sad lament from a Gay Iraqi blogger.
Being a sexual minority in Post Saddam Iraq has been a death sentence for many of them. Worse even, than under the time of the Baathists, although that was certainly no walk in the park for most gay and lesbian Iraqis, many of whom had fled the country, when Iraq trended towards a more fundamentalist nature in the closing era of Saddam.
For those who remained after the invasion, a genocide of alternative sexualities took place, given impetus by the Fatwas issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani against homosexual conduct, and enforced by the various Islamist militias and parties holding sway over the Iraqi government, which was democratically elected by the citizens of Iraq.
The lament begins...
Two days ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who just came from Iraq 5 months ago. He is a recent med-school graduate (med-school grads in Iraq are 10 times less resourceful and competent than the average American nurse, many thanks to 30 years of isolation and backward Arab pedagogy). The poor guy is still trying to recover from the culture shock.
Imagine…from 500 years-behind Arab world to 500 years-advanced U.S; from the Arab lands that are obsessed with homogeneity and social conformity to the U.S that is obsessed with variety, individual rights and social colorfulness. Fortunately, the guy is in suburban Texas. His shock would have been far more overwhelming if he was in, say, NYC or even Austin for that matter. He is excited about the nutritional facts printed on the packaging of American food products and he is startled over the social and economic freedom of women in America.
Professional female athletes, female college students touching male students (in the Arab world, guys do not touch girls, and in rare occasions, they may shake hands) and other forms of, well, what life is supposed to be like in a healthy human civilization.
And so he started praising the U.S and its culture by saying "I wish I could tell Iraqis that not all Americans are deviants who like sexual deviation and try to enforce it on detained men." He was referring to the torture of Iraqi detainees, most of which were scum to begin with. So where should I start with my friend (name withheld)?
Should I start by telling him that I am one of these "deviants"? Should I start by telling him that Americans and Europeans use the word "gay" as opposed to deviant? How can I explain to him that the military personnel who ordered the "deviation" were not by any means homosexual?
When a member of the educated class has it all so badly wrong, where can you start?
For those who are trying to understand what's going on here, here's a clarification: a homosexual man in the Arab world is formally, legally, and officially referred to by the term shaath ( "th" is pronounced the way it is in The or They). In the west, gay means happy, and the homosexual community (with the support of the mainstream heterosexual community) chose it as a more positive uplifting verbal reference to homosexuals. Shaath on the other hand means deviant from the norm and very rare, a word that the Arab-Islamic heterosexual majority imposed on a tortured, humiliated, and a totally invisible minority of homosexuals. And my friend was implying that:
1-america is perceived as sexually deviant by many Iraqis.
2-level of sexual deviation is the best measure for worthiness and righteousness, as perceived by many Arabs (many Arabs would tell you that America is a bad country because of HIV and gays despite the fact that most of them would do just about anything to get a "green card").
How can Arabs call homosexuals "rare or deviant from the norm"? Arab men and women are human, so they, like other humans, must have a homosexual proportion of the population that is comparable to that in any western state.
Humans do not have control over who they love and how they love. We may control acts but not feelings, including gay feelings. As far as homosexual activity, the Arabs engage in it far more than people in the west. After all, it is the norm. then why do they call it "deviation from the norm (shothooth)?
Arab men and women are sexually deprived. The men are not allowed to have pre-marital sex. They pursue pre-marital sex with local girls in the neighborhood or in college. In 99% of the times, they don't find it because the girls too are not allowed to engage in pre-marital sex. If a girl follows her natural desires and those of her admirer, her reputation gets ruined, the whole town will know, neither she nor her sisters will marry, not even her lover would marry her. In extreme cases, the brother or the father would kill the girl in order to "cleanse the family of shame."
High-schools and social gatherings are sex-specific and girls rarely hang out with guys in college. This creates an Arab society of men who do not know how to talk to women, do not know how to be charming, do not know how to interact in a non-sexual manner with women, and do not know how to perform sexually, and women who suffer the same social diseases.
This extreme form of sexual and emotional deprivation, coupled with extreme heat (summers in most Arab countries are unbearable) and parental physical abuse in childhood create the stereotypical angry explosive Arab-Muslim male who has a double existence. One is public and that of the pious, moralistic, muscle-flexing, asexual, audacious, and god-fearing man. The other is private and that of the vulgar, foul-mouthed, impious, hypersexual, timid, reactionary, masochistic, shy, physically insecure, and blasphemous man.
The same can be said about the women with some minor differences. A very common way of dealing with the pent up anger and frustration and of satisfying the natural human (not deviant) need for physical contact is to engage in homosexual acts. Arab boys and men routinely engage in such acts in private house parties but would never talk about it the next day. Girls and women not lucky or pretty enough to marry do the same, especially in their late 30s and 40s (after that they start repenting). And those very same people would be the first on line to denounce homosexuals and homosexual behavior.
Arabs clearly practice gay sex way more than Americans or Europeans, as it involves heterosexual people. In western society, heterosexuals occasionally engage in homosexual sex but not as a habit or a preference. It mostly happens as a part of an experimental phase in puberty or during prolonged periods of isolation (e.g: imprisonment). In Arab states, it's also imprisonment but it is social and eternal.
Why are Arab societies fixated on the sex part of the equation? Instead of highlighting how sexually "deviant" America is, why not highlight how amazing its universities are, how diversified and robust its economy is, how free its people are, how majestic its trees are, how handsome its eagle is, how mighty its rivers are, and how beautiful and bountiful its lands are? Why are Arab societies spending their resources on rounding up "deviants" as opposed to improving their, well…..everything else?
Why do Arab state officials frequently say that they "don't have homosexuals" when they actually do? Why do they say that sexual education is immoral when HIV is creeping through their communities? Why do they consider sexual practices as a measure of a state's worthiness? Why not look at the economy, healthcare, public education and employment rates instead?
Yesterday, the UAE police in Abu Dhabi arrested 22 gay men (21 of them Arab and one Indian) while they were having a PRIVATE non-sexual party in a PRIVATE place that they PAID to reserve. One of the police officers was so disgusted that he used his cell-phone to take on-the-spot pictures of the arrested men and then published them online. So much for privacy and human rights. They were accused of engaging in homosexual behavior. Why is UAE not using its resources to round up Islamic militants who probably have Dubai in their list after Amman? The government of UAE will imprison these men unless they agree to be subjected to hormone (testosterone) therapy. Most of those men would probably agree to take it to avoid incarceration. Is this bad medicine or not? Giving men testosterone regardless of whether or not their blood has normal levels of it is not just bad medicine. It is bad science, a waste of the synthetic hormone itself, and harmful.
But this is not just a UAE medical science problem. When I confessed to my cousin that I am homosexual, she immediately asked me if I had a "male hormonal deficiency." Where do Arabs get these ideas? Aren't doctors explaining things to the public over there?
Last year, my mother's friend and her husband (both famous and wealthy physicians in Baghdad) came to the U.S so that she could receive treatment for her brain tumor. They stayed in our apartment for a week, and during the entire stay, the few remarks they made about the U.S were all blistering and bizarre. In one of them, the husband said "come and see those American soldiers how cowardly they are and how sexually deviant they are; those homos are pedophiles." Mind you, that remark came from a member of Iraq's elite. Of course, neither he nor my father knew that I am one of these "deviants."
Such is the state of affairs in the lovely middle-east. Such is the bizarre state of denial. Such is the view that Arabs have of homosexuals or "deviants" as they say.
Labels: Arab Sexuality, Fundamentalist Iraq, Gay Iraqis, Gay Middle East, Lesbian Iraqis