A Saudi Arabia man has been arrested by the country’s religious police for allegedly using Facebook to arrange dates with other men, Gay Middle East reported.
The man was reportedly arrested on December 23 and has been held by police since then in the city of Damman on the country’s Eastern coast.
According to the website, the man confessed to arranging “obscenity acts” with members of his own gender, after what the website said was “assumed to have been harsh interrogations.”
If charged with being gay, the man could face massive fines, flogging, jail or even death. The punishment of such crime is left by the central government to local religious authorities and can vary depending on the person’s identity, GME said.
“Conviction and severity of punishments depends on the social class, religion and citizenship of the accused, whereby non-western migrant workers receive usually harsher treatment than upper class Saudi citizens,” the website said.
Sami Hamwi, Syria Editor of Gay Middle East, and former Saudi resident said that “native born Saudi citizens who are Suni or from the Bedouin tribes in the country are often let off, while punishment are severely executed against minorities like Shiites and or newly naturalized citizens.
“Punishments regarding homosexuality are also held against expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, especially those coming from Asian, African and Arab countries. Dammam is a largely Shiite area and if the 30 year old aforementioned man is a Shiite, he is likely to be trialed and sentenced harshly.”
The LGBT community in the Middle East continues to face horrifying conditions, said Egyptian lesbian “Sarah” who asked for her name to remain anonymous.
“We have long tried to fit into society and not demand our rights, but it doesn’t matter,” she told Bikyamasr.com. “We are targeted if we look any different that others on the street and are beaten and abused. It is horrifying.”
There are limited statistics available on the number of homosexuals in the Middle East, and in many countries, it is illegal to be gay and punishable with harsh jail sentences.
The British government has spoken out against Saudi’s treatment of the LGBT community and has recently linked its foreign policy to the well-being of the global gay community.
An official of the British Foreign Ministry said in a letter to GME that they are currently looking for more information from Riyadh over the matter.
“The UK opposes all discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in all circumstances,” the letter began.
“We are committed to combating violence and discrimination against LGBT people as an integral part of our international human rights work. We believe that human rights are universal and that LGBT people should be free to enjoy the rights and freedoms to which people of all nations are entitled,” it added.
By Sharifa Ghanem