Image 1 of 12: Algeria condemns homosexuality, making socializing difficult. Same-sex acts are illegal, punishable with prison between 2 months and 2 years, and with fines of 500 to 2000 Algerian Dinars. Under 18 years old? The older partner can be slammed with 3 years in prison and a fine of 10,000 dinars.
Image 1 of 12: Homosexuality is not illegal in Bahrain, but that doesn’t mean LGBTQ people are free from discrimination. Over 200 people were arrested at a gay wedding in 2011, and gender nonconforming individuals encounter harassment by police and Bahraini citizens alike.
Image 1 of 12: Comoros gay life is mostly underground. Many LGBTQ people enter into traditional marriages to avoid detection. Homosexual acts are illegal in Comoros, with punishment up to five years in prison and fines up to 1,000,000 Comoran francs. However, there are virtually no known cases of this nature having ever come before the courts.
Image 1 of 12: Cyprus hosted its first ever gay pride parade this year! Although protesters showed up to voice their displeasure, several thousand people showed up to support gay rights and the parade was a success. Cyprus decriminalized homosexuality 12 years go, but residents say the country still has a long way to go.
Image 1 of 12: Only 30 people showed up to Istanbul's first gay pride parade in 2003, but the gay rights movement in Turkey has quickly gained momentum. Ten years later, Istanbul’s 2013 parade swelled to over 100,000 people! Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Turkey since 1858, but LGBTQ individuals are unfortunately still unable to legally wed.
Image 1 of 12: Homosexuality was legal in Iraq under Saddam Hussein until late 2001 when, under pressure from religious conservatives, he criminalized the act of sodomy. In today’s Iraq, homosexuality is not technically illegal, but it is very much taboo. Militants belonging to extremist groups frequently target and kill members of the LGBTQ community.
Image 1 of 12: If FB is banned in Iran, do you really think homosexuality will be legal? Iran’s Queen of Pop Googoosh released a video in support of the country's gay & lesbian community, becoming the first prominent Iranian with such a huge following to speak out against homophobia. Unfortunately, homosexuals face heavy jail sentences.
Image 1 of 12: Homosexuality certainly isn’t outlawed in Israel! Just last week Tel Aviv hosted the Middle East’s largest gay pride parade. Thousands of people turned up to celebrate and enjoy the activities, AIDS awareness stations, and loads of food. Tel Aviv’s vibrant party scene attracts thousands of gay tourists every year.
Image 1 of 12: If you were hoping to find info on homosexuality in Jordan online, you won’t! There’s a huge gay community though, with many meeting at certain cafes in the capital. Unfortunately, there have been LGBTQ arrests in this moderate Muslim country.
Image 1 of 12: At least liberal Lebanon acknowledges homosexuality is not an illness and gay sex isn’t unnatural! Leb’s small internal gay rights movement is much-needed due to the occasional police harassment and arrests. In 2000, the webmaster of gaylebanon.com faced military charges for maintaining a website for gay and lesbian Lebanese.
Image 1 of 12: Article 489 of the Moroccan penal code punishes homosexuality with up to three years in prison, and unlike some Middle East countries, authorities enforce this law. In 2014, six men were convicted of homosexuality. It is common for authorities to also charge members of the LGBTQ community with prostitution and a number of other offenses.
Image 1 of 12: Palestine is divided between Israel and itself, and within its own political parties - Fatah and Hamas - so being gay is an even bigger division from the community. Some reports claim it’s legal in the West Bank, where most LGBT take refuge. Unfortunately, Palestine has no civil right laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination or harassment.
No government has the right to tell its citizens when or whom to love. The only queer people are those who don't love anybody. ~Rita Mae Brown, speech, 28 August 1982
Gay rights is globally trending as one of the hottest and most controversial topics du jour. Everywhere you look, members of the LGBTQ community are fighting an uphill battle just to be treated as equals. At best LGBTQ individuals face discrimination, lack basic civil rights and are unable to lawfully wed, at worst they are forced to hide their true identities for fear they may lose their lives.
Although the majority of Middle Eastern countries have become more modern and liberal in recent years, the subject of homosexuality remains a taboo for its conservative majority. The region remains a hostile place for anyone with a gender identity or sexual orientation that is outside of the accepted norm. Israel, Jordan and Bahrain may be more lenient towards homosxuality, but Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Iraq, Iran and the UAE punish homosexual acts by death.
Putting the Middle East’s “moral pride” aside, a number of Arab countries still proudly and bravely host gay pride parades in their colorful streets. Here’s a look at what’s it like to be gay (and hopefully proud) in 12 MENA countries.