Last edited: December 05, 2004

U.S. Fails to Defend Gay Saudis

Saudi Arabia’s Oil Should Not Dictate Our Human-Rights Policy

Charlotte Observer, January 25, 2002
P. O. Box 2138, Charlotte, NC 28233
Fax: 704-358-5022

By Sydney Levy, Knight Ridder/Tribune

On Jan. 1, Saudi Arabia beheaded three men because they were presumably gay. We know the names of the three beheaded men, the day of the execution and a brief explanation from the Arab News Agency, stating the men had been convicted of "engaging in the extreme obscenity and ugly acts of homosexuality, marrying among themselves and molesting the young."

We can find little other information about the case because the Saudi government refuses to provide any more. And our government is not asking any questions.

Three weeks have passed, and we have not heard a single comment from the U.S. government, even though the war on terrorism has brought much talk of freedom, democracy and human rights.

Apparently, these values do not apply to gays and lesbians.

In April 2000, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the organization I work for, received reports that nine young men were sentenced to 2,600 lashes each for so-called deviant sexual behavior—dressing in women’s clothing and having sex with each other. The Saudi Arabian court ruled that this astronomic number of lashes was to be delivered at 15-day intervals. If the nine men survived the lashes, they were then also sentenced to four-to-six-year prison terms.

In July 2000, we received reports that six men were executed in Saudi Arabia on charges of deviant sexual behavior, though it is unclear whether or not they were connected to the April convictions.

The Taliban regime in Afghanistan used to topple a brick wall over suspected homosexuals to kill them.

The Saudi government is not much better in its record toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

But the United States is silent about the Saudis.

Why? In a word, oil. Lots of it. In fact, Saudi Arabia has the largest reserves of petroleum in the world—26 percent—making it a formidable power. But the United States should not choke on this oil.

The next time President Bush or Secretary of State Colin Powell talk about global democracy and freedom, we need to remind them that these lofty promises should apply to our global partners, not just our enemies.

  • Sydney Levy is the communications director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Write him c/o Progressive Media Project, 409 East Main St., Madison, WI 53703 or at

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