Police to Free Detainees from Gay Gathering
Washington Times, March 21, 2005
By Rasheed Abou-Alsamh
JIDDA, SAUDI ARABIA—Thirty-one
men arrested at a party for homosexuals last week are scheduled to be released
today after what appears to have been a bungled police raid.
The online Saudi newspaper Al-Wifak first reported that
108 mostly Saudi men had been arrested at a “gay wedding” on March 10.
Seventy-seven of the men used influential connections over the following days
to win their release.
A friend of four of the arrested men told The Washington
Times that the event was not a “wedding”—which would have been
particularly shocking in the conservative kingdom—but a birthday party.
“There was no wedding. They were not drinking alcohol
or using drugs; they were just dancing and having fun,” said the friend, who
spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“My friends told me that plainclothes policemen and
special-forces soldiers with weapons raided the party and arrested everyone
present. They were really frightened by this overwhelming show of force,” he
He noted that security forces a few days earlier had
clashed with suspected terrorists not far from the villa where the party was
held, and speculated that the police may have thought they were raiding a
Thirty-three of the arrested men appeared last week
before a judge, who reportedly was annoyed when police could not
satisfactorily explain why the other men had been released.
Both regular police and the mutawwa (religious police)
regularly raid homosexual gatherings in the kingdom, where homosexuality is
illegal and is often punished by flogging and prison terms.
According to a Western diplomatic source, three French
diplomats were scooped up in a Jan. 13 raid on a homosexual party and have
since left the country after claiming diplomatic immunity.
Although there is the death penalty for homosexual acts
under Shariah, or Islamic law, it is seldom enforced owing to the requirement
that four male, adult witnesses must testify that they saw the homosexual act.
Bakr Bagader, a member of the National Society for Human
Rights in Jidda, said that his group would be willing in theory to help those
arrested on March 10, depending on the circumstances of the incident.
“If it was a gay ‘wedding’ party, that is far too
progressive for us because ... we have taboos against this, especially
religious ones,” Mr. Bagader said in an interview.
Although Saudi society by and large remains extremely
conservative and religious, many Saudi homosexuals say there has been a growth
in the number of younger homosexual men, and that the new generation feels
freer to experiment with their sexuality.
“Their families can’t control them,” said the
friend of the arrested men. “They take what they like from the West and
don’t think much about the consequences.”
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