Last edited: February 14, 2005

Saudis Beheaded for Sodomy

Men Convicted of Extreme Obscenity, Ugly Acts Under Nations Islamic Law

The Washington Blade, January 4, 2002

By Kim Krisberg

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—On the heels of the verdict in the "Cairo 52" trial in Egypt, where 23 men were sentenced to terms of hard labor after being convicted of acts of indecency, three Saudi men were beheaded this week for sodomy.

The men were beheaded Tuesday, Jan. 1, in Abha, a city in southwestern Saudi Arabia, the interior ministry of Saudi Arabia said in a statement reported on the Web site for Arab News, which calls itself Saudi Arabias first English-language daily. The three men were Ali bin Hatan bin Saad, Mohammad bin Suleiman bin Mohammad, and Mohammad bin Khalil bin Abdullah. According to Arab News, the men were found guilty of "engaging in the extreme obscenity and ugly acts of homosexuality, marrying among themselves and molesting the young." The article also reported that "the three men repeated the acts several times and assaulted people who told them to stop."

"Saudi Arabia is the absolute strictest" when it comes to laws governing social life, besides the now-fallen Afghanistan, according to Dr. Laura Drake, an international affairs expert at American University.

Drake, an adjunct professor at American, said the news of the beheadings didnt surprise her at all. Despite its alliance with Saudi Arabia in the war against terrorism, Drake said she doubts the United States would get involved in human rights issues in the Middle Eastern country; there, acts of homosexuality are capital crimes and considered a sin against God.

Reports from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, surfaced this week saying that three men had been beheaded for alleged same-sex activity in the southwestern part of the country.

To raise the human rights issue, Drake said, would not be in the interests of the United States, which wouldn't want to threaten its top priorities, such as national security, by bringing up a human rights matter. In addition, she said, Saudi Arabia is a pro-U.S. regime with the largest oil supply in the world and carries much influence with other Arab countries. Strategically, Drake said, Saudi Arabia is too important for the United States to begin withering political and financial ties in the name of human rights.

Sharon Burke, Amnesty International USA's advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said her organization confirmed with the Saudi Ministry of the Interior that three men were beheaded for sodomy. She said Amnesty was unable to get more information on the case.

Calls to the U.S. State Department and the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, D.C., were not returned by deadline.

Burke said an Amnesty program called Urgent Actions would send letters to the Saudi Arabian government to express concern and protest the executions. The group will also continue to pressure the U.S. government to raise a range of human rights concerns with the Saudi government.

Governing in Saudi Arabia is based on the Sharia or Islamic law, Drake said, and the make-up of the law is handed down through interpretation. The only types of sexual relations allowed in the country are between husband and wife.

Burke said that although it might be a struggle to influence U.S.-Saudi relations, it is not impossible.

"I don't believe its futile just because you won't get the U.S. severing relations with Saudi Arabia, doesn't mean it wont get raised in private channels," she said. "The long-term stability of the Middle East is still very much in the minds of U.S. policy makers and [human rights] are a piece of this puzzle."

Drake, who said she believes that little will be accomplished by putting pressure on the United States, said one strategy for effecting pro-gay change in the Middle East is for gay activists to forge ties with the global women's rights movement, which has already gained considerable momentum.

The issue of gay rights goes much deeper than politics, according to Drake; it is also a social and religious one. There is no way to reconcile gay rights with Islam, she said.

But Hussien Ibish, communications director for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, disagreed.

Islam, he said, varies depending on interpretation, like many religions. Within the Saudi government interpretation, Ibish conceded, reconciliation is probably not possible.

When Ibish heard of the beheadings, his first words were, "That's astonishing." He said he had never heard of executions in the Arab world for sodomy.

"There's a very serious problem with anti-gay attitudes not only in the Arab world, but in the world generally and in the developing world," he said.

He said recent anti-gay legal actions in Egypt and Saudi Arabia should not color the opinion of that region or of Islam.

"There are a lot Arab Americans who support gay rights and are opposed to this kind of punishment in general," he said. Taking recent actions as representative, Ibish said, would be like characterizing the opinions of conservatives Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as representative of American beliefs.

Ibish said he believes and hopes that this kind of extreme Islamic belief will not prevail.

"Politics and social order based on religion," he said, "are a bad idea."

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