Dubai's chief of police denies reports that 30 gay men were arrested at a party but says homosexuality is illegal and against the local norms.
Emirates 24/7, a Dubai-based paper, reported that Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, chief of the Dubai Police Force, has denied local activists' report, published by Gay Middle East, that a group of about 30 people, some of whom are reportedly gay, were arrested during a private party at 5 a.m. on March 9, at the Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai.
In addition, he is quoted as saying, "Homosexuals and homosexuality exists in all countries of the world, but is prohibited in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as behavior contrary to norms, customs, traditions and religion as well."
The paper also quoted an unnamed Dubai police officer saying, "The UAE Penal Code prohibits anything that might conflict with religion, values, customs and traditions."
However, the group Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transexual Rights UAE has collected first-hand witness accounts that they insist prove that the party did happen and that arrests did take place.
Adilah, a lesbian member of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transexual Rights UAE, said:
My friends were at the party, and it did happen. We now know that the hotel security staff tipped off the police, who then proceeded with the arrests.
People were released the following day after signing a testimonial they would "not do it again," although two people we know of are still unaccounted for and may be still held in prison because of their sexuality.
If "[h]omosexuals and homosexuality is prohibited in the UAE as behaviour contrary to norms, customs, traditions and religion as well," then what about drinking, live music, celebrating Christmas and Easter? Aren't those behaviors contrary to norms, customs, traditions, and religion of the UAE? Or are they OK because UAE tolerates it for the sake of economy/profit?
And if "[t]he UAE Penal Code prohibits anything that might conflict with religion, values, customs and traditions," but yet tolerates everything mentioned above for the sake of economic prosperity and touristic reputation, shouldn't it take into consideration not to penalize homosexuals for being gay in their private settings?
People should know how these guys felt and how scared they felt being held in a cell, when all they wanted was just to dance respectfully between our community.
Now if their names ever leak out, there would be consequences and discrimination in their future careers, not to mention their lives at risk if the family is overly conservative, and could lead to so-called "honor killing" if things get out of hand. All this for being who they are, respectfully, in private?!
Instead of persecuting LGBT people for leading personal lifestyles, we suggest they continue to promote no public displays of affection for both gays and straights, and hopefully the homosexuals they despise so much, but who contribute to the GDP of the UAE, can be aware of the dos and don'ts in this land, just like everyone else, leading safe lives, and not "offend" anyone who doesn't necessarily lead the same lifestyle.
The media here gives people the wrong idea, and that's something we should stop and educate. People should know that we are doctors, nurses, teachers, designers, media, aviation, etc., and we contribute in our societies and countries just like any other person, if not more.
She also remarked that "the GLBT international community has a huge spending and buying power and frequently visit UAE for tourism purposes -- not necessarily gay tourism, just tourism in general, so the authorities should think, if their aim is to market UAE as a gay-unfriendly destination, this could be damaging to the overall economy."
Abdullah, the chair of the group, stated:
The UAE engages in behaviour that is regularly at odds with the customs and religion of the country, but that is because we are a diverse, multicultural country, and their actions should be reflecting that.
Outlawing homosexuality is contradictory and homophobic and does not equal good governance. We should all be equal under the law. Their duty first and foremost should not be terrorizing our community, especially when we are in a private setting.
Denying the reports is equally damaging, as it raises a sense of panic and confusion in the community. I personally implore the lieutenant to review his statements and protect the integrity of Dubai police.
I personally understand the no-public-display-of-affection rule; my partner and I abstain from displaying it, since we find that a private matter. The general public, for the most part, is aware of the rule and practice self-restraint.
But raiding parties where adults are trying to be themselves behind closed doors is unrealistic and authoritarian and has no place in this day and age. What should they do? Pack up and leave home?
It is insanely hard as it is to go against one's true nature and lie. Private parties or gatherings help individuals cope when there's a sense of unity, and they are likely to respect the laws if given an outlet to release and be left alone. But having to look over one's shoulder day and night is a violation to an individual's basic right, which is freedom from fear.
Ali, a 25-year-old law student from Dubai and a member of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transexual Rights UAE, affirmed:
I wish countries like the UAE would be a little less self-contradictory, at least for the sake of their own integrity, if not Islam.
If alcohol, which is prohibited, could be served to Muslims and non-Muslims alike in controlled spaces, I see no reason for the charges pressed against the two boys that may still be held in custody. Whatever their private expression was, no big deal should be made of it.
My problem is not with the rules or the laws; my problem is with the officials cheating themselves and, more importantly, their faith, in order to gloss over our country's image.
If the reason for the alcohol allowance is the diversity of people, then let it be known that a human reality is sexuality, which includes LGBT. And we deserve equal treatment.
Growing up here in the UAE, I learned that gays are known as "sick" people who need treatment; if not that then "infidels" or "the Devil's puppets"...
It really hurts knowing that people around you may or may not think of you as their rubbish, because there are people in this country who are open-minded and actually want to try to allow the voiceless to speak out...
Sadly, its not democracy that runs this country; its power. And the power usually stands for homophobia and hypocrisy.