Thursday, 26 August 2010

After three months in captivity, Syrian gay men released

Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...Image via WikipediaSource:

By Jordan Rubenstein

In March and April, the Syrian government raided more than four private gay parties and arrested 25 young gay men in attendance at the parties. Most of the men were charged with “having a homosexual act,” and some were charged with organizing illegal obscene parties or encouraging homosexual acts.

Syrian law clearly states that engaging in homosexual activity is illegal. Article 520 in the penal code of 1949 prohibits “carnal relations against the order of nature” with a penalty of three years in prison.But does a law against homosexuality really excuse raiding private parties? These men were attending a party behind the closed doors of one of their homes. The Syrian government put men at extreme risk without adequate reasoning to lock them up in the first place. In Syria, the stigma against homosexuality is so bad that the men are now ostracized from their communities.

For three months after the incident, all of the men remained in police custody because their families would not bail them out. Luckily, the men were released from police custody last Thursday. The Syrian authorities released the men without a trial because the Syrian authorities were embarrassed by the attention drawn by the arrests.

Perhaps they should learn from the embarrassment this incident caused. Both their laws against homosexuality and their enforcement of the law are unjust and inappropriate. Treating LGBT people inhumanely will continue to draw negative attention and should be an embarrassment to any country.

The men in this case now face stigma and potential danger from their families and neighbors because the public was informed of their “offences.” The police could publicly dismiss the allegations brought against them, or announce they were acquitted from the previous charges. Instead, they’re releasing the men into dangerous situations.

It looks like the Syrian government hasn’t really learned anything and continues to disregard the safety and well-being of its gay citizens.

Jordan Rubenstein is the former president of Carnegie Mellon University's LGBT student organization, ALLIES. She lives in New York City.

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