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Sunday, 17 April 2011

UK Foreign Office says willing to work on LGBT rights in Middle East

Map of commonly included MENA (Middle East & N...Image via Wikipedia
Source: Gay Middle East

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) released its third Human Rights report on the 31st of March for the year 2011. The report improves its coverage of LGBT issues over the two consecutive ones, especially in relation to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The FCO is asking NGOs, organisations and individuals to get more involved in order to "help inform our work".

Dan Littauer, the executive director of Gay Middle East, noticed that only some countries in MENA were covered in the report: Iran, Iraq, North Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and North Sudan. With respect to LGBT rights, the reports on Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria were relatively wide ranging.

Furthermore, he noted that LGBT rights were not discussed in Iraq, North Sudan Somalia and Yemen.  In these countries LGBT people face serious discrimination and persecution, including the death penalty in North Sudan and Yemen. Many other countries in MENA were not discussed at all. Dan entered in contact with the FCO and enquired about these issues.

An FCO official replied as follows:.
“The report’s webpages ( www.fco.gov.uk/hrdreport ) include the 2010 report and we will also publish updates online every three months on human rights violations and UK actions, including on LGBT matters, in each of the featured countries of concern."

“As Foreign Secretary says in his video introduction to the human rights and democracy report: “This is something that you can read, you can print, you can share with other people. You can also give us your views about this and about what we should be doing if you go to the get involved section. So I hope you will read this and I hope you will get involved.”

“Therefore the report is an invitation to individuals, NGOs, the media and LGBT communities to help inform our work and highlight human rights abuses around the world.  People can comment on the report directly and there are links to each Embassy’s webpages for you to be able to contact them directly including through Twitter and Facebook.”
The FCO official also invited Gay Middle East activists to liaise with officials in order to help with future reports. GME has initiated contact and we will be reporting on the progress made in our discussion with the FCO. Dan Littauer further commented:
“We are encouraged by the FCO’s willingness to work on LGBT issues in MENA and look forward to help it expand and build on these reports.”  
He also called upon individuals, activists and NGO’s to get involved – he can be contacted on contact@gaymiddleeast.com .

In addition the FCO has announced that people can submit questions to the Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne about the report.
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