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APRIL 18, 2003
■ ■ • _L
won't free gays
Gay hawks like to claim that regime change
in Iraq will mean greater freedom for gays,
but that's not the case even within our own military.
By MUBARAK DAHIR
GAY MEN AND LESBIANS
who endorse the war in and
occupation of Iraq — and possible future military action
against other countries like
Syria — need to stop using the
guise of caring about the plight of gay
Arabs to rationalize their support. It's an
argument fraught with emotional manipulation, hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty
and factual error.
Even the most dovish opponents of
military intervention in Iraq rightly concede that there were plenty of reasons to
topple Saddam Hussein and his govern
ment. He was a harsh and brutal dictator,
and it is near impossible to find anyone
who is sorry to see the rogue gone.
Gay and lesbian proponents of the war
and the occupation should stick to this
core truth when arguing their case.
Invoking the supposed freeing of gay
Iraqis actually weakens their position.
THE TRUTH IS THAT THE PLIGHT OF
gay and lesbian Iraqis — just like that of
gay and lesbian Afghanis — will change
little under whatever new government
There is no denying that gays in Iraq
and other Arab countries are persecuted.
But the forces of oppression that keep
them down in the Arab world are complex, and cannot be altered by simple
"regime change." Religion, tradition, culture, family pressures, ignorance of the
contemporary understandings of modern
psychology and other factors make life
extremely difficult for gay Iraqis and
those in other Arab nations.
To believe that life for gay Iraqis will
be better — or different in any real way —
than it was under Saddam Hussein is
willfully naive. The social, religious and
cultural forces that oppress gay Iraqis
will not have changed one iota under a
Furthermore, the line that invading
Iraq, and now possibly Syria, will "free"
gay people there is heaped in hypocrisy.
The forces that are supposedly emancipating our downtrodden gay Iraqi brethren
are themselves hyper-homophobic. How
can anyone seriously argue that the
United States military is an instrument
for gay liberation?
From there, the layers of hypocrisy
But the most infuriating
hypocrisy to the claim that we
are invading foreign countries
in the interest of freeing gay
people is the way we treat gay
Arabs and gay Muslims here
in the United States.
Gay hawks mouth the mantra of gay
liberation in Iraq and Syria, and go to
lengths to point out how oppressive those
regimes are to homosexuals. Yet what
about other neighboring countries that
Saudi Arabia is probably the most
socially backward nation in the world.
run by unsavory dictators who are infamous for their suppression of freedoms.
Saudi Arabia even allegedly executes
openly gay people. If ever there was an
argument for overthrowing a country,
Saudi Arabia should take the prize.
But the Saudi leaders — who are sitting on what is by far the world's largest
oil reserve — are our political allies.
Hush, then, any talk of invading them.
And what about Egypt? Right now, the
Egyptian government is carrying out a
choreographed crackdown on gay men in
that country, arresting and jailing dozens
through entrapment, Internet stings,
informants and possibly even telephone
International human rights groups
have documented torture, threats and
beatings against gay Egyptians. Even our
own government has spoken up against
the outrageous persecution.
But are gay hawks urging that we send
the Marines to Cairo to "liberate" the gay
men suffering there? Hardly
BUT THE MOST INFURIATING HYP-
ocrisy to the claim that we are invading
foreign countries in the interest of free-
in. gay people Is the way we treat gay
Arabs and gay Muslims here in the
Most gay Arabs and gay Muslims in
this country come here specifically seeking the incredible social freedom to be
gay that they would never have at home.
But particularly since the Sept. 11,2001
terrorist attacks, gay Arabs and gay
Muslims have felt under attack here, even
from other gays.
I have been personally spared most of
that prejudice. Though I was born in
Jerusalem to a Palestinian father, I had,
an American mother, and I was primarily
raised in this country. I don't have dark
skin or an accent or any of the other telltale signs of my Arab heritage, other
than my name.
But in the past two years, and particularly as the propaganda on the Iraq
war went into overdrive, I know from
friends and colleagues and dozens of
sources I've interviewed that gay
Americans have often been prejudiced
and unwelcoming to Arabs and Muslims
To talk about "liberating" gay Iraqis in
Baghdad while we mistreat gay Arabs and
Muslims in our own midst is just too
much to stomach.
^2) Mubarak Dahir A
is a syndicate. m
columnist living in
New York Citv and wl
m% <&•' i
can be reached at