A Saudi man who was arrested in January on charges of homosexuality, a “general security” offence, and impersonation of a police officer has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes, plus a fine of 5,000 rials (US $1,333) and a year in prison.
Authorities say their attention was drawn to his behaviour after a video he made was circulated locally via SMS, and later uploaded to YouTube. In the lighthearted video, the man is in a car, dressed as a Saudi police officer. He is seen dancing to club music, rubbing his chest, and flirting with the man holding the camera.
The video has since been blocked in Saudi Arabia.
Comments on the video and reactions to the punishment have been spreading throughout the blogosphere.
Saudi blogger Qusay, on the English version of his blog writes:
Most people have now seen the video or read the news of the guy dressed in an officer’s uniform and acting “homosexual” whatever that may be.
Now I am not a gay rights advocate, but I see no basis for charging him with a criminal offence…
He goes on to mention a different video he has viewed on YouTube which depicts Saudi men showering a dancer with money, which would also be forbidden behaviour. He points out that certain minorities are targeted over others, as well as commenting on the futility of policing the internet, stating:
What I want to say here… if they are arresting people for what they do on YouTube, they should not stop on those that they want, or do not conform to their standards, but go on a spree and arrest those that do everything illegal… good luck with that
Saudi blogger Majid mentions on his blog that when he viewed the video he thought it was funny- and indeed in many people's opinion it is a rather humorous and lighthearted clip, as some of the comments left on YouTube will highlight.
The maximum theoretical punishment for homosexual acts in Saudi Arabia is death. As such, sometimes the accused bring up certain mitigating factors. Here, some sources [AR] have stated that the man's family have claimed he is suffering from a hormone deficiency, others such as the Arab News article covering the story that the man has mental problems:
One newspaper interviewed the man’s father, who claims his son is mentally unstable and was seduced by his friend to perform for the camera.
Majid concurs, stating:
I see most homosexual acts in Saudi are all “mentally unstable”
-but here it is not because he condemns homosexuality, but because to behave in a homosexual manner is to invite trouble in Saudi Arabia. He says:
…the thing that is sad, no right what so ever will be considered for the Homosexual… What is even sadder is the fact the Homosexual is dealt with as sick people in the media and the society. if they are sick why put them in Jail where the WILL be abused further put them in a hospital.
drug addicts go to hospitals, Homosexual go to jail to be further abused.
Egyptian blogger Zenobia writes a post with the title incorporating a cynical “Why are you so shocked!!??“, and wonders:
But I will speak or rather wonder why a gay man who lives in a country like Saudi Arabia post a suggestive video online like that on YouTube !!??
I just want to understand what they were thinking when they uploaded this video !!?? Did they believe that this vice supervision authority or whatever is called will let them go !!??
However, the video, of course, may not have been uploaded by the man himself. As Majid points out in his piece, it is more likely uploaded through malice by someone else, given that the authorities’ reactions and subsequent punishments are so predictable.
Sadly, equally as predictable are the knee-jerk reactions of certain Western blogospheres, who are often quick to condemn a whole people for the actions of their leaders (whilst simultaneously forgetting the errors of their own governments).
A commenter on Towleroad‘s post regarding this matter, states:
Every time this happens there's one of several predictable reactions from the gay peanut gallery here in America:
(1) Go back to your Middle Eastern, African, or Asian “hellhole”
(2) Cut off all foreign aide to these “barbaric” Middle Eastern, African, or Asian countries
(3) Cut off diplomatic contact with these “sub-human” Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries
(4) And in some extreme cases, there's even a suggestion that we should resort to military action.
The next time a Republican named Schultz, Kruger, or Metzger comes out in favor of criminalizing homosexuality, I want to see our activist friends demand that we lob a few bombs at Munich. Or suggest that we deport all German Americans to their backward, wretched homeland. I would really like to see that. Nobody's saying what's happening in Saudi Arabia is acceptable. What angers me isn't the anger itself. It is the blatant double standard that treats some human rights “offenders” as individuals and others as mindless automatons. You want to wage holy war on a billion Muslims over the bad behavior of the Saudi regime?