LGBTQ magazine publishes in Arabic, not without opposition

The cover of My.Kali's May-June issue, its first edition that was published both in Arabic and in English.
The cover of My.Kali’s May-June issue, its first edition published both in Arabic and in English.

The Jordan-based online LGBTQ magazine My.Kali has introduced an Arabic edition, which provoked a strong negative response from anti-gay conservatives in the Middle East.

My.Kali describes itself on Instagram as an “online social & conceptual Arab webzine [which] covers issues of LGBTQI, sexuality, & gender, through art-therapy, photography, psychology, new media.”

Its effort to reach Arabic-speaking readers got under way last year, as StepFeed reported in July 2015:

Jordanian LGBTQ magazine My.Kali expands to Arabic content

Since its inception eight years ago, My.Kali magazine has tried time and again to introduce debate on women’s rights, the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, and Queer/Questioning) community, and other “controversial” topics that are usually relegated to taboo in the Arab and Middle Eastern household. Now, My.Kali’s founder, Khalid Abdel-Hadi, wants to take the Amman-based online magazine to the core of its Middle East readership by introducing Arabic content.

This step, which Abdel-Hadi himself called “risky,” will allow the magazine to tap into a major audience that’s been alienated by the English content produced. It has already started to post bilingual updates on its social media accounts. Abdel-Hadi told Egypt Independent that so far the feedback had been positive.

“We’re throwing softballs once in a while and seeing how things go,” he added.

The July 2009 cover of My.Kali featured the magazine's founder, Khalid Abdel-Hadi, who said, "I wanted to be part of a cover that gives a sense of belonging and pride, to reflect the relation between being LGBT and Arab/Jordanian."
The July 2009 cover of My.Kali featured the magazine’s founder, Khalid Abdel-Hadi, who said, “I wanted to be part of a cover that gives a sense of belonging and pride, to reflect the relation between being LGBT and Arab/Jordanian.”

While Jordan’s society is known to be conservative, Abdel-Hadi told Egypt Independent that My.Kali succeeded in bringing the LGBTQ cause to local and international news.

“We’re considered controversial in Jordan for simply breaking the stereotype and stepping out of norm,” he said.

My.Kali capitalizes on conceptual visual work to break societal barriers and initiate numerous debates on a variety of taboo subjects. In its latest issue, MyKali featured Sarab Yasin, “Jordan’s most transparent transgender,” on its cover.

The expansion [originally was] set for October with Abdel-Hadi already seeking a team of writers and translators to manage the Arabic section of the magazine.

The edition of May/June 2016 was the first to be offered in both English and Arabic. Gay Star News reports:

Outrage in Middle East as gay magazine is published in Arabic for first time

LGBTI magazine founders are facing death threats and lawsuits for daring to publish in Arabic

A gay magazine being published in Arabic and made available across the Middle East was hailed as progress by commenters around the world.

But while it was a landmark moment for LGBTI rights, the magazine’s founders are now facing potential lawsuits and death threats from people furious over the supposed ‘promotion of homosexuality’.

My Kali, an online magazine in Jordan, has only ever been published in English. Their May/June issue is the first time in its nine-year history was available in both English and Arabic.

Last week, magazine founder Khalid Abdel-Hadi gave an interview with Lebanese website Raseef 22 – the first he gave in Arabic – about the issue.

‘When I started the magazine, I was trying to not be noticed in Jordanian society for fear a backlash,’ he said, when asked why he kept it in English for so long.

‘The change came after so many gay people, who can only read Arabic, wanted us to do an Arabic edition. We wanted to start spreading awareness on these issues.’

Pink News added:

People around the world praised the magazine’s decision, but several others have begun sending death threats and lawsuits to the founder’s of My Kali for “promoting homosexuality”. …

After nine years of publishing, the Arabic edition spurred the backlash Abdel-Hadi had feared from the start.

Other news outlets questioned why My Kali was “provoking the public” and suggested the magazine is not an officially registered title.

Some people living in the Middle East accused the magazine of being funded “by the West to implement homosexuality” and holding a “foreign agenda”.

The Media Commission of Jordan released a statement saying My Kali is indeed not registered and, if proven to be printed, a lawsuit will follow.

However, the magazine was not printed and founders have no intentions of publishing a hard copy.

My.Kali issued this statement in response to its critics:

The gay Lebanese singer Hamed Sinno was featured on the cover of the November/December 2012 issue of My.Kali.
The gay Lebanese singer Hamed Sinno was featured on the cover of the November/December 2012 issue of My.Kali.

With reference to recent media coverage regarding the launch of MyKali Magazine‘s Arabic version, the Magazine would like to correct the following misinformation:

– My.Kali Magazine is a zero-budget online social and entertainment e-zine that functions as a collective platform featuring the voluntary contributions of unpaid writers, bloggers and other creatives from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It is not and has never been published, and has no plans to issue hardcopies or become a formal registered entity in Jordan, being on paper goes against My.Kali’s initial identity.

– As an independent grassroots project, My.Kali is not sponsored or supported by any foreign government or other international organization, and has never been part of a foreign agenda. It is purely the product of an ever-changing collective of Arab and North African heterosexual and LGBTQIA youth who are interested in presenting marginalized voices with a platform through which to express their issues, interests and creativity. Its material covers both LGBTQIA and general social issues, MENA pop culture, alternative music scene and entertainment, human and women’s rights, and youth empowerment.

– The Magazine has never aimed to undermine the traditions and culture of Jordanian society, nor does it endeavor to spread homosexuality as some have claimed. The e-zine merely believes in freedom of speech and exercises this right as an informal collective on the Internet, sharing with those who freely and voluntarily visit its website articles.

– The Jordanian LGBTQ community has always been an inherent part of the country’s social fabric. It is not a foreign import or construct, nor does it have an agenda to debase Jordanian traditions. The cover picture featuring My.Kali’s Founder in a Jordanian ‘Hatta’ in 2009 is being used in sensationalist and homophobic media reports provocatively, however the original intend behind the cover was to convey a sense of belonging and pride in the Jordanian identity.

Read about My.Kali and it’s history (here)

The Iraqi LGBT+ group IraQueer declared its support of My.Kali on Facebook:

IraQueer logo
IraQueer logo

We want to condemn the attacks that MyKali Magazine has been receiving after releasing their first Arabic issue. The brave and important step they have taken is a milestone for the LGBT+ movement in Jordan and the MENA region in general, and questioning their legitimacy, ethics and legal status will not change that.

We at IraQueer don’t only support what MyKali Magazine stands for, but we also want to take the opportunity to express how proud we feel of what that magazine is doing for different LGBT+ people across the region who identify with what the magazine stands for and can relate to it.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.


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