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Loud and proud at Arab summit

Luxembourg’s openly gay prime minister, Xavier Bettel, has boldly condemned Arab countries’ conduct towards LGBT individuals – much to their dismay.

Some nations in this Arab summit would executive me for being gay, Xavier Bettel said. (Diarmuid Greene photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Summit/Sportsfile)
Some nations at this Arab summit would execute me, Xavier Bettel said. (Diarmuid Greene photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Summit/Sportsfile)

Leaders from Arab countries were taken aback by his statements at last month’s EU-Arab Summit, where he pointed out that he could be executed in some Arab countries because he is married to a man.

As the first openly gay man in a position of political leadership in the EU, Bettel said he
was compelled to raise the issue of egregious treatment of the LGBT community by Arab countries.

“Saying nothing was not an option for me,” he wrote on Twitter.

He said, “If I as a gay person would not talk about that, I would have a problem,” Euronews reported.

Bettel’s comments were met with an “icy silence” from some members of the audience, while others revelled in a “quiet joy,” German journalist Stefan Leifert said.

The statements were made in Egypt, the host country for the first EU-Arab summit.

At least 12 Arab countries have anti-homosexuality laws, including Egypt, where police arrest LGBT people under the law against “debauchery.” Five Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) threaten the death penalty for homosexuality.

In a speech to the summit, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi defended Arab states’ human rights abuses and repression of LGBT people. Contrasting Arab states to the European Union, he said:

“We are two different cultures. … Our priority is preserving our countries and stopping them from collapse, destruction and ruin, as you see in many surrounding states.”

Sisi’s regime has arrested many political opponents, many journalists and hundreds of LGBT people.

Human Rights Watch has reported that after Sisi took power in a coup in 2013, he “appeared to embrace persecution of gays and trans people as a political strategy.”

For more information, read the full article in The Guardian, “Luxembourg PM Takes Arab Leaders to Task on Gay Rights at Summit.”

The author of this article is Vuyiswa Mkhwanazi, a student at the University of the Witwatersand [Wits University] in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mkhwanazi is an avid supporter of the LGBT+ community who is majoring in media studies and psychology.

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 info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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