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The Gay Divide
Listen to this edition20:30, Monday 30 May 2005
Produced in conjunction with Radio Netherlands
Islam and homosexuality
Programme Details
Mon 30 May 8.30 - 9pm
The wall of partition on the West Bank.
Eric Beauchemin explores Muslim attitudes to homosexuality through the lives of some of the gays and lesbians forced to flee to Israel.
Throughout the Moslem world homosexuality is a taboo, punishable in several countries by death. On the West Bank and Gaza women or men who have sex with people of the same sex face imprisonment and torture. They are also rejected by their families and the rest of society. Several hundred Palestinian gays and lesbians have fled to Israel.

Because they're Palestinian, they're illegal and cannot readily obtain asylum in Israel. But having tried in Israel, it is virtually impossible to obtain asylum in another country, as you can only apply for asylum once.

While on a recent trip looking at how the Middle East conflict was affecting individuals, Radio Netherlands journalist, Eric Beauchemin, met several gays and lesbians caught in this legal limbo. They talked to him about their experiences being caught up between religion, prejudice and politics. 25 year old Rami fled to Tel Aviv when he was a teenager.

"I am afraid, really afraid. One of the last times I was deported, the Israelis left me on a deserted road. I saw a lot of people from my village and they started asking me what I was doing there. I don't speak very good Arabic anymore, so they started saying that I was a collaborator. I was afraid they would kill me . I fear my brother and Hamas more than the Israeli police, because if the Israelis catch me, they won't kill me. They will just arrest me. But Hamas will surely kill me."

Because they form a relatively small group in the Middle East, gays and lesbians receive scant attention in the media and from society. The director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, Bassem Eid, recognises that despite the human rights of these Palestinians being violated, these abuses, he says, pale in comparison to what's happening to the majority living in the occupied territories.

" the homosexuals and the lesbians is the smallest topic right now, which nobody wants to add it, you know, to the Palestinian suffering here. If the situation will calm down a little bit, I believe that this issue must have, (sic), to be raised publicly and more and more awareness should have,(sic), to be spreading among the Palestinian society".

Useful Links

Radio Netherlands (the Dutch International Service)
Agudah (an Israeli gay and lesbian group:)
ASWAT (Palestinian lesbian group in Haifa)

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