How is Pride Month in the Middle East?

“There is more visibility and audibility of the LGBTIQ community,” says Mounir Samuel in NOS With a view to Tomorrow† He is a political scientist and has been traveling through the Middle East as a correspondent for the Groene Amsterdammer for more than ten years.


“The famous Pride party is Tel-Aviv, which had its peak last Friday. But at the same time I think that’s the most wrong Pride party in the world,” says Samuel. “Israel has no constitutional recognition of gay and transgender persons or other sexualities or gender diversity. You do not have a legally equated civil marriage in Israel because you must be married by an Orthodox rabbi and he will not marry queer persons, no Christians and Muslims. All kinds of people are not recognized in their marriage.”

According to Samuel, it is selective freedom for queer people. “There is also a political agenda behind it. In Jerusalem, the last gay bars have long since closed. It’s even dangerous to walk hand in hand as a queer couple, because that city is getting more and more orthodox. That applies to large parts of Israel. Tel-Aviv has become a kind of sanctuary, call it the Las Vegas of the Middle East. That city is fully committed to becoming a palace for LGBTIQ people in Israel, especially to become a tourist attraction. Tel-Aviv Pride is not a form of protest like the Pride movement originated, but is paid with three million from the municipality as the biggest PR stunt in Israel. Israel is also actively campaigning for this, bringing hundreds of journalists to Tel-Aviv every year to show what a great gay Valhalla it is.”

According to Samuel, the campaign is mainly aimed at men. “Because those are the wealthiest men in the world. Homosexual couples are also the richest couple in the Netherlands.”


“Egypt has no government promoting Pride or anything like that, but on the other hand, it has a very active LGBTIQ movement. He has many activist reasons for joining the Pride month. They start this week with their own Pride, completely clandestine, but semi tolerated by the government,” explains Samuel. “You have to think of workshops and training sessions to parties, to secret marriages and drag races. The whole bunch. It happens in all kinds of neighborhoods in Cairo.”

“A lot of embassies are also working on it. They have a sanctuary, they can do what they want there. For example, the Dutch embassy can facilitate things for the LGBTIQ movement under the guise of cultural participation.”


“Lebanon has always been the most progressive country in the entire region. There you have a Pride since 2017 that is celebrated quite publicly in Beirut. In Beirut you also have big well-known clubs that are decidedly queer.” But since the explosion in the port of Beirut, the country has been struggling with massive inflation and food shortages. “I therefore do not know whether the Pride will continue this year, but even in corona time, a modest Pride was celebrated. Despite all the horrific circumstances.”


“In Tunisia you have a very progressive government that passes one law after another. You don’t have an assimilated marriage yet, but I expect to sometime in the next few years. In any case, you have one of the largest queer film festivals in the world. Larger than that of Amsterdam. It is organized directly behind the Ministry of the Interior. The minister also just came by.”

“In Tunisia you also have a very active lesbian and transgender movement. They are very public on the street and there is also quite a high acceptance among the population,” says Samuel. “You see a huge social shift across northern Africa and the Middle East. That’s because more than 75 percent of the population is under the age of 30. In a country like Egypt, you’re talking about 75 million zillionials and younger than that.” These are young people from 1992. “They look at queer issues completely differently. They are also very aware of LGBTIQ.”


“Where in Tunisia you see a huge movement of secularism and atheism, Israel is only getting more conservative and conservative because the ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox Jews are having so many children. The secular and atheist Jews do not. This is a reason for the Israeli government to provide subsidies for homosexual couples to produce as many Jewish children as possible with a Jewish egg and a surrogate mother in India,” says Samuel. “This is all demographic warfare against the Arab-Israeli, but also to prevent only Orthodox children from being in the country. Therefore, Israel is only becoming more conservative, apart from the free port of Tel-Aviv, while the region is only becoming more progressive.”

“My peers in Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon have very open minded and progressive ideas about gender in general. So the number of people living together is increasing, premarital sex is not taboo at all and you can talk about it openly. Even doubts about the prophet and faith as Muslims is something that is talked about and laughed about.”

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