LGBTQ+ advocacy in the Middle East backfires

Last Updated on: 17th December 2022, 02:12 am

LGBTQ+ rights across the globe have registered mixed feelings, including at the World Cup in  Qatar.

Qatar, December 16, 2022: Peter Tatchell’s protest made headlines around the world. The British human rights defender travelled to Doha before the start of the World Cup to stage what he dubbed the “first-ever public LGBTQ+ protest” in the Gulf. 

While he won approval from Western audiences for his bravery, local activists expressed shock and dismay. 

“When Tatchell told us his plans on WhatsApp, we all urged him not to go ahead with it,” a Jordanian member of a group for LGBTQ+ activists in the Middle East said in an interview with the author. Tatchell ignored them and did it anyway.

Western displays of solidarity with LGBTQ+ communities in the Middle East may be well-intentioned, but they are not constructive.

They help build solidarity among activists in Western countries, but they are making the very people they claim to be helping in the Middle Eastern countries feel more vulnerable.

These protests come at a time when leaders across the region are increasingly instrumentalizing homophobia for political gain, and they fuel Middle Eastern political and religious leaders’ claims that LGBTQ+ rights advocacy is part of a foreign agenda to subjugate the region.

Western actors who claim to be advancing the interests of LGBTQ+ communities in the Middle East need to do a better job of listening to those communities.

By John Alterman

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