UK students protest torture of queers in Saudi Arabia

Demo comes two weeks after two men sentenced to 7,000 lashes

Fifty students and queer activists picketed the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London on Fri, Oct 19, to protest ongoing violence against gays and lesbians in that country.

The protest took place two weeks after two men were sentenced to 7,000 lashes each for the crime of sodomy, according to reports in the daily newspaper Al-Okaz.

The men’s punishment is being carried out in public and according to the newspaper, the punishment was to continue over a period of three weeks. In Saudi Arabia, homosexual acts are illegal under sharia, or Islamic law.

“People around the world should be free to express who they are without fear of intimidation, arrest, or even torture,” said Scott Cuthbertson of the United Kingdom’s National Union of Students, which organized the protest. “Sexuality is not a crime.”

But in many countries, discrimination against queers continues. In Iran, the government continues to execute individuals under its sodomy law, says Hossein Alizadeh of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. And in Iraq, hundreds of queers have been murdered in the past four years, according to the queer rights group Iraqi LGBT.

“The country [Saudi Arabia] is a theocratic police state,” said Peter Tatchell of the queer advocacy group OutRage! “The media is heavily censored. Trade unions, political parties and non-Muslim religions are banned,” he said.

Organizers are hoping to gain international support to pressure the Saudi Arabian government to stop the torture of gays and lesbians.

“Now is the time to use our freedom to fight for the rights of others across the globe. When abuses of human rights take place we must not be silent,” said Claire Anderson, also from the UK student group.

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