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Leading Legislators Warn United Arab Emirates of Consequences of Gay Bashing

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December 21, 2005

LEADING LEGISLATORS WARN UNITED ARAB EMIRATES OF CONSEQUENCES OF GAY BASHING

Today a bipartisan group of senior House members who are active on foreign policy and international economic matters released a letter sent on Monday to the United Arab Emirates ambassador in Washington warning of the negative impact a government-led crackdown against gay men in the UEA could have on that country's efforts to attract international business and tourism.

Last month, 26 men were arrested during a police raid on what authorities described as a gay wedding at a hotel in Abu Dhabi. Following an initial statement from a UAE official that the men could be subjected to forced hormone treatments, international criticism, including a public condemnation from the US State Department, was swift.

Within days, the UAE Ministry of the Interior denied these reports, claiming instead that any hormone treatment would be optional.

In their letter, the federal lawmakers associate themselves with the State Department's condemnation of these arrests and, responding to government reports that undergoing any hormone treatment would be "optional," the lawmakers state that there "has been some suggestion that agreeing to hormone treatment could be used as a bargaining tool to reduce the severity of an individual's sentence, and if there is any truth to this, we believe this is in fact coercive and contrary to standards of international law."

"Sadly, anti-gay sentiments are present in many Arab states," added Rep. Barney Frank, "but even by that low standard, this is particularly outrageous. I was pleased that the U.S. State Department spoke out against these actions, and I believe it's important for members of Congress to express our agreement with that stance."

Referring to public anti-gay statements by the Ministry of the Interior following these recent arrests, and with another incident of mass arrests of gay men at a UAE beach resort last year in mind, the congressional leaders in their letter also expressed concern that these actions "appear to be part of a broader, systematic crackdown on gay men in your country," which "seem clearly intended to let gay people know not only that they are not welcome in your country, but also that animus against them will be a public policy priority.

"We must tell you that this kind of state-led effort to seek out and persecute adult gay men who are doing no harm to anyone is not the kind of behavior we expect from an ally, and we urge you to stop it."

In recent years, the UAE has undertaken several projects to diversify its economy and to reduce its dependence on oil and natural gas revenues. The WTO named Dubai the world's fastest-growing tourism destination, and as part of its strategy to further expand its hospitality and tourism industry, the UAE is building new hotels, restaurants and shopping centers, and expanding airports and duty-free zones.

The country is also working to position itself as the financial and capital market center of the Middle East through the creation of a financial free zone with international-style regulations to attract leading companies within targeted sectors. Dubai International Financial Centre is its latest and most ambitious project, which the emirate hopes will support the development of a regional capital market.

The United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the UAE to examine ways to expand bilateral trade and investment opportunities, which the UAE hopes will lead to a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with the U.S.

The House members conclude their letter by warning the UAE's leaders that they "hope you recognize that your government's persecution of gay people will be repugnant to many of the world travelers you hope to attract as tourists, as well as to other governments and even corporations who believe that this kind of terrible intolerance against individuals based on their sexual orientation is unacceptable."

The letter was organized by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Financial Services, and was joined by seven other senior lawmakers, including Rep. Sue Kelly (R-NY), vice chair of the Committee on Financial Services; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chair of the International Relations subcommittee on Middle East and Central Asia; Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), ranking Democrat on the Committee on International Relations; Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) ranking Democrat on the Financial Services subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade, and Technology; Rep. James Leach (R-NY), a senior member on the both the House Financial Services and International Relations Committees; Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), ranking Democrat on the International Relations subcommittee on Middle East and Central Asia; and Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT), member of the Committee on Financial Services and chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations.

A copy of the letter is attached.

December 19, 2005

His Excellency Al Asri Al Dhahri
Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates
3522 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Dear Mr. Ambassador,

We write to express strong agreement with our State Department's condemnation of the recent arrests of 26 gay Arab men during a police raid on a party at a hotel in Abu Dhabi.

We understand many of these men may face charges that could lead to jail sentences and public flogging, and that the Emirate men could also be given what your Ministry of Interior referred to in news reports as "optional" hormone treatment. There has been some suggestion that agreeing to hormone treatment could be used as a bargaining tool to reduce the severity of an individual's sentence, and if there is any truth to this, we believe this is in fact coercive and contrary to standards of international law.

We are also concerned that these arrests appear to be part of a broader, systematic crackdown on gay men in your country. In fact, just after these arrests, public statements by your minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs warning that "there will be no room for homosexual acts in the UAE" and calling on parents to be vigilant for "deviant" behavior in their children seem clearly intended to let gay people know not only that they are not welcome in your country, but also that animus against them will be a public policy priority.

We must tell you that this kind of state-led effort to seek out and persecute adult gay men who are doing no harm to anyone is not the kind of behavior we expect from an ally, and we urge you to stop it.

We believe it is not only wrong morally, it may also undermine your country's standing in the international community and its ongoing efforts to attract foreign investment and thrive as a Middle East hub for information, transportation and tourism. In fact, given that Dubai is one of the world's fastest-growing tourism destinations, which accounts for roughly 17% of your Gross Domestic Product, we hope you recognize that your government's persecution of gay people will be repugnant to many of the world travelers you hope to attract as tourists, as well as to other governments and even corporations who believe that this kind of terrible intolerance against individuals based on their sexual orientation is unacceptable.

REP. BARNEY FRANK
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN
REP. TOM LANTOS
REP. SUE W. KELLY
REP. JAMES A. LEACH
REP. GARY L. ACKERMAN
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS
REP. CAROLYN B. MALONEY

http://www.house.gov/frank/gaybashing2005.html

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