August 9, 2016 at 5:35 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
LGBT activists from Arab world to meet in Rehoboth Beach
Lebanon, gay news, Washington Blade

A Lebanese judge ruled last fall that a transgender man can legally change his gender with the country’s civil registry. (Photo by Vladanr; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Update: Meeting organizers on Thursday announced the gathering has been postponed.

More than half a dozen LGBT activists from the Arab world are expected to attend a first-of-its-kind meeting this weekend in Rehoboth Beach.

The meeting — which will include advocates from Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the Gaza Strip who live in the U.S. — will take place at a private home from Aug. 12-14. Activists from Iraq and Morocco are also expected to potentially attend.

@Egaypt, an Egyptian LGBT rights activist who uses his Twitter account to identify himself, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday during a telephone interview that engagement of the Arab diaspora, increasing funding of advocacy groups and organizing around LGBT-specific issues are among the topics that he and other activists will discuss.

They will also talk about cyber security, HIV/AIDS and the media. A reception is scheduled to take place on Aug. 13.

“We’re definitely going to be sharing our knowledge,” @Egaypt told the Blade. “It’s going to be a huge dialogue.”

Diaspora ‘key’ to advance LGBT issues in Arab world

Saudi Arabia and Sudan are among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual conduct remains punishable by death.

The so-called Islamic State has publicly executed dozens of men in Iraq and Syria who were accused of committing sodomy. An LGBT activist in the Libyan city of Benghazi with whom the Blade spoke earlier this year said that members of the Sunni militant group have also killed gay men in areas of the North African country under their control.

U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) were among the dozens of Democrats who voted for a bill last November in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks that would block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from resettling in the country. Donald Trump in the days after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla., reiterated his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S. amid reports the gunman, who was born in New York to parents of Afghan descent, had pledged his allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.

“It doesn’t really have to do with Donald Trump,” @Egaypt told the Blade, referring to the Rehoboth Beach meeting. “It has to do with LGBTQ activism in the future.”

@Egaypt further noted efforts to fight racism and to promote women’s rights have “already been established” in the Arab world. He told the Blade that LGBT-specific issues remain “taboo” throughout the region.

A prominent Tunisian activist attempted to take his own life twice last month after he reportedly faced anti-gay threats because he publicly called for a repeal of the country’s sodomy law. One of the 26 men who were charged with “debauchery” in 2014 after Egyptian police raided a Cairo bathhouse reportedly tried to commit suicide because his co-workers harassed him.

A Lebanese judge in 2014 struck down the country’s anti-sodomy law in the case of an intersex woman who faced charged for allegedly having a relationship with a man. A second judge ruled last September that a transgender man can legally change his gender in Lebanon’s civil registry.

Lebanese activists with whom the Blade has previously spoken maintain that anti-LGBT violence and discrimination remains commonplace in the country despite the recent rulings.

“The fight in the Arab World is starting to move at a faster pace,” @Egaypt told the Blade. “Something like this (meeting) needs to be happening because the world is moving on and the Arab World can’t be left behind.”

He added the Arab diaspora is “the key” to advance LGBT-specific issues in the region.

“They are the ones that have the resources,” said @Egaypt. “They are the ones that have the freedom.”

Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

A sign spray-painted onto a wall asks Tunisian lawmakers when they will repeal Article 230 of their country’s penal code that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations. Those who have been arrested and charged under the law have undergone so-called anal tests to determine whether they are gay. (Photo submitted)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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