“That’s extremely dangerous to do in this region,” Ayaz Shalal, a human rights advocate in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, told the Washington Blade on Wednesday from the city of Sulaymaniyah.
@Egaypt, an activist who uses his Twitter account to identify himself, told the Blade from Cairo that LGBT Egyptians are “shocked” WikiLeaks published the man’s name.
“They say its a new low,” said @Egaypt. “It was probably intended to be a political move, but conducted stupidly and will lead to the death of tens, if not hundreds.”
‘What WikiLeaks has done is dangerous’
The Associated Press on Tuesday reported that Saudi authorities arrested the man for “sexual deviation.” It is not clear when the arrest took place, but homosexuality remains punishable by death in the country.
The man’s name was among those included in three cables from the Saudi government that WikiLeaks published. The Associated Press reported they also identified two teenage boys who were raped and female domestic workers who were abused by their employers.
The Associated Press published its story a day before Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to the Saudi city of Jiddah for meetings on the war in Yemen and the fight against the so-called Islamic State.
“We remain concerned about violence and discrimination targeting LGBTI persons in all regions, including Saudi Arabia,” a State Department official told the Blade on Wednesday in response to questions about the WikiLeaks disclosure.
The State Department has previously criticized the Saudi government over its human rights record. Advocates have urged the U.S. to do more to publicly challenge the country over its treatment of LGBT people, women and other minority groups.
“The United States places great importance on the protection and promotion of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex persons (LGBTI) around the world,” the State Department official told the Blade.
The official did not specifically mention WikiLeaks or its decision to publish the name of the Saudi man who was arrested for homosexuality in their statement to the Blade. Neither WikiLeaks nor its founder, Julian Assange, have yet to respond to requests for comment.
“Outing people in any way is unethical and quite frankly dangerous,” Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, told the Blade on Wednesday. “It can ruin lives.”
Davis Mac-Iyalla, a gay Nigerian man who received asylum in the U.K., in 2008, was stabbed shortly before he fled Africa after he disclosed his location to “someone I once confided in.” Mac-Iyalla told the Blade on Wednesday that he still lives “with the fear every single day, even though I am safe in England.”
“What WikiLeaks has done is dangerous and has put the lives of those mentioned at risk,” he said.
Scott Long, a former Human Rights Watch staffer, told the Blade on Tuesday that WikiLeaks’ publication of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010 helped launched the Arab Spring because they revealed government corruption in Tunisia and Egypt and what he described as American “collusion.” He said the decision to publish the name of the Saudi man arrested for homosexuality and the personal information of others comes as an “understandable shock” in the region.
“Personally — as someone who’s also trusted the group in the past — I’d like to see WikiLeaks move fast to set up clear standards for protecting innocent people’s privacy and clear procedures for curating data before its release,” said Long. “It has the resources, it has the expertise, it has potential volunteers. It has no excuses.”