Gay Africans and Arabs come out online

Mon Feb 18, 2008 8:11am EST
 
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By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - When Ali started blogging that he was Sudanese and gay, he did not realize he was joining a band of African and Middle Eastern gays and lesbians who, in the face of hostility and repression, have come out online.

But within days the messages started coming in to black-gay-arab.blogspot.com.

"Keep up the good work," wrote Dubai-based Weblogger 'Gay by nature'. "Be proud and blog the way you like," wrote Kuwait's gayboyweekly. Close behind came comments, posts and links purporting to be from almost half the countries in the Arab League, including Egypt, Algeria, Bahrain and Morocco.

Ali, who lists his home town as Khartoum but lives in Qatar, had plugged into a small, self-supporting network of people who have launched Web sites about their sexuality, while keeping their full identity secret. Caution is crucial - homosexual acts are illegal in most countries in Africa and the Middle East, with penalties ranging from long-term imprisonment to execution.

"The whole idea started as a diary. I wanted to write what's on my mind and mainly about homosexuality," he told Reuters in an e-mail. "To tell you the truth, I didn't expect this much response."

In the current climate, bloggers say they are achieving a lot just by stating their nationality and sexual orientation.

"If you haven't heard or seen any gays in Sudan then allow me to tell you 'You Don't live In The Real World then,"' Ali wrote in a message to other Sudanese bloggers. "I'm Sudanese and Proud Gay Also."

His feelings were echoed in a mini-manifesto at the start of the blog "Rants and raves of a Kenyan gay man" that stated: "The Kenyan gay man is a myth and you may never meet one in your lifetime. However, I and many others like me do exist; just not openly. This blog was created to allow access to the psyche of me, who represents the thousands of us who are unrepresented."   Continued...

<p>Matuba Mahlatjie, a blogger, is seen in Johannesburg February 13, 2008. Beyond the blogging scene, the Internet's chat rooms and community sites have also become one of the safest ways for gay Africans and Arabs to meet, away from the gaze of a hostile society. REUTERS/Antony Kaminju</p>