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Gay Arab men
arrested at gay wedding

Gay Arab men
arrested at gay wedding

More than two dozen gay Arab men--arrested at what police called a mass gay wedding in the United Arab Emirates--could face government-ordered hormone treatments, five years in jail, and a lashing, authorities said Saturday. The Interior Ministry said police raided a hotel chalet earlier this month and arrested 22 men from the Emirates as they celebrated the wedding ceremony, one of a string of recent group arrests of gay men there. On Saturday the men were undergoing psychological evaluations as part of a government effort to try to direct them away from their sexual behavior. The men are likely to be tried under Muslim law on charges related to adultery and prostitution, said Interior Ministry spokesman Issam Azouri. Outward gay behavior is banned in the United Arab Emirates, and the gay group wedding has alarmed leaders of this once-isolated Muslim country as it grapples with a sweeping influx of Western residents and culture. ''Because they've put society at risk, they will be given the necessary treatment, from male hormone injections to psychological therapies,'' Azouri said. "It wasn't just a homosexual act. Now we're dealing with a kind of marriage. There was a ritual involved.'' The Arabian peninsula, nevertheless, has a long tradition of openly gay wedding singers and dancers. ''Lately people have been talking about [homosexuality], but it has been here for a long time,'' said Nadia Buhannad, a Dubai psychologist. "It becomes shocking only when it is your own son.'' Police, acting on a tip, raided the hotel in Ghantout, a desert region on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway, and found a dozen men dressed as female brides and a dozen others in male Arab dress, apparently preparing for a ceremony that would join them as husbands and wives, Azouri said. ''It was a real party with balloons and champagne,'' he said. The 26 men arrested include those from the Emirates as well as an Indian disc jockey and three men from neighboring Arab states. One of the arrested was to perform the wedding ceremony. Azouri said some of the group told police they worked as prostitutes. Others had been arrested before. Last year police made mass arrests at an apparent gay wedding in the conservative emirate of Sharjah and at the Khor Fakkan beach resort in Fujairah emirate, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Two dozen men arrested in Sharjah were given symbolic lashings--meant to humiliate, not inflict pain--and then released from jail, said prominent Emirati lawyer Abdul Hamid al-Kumaiti. ''There are so many others like these guys,'' Kumaiti said. "The police and rulers need to do more than just lash them and let them go.'' Azouri described the arrests in Ghantout as a ''delicate'' matter made public for the first time--more than a week after the event-- because the country's tribal leadership wants to demonstrate that it will not tolerate openly gay behavior. On Friday, as newspapers reported the arrests, the minister of justice and Islamic affairs, Mohammed bin Nukhaira Al Dhahiri, called on parents to be vigilant for ''deviant'' behavior in their children. ''There will be no room for homosexual...acts in the UAE,'' Al Dhahiri was quoted as saying in the Dubai-based Khaleej Times newspaper. Foreigners arrested will be deported after serving any sentences imposed in court. Azouri said government psychologists were grappling to learn the causes behind an apparent increase in homosexual behavior in the Emirates. The booming economy has lured hundreds of thousands of Western residents and millions of tourists. Azouri said authorities want to be seen to be taking action at a time when complaints of gay behavior were emerging from the country's schools and myriad shopping malls. Most cases of gay behavior are taboo and violate Emirati laws based on Islamic law. Azouri suggested that other countries with laws based on religion, including Christianity and Judaism, would also ban gay behavior and marriage. ''It's not about freedom of opinion; it's about respecting religion, which forbids this type of behavior,'' he said. (AP)

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