A letter spearheaded by out New York congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (pictured, left), and signed by 33 of his peers, forcefully asks the Saudi ambassador to end sting operations targeting LGBT people in the country, as well as reported incidents of torture and even capital punishment.
Sent last week, the letter was addressed to Ambassador Prince Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki Al-Saud (pictured, right) and concerned a harsh new effort to punish LGBT people in Saudi Arabia. The letter references reports, including those on social media, that Saudi Arabia's Joint Security Task Force to Fight Against Sexual Anomaly is conducting sting operations attempting to weed out LGBT Saudis. Openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Saudis are allegedly being charged with the same crimes as rapists and pedophiles and facing punishments that include flogging, and possibly even death.
"These reports are highly concerning," the letter reads. "Our country respects the sovereignty and cultural traditions of other nations. We want to be clear, however, that the persecution, torture and execution of members of the LGBTQ community are clear violations of human rights. Such actions will be an impediment to the mutually beneficial relations that should exist between our two nations."
All of Congress's out LGB members signed the bill, including Kyrsten Sinema, Jared Polis, Mark Takano, Marc Pocan, David Cicilline, and Maloney. Nearly all of the letter's signatories were Democrats, except for Republican Richard Hanna of New York.
Saudi activists have been ringing the alarm for at least two years on governmental oppression. Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally and follower of strict, antigay Sharia Law, has enforced a ban on consensual same-sex relations with punishment including death. Numerous reports of gay and bi Saudis being lured over the internet have been reported— one man allegedly faced 450 lashes for seekiing sex via Twitter — and a 2014 State Department report confirmed that 35 people were thrown in jail because they were perceived as men wearing women's clothing at a party. Another man was reportedly jailed for flying an LGBT flag above his home, the Washington Blade reports.