The Gay Middle East website (GME) has published a reportsummarising the situation for gay people in Syria –a country which is rarely discussed in this connection.
Although "carnal relations against the order of nature" are still punishable by up to three years in jail, GME detects some improvement in the authorities' attitude over the last two years:
During this period, gay and lesbians were occasionally harassed or even imprisoned (one notable exception was the case of an asylum seeker to the UK), but the majority, if they behaved very cautiously and did not come out or demanded rights were left alone with minor harassment.
However, it suggests that an AFP report last year, headed “Syrian gays edge gingerly out of the closet” was "a bit exaggerated".
The increase of accessibility to the internet for Syrians, albeit under very strict control, has enabled many gays and lesbians for the first time to communicate, network and develop a nascent self-consciousness. The Syrian authorities seem to have been quick to catch up with this trend.
Members of the LGBT Syrian communities now exercise extreme caution when contacting each other or exposing their identity on the web. This is because the Syrian Secret police has now increased their presence on the web and try to intercept gays and lesbians by chatting to them as potential dates or mates.
Syria has also moved to block various LGBT related sites and search terms. In the last months GME has received increasing complaints ... on police raids. In recent raids over private parties 25 gay men were arrested ... They are now at least several weeks held under arrest without bail and face a very uncertain future.
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 24 June 2010.