Middle East

‘Outspoken Middle East’ platform opens to advance LGBTQ+ rights

NEW YORK – The first openly gay member of an American presidential cabinet, Richard Grenell, co-launched this month an online platform to improve the conditions of struggling LBGTQ+ communities in the Arab world and in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where widespread oppression of sexual minorities exists, including the imposition of the death penalty in a number of nations.

Grenell, who served as the acting director of US national intelligence during the Trump administration, along with the gay journalist  Chadwick Moore, announced the start of their platform Outspoken Middle East in a Newsweek article titled “ Gay Conservatives Launch Arabic and Farsi Campaigns to Reach Gays Abroad.”

Outspoken Middle East founders wrote “As Gay, Inc. continues to focus on Fort Lauderdale, Manhattan and West Hollywood, we’ve decided to take the fight to Ramallah, Riyadh and Tehran. We’ve assembled a team of LGBTQ+ citizen journalists in Tehran, Kabul, Beirut and around the region and world to tell human stories about the realities of being gay in parts of the world that liberals and corporations have left behind.”

The authors defined Gay, Inc. as non-governmental organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) who they believe have blind spots about the persecution of the LGBTQ+ communities in the Middle East. During Grenell’s tenure as US ambassador to Germany in 2019, he jumpstarted the first American government campaign to decriminalize homosexuality across the world.

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Grenell told the Post a the time that  that “71 countries criminalize homosexuality and eight will put you to death for being gay” and the goal of the Trump administration  is to work with European allies to “end this human rights outrage.”

Nine countries, including Iran and Qatar,  have codified the death penalty for gays as part of their legal system.

PEOPLE PASS a mural of Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran (credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA VIA REUTERS)

Writing in Newsweek, Grenell and Moore said ”There is real oppression in the world, but it isn’t here in America. We’ve talked to the boyfriend of a gay magazine publisher murdered by Islamists in Bangladesh. We’ve seen the scars etched into the back of an Arab gay man, now a lifelong reminder of the time he was publicly caned. And when a 20year-old gay man was beheaded this year in Iran , Gay, Inc. was largely silent.”

The Post has reported extensively over the years on the Iranian regime’s persecution and execution of gays. According to a 2008 British Wikileaks cable, the Islamic Republic executed 4,000-6,000 gays and lesbians since the nation’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Grenell and Moore  argued that “One thing we hear over and over from sources in the Middle East is that the gay West doesn’t care about them. And their fingers are pointed squarely at Gay, Inc. and their U.S. media and corporate allies.”

A survey of some  articles on https://outspokenmiddleeast.com/ reveals articles on “A Saudi gay couple finds momentary ‘paradise’ in Istanbul” to “Inside an Iranian jail for LGBT people.”The dispatch from Iran that was translated from Farsi into English reports on “ Ramin, a gay man from Tehran who was arrested by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-backed Basij militia forces during a gay party in Northern Tehran.”

Rabin said  “They beat us all up. In a few minutes, they put everyone in a van and quickly drove us to a detention centre in the northeast of Tehran, of which I still do not know to which organ it belonged. They were beating us and making fun of us. The junior soldiers were shouting we would all be executed tomorrow.”

A report titled “ I’m a gay man in Afghanistan. Biden has left us to die” covers the dire plight of the LGBTQ+ community in the central Asian country since the departure of US troops two months ago.

Outspoken Middle East highlighted that “Facebook is reportedly allowing videos and posts on gay conversion therapy in Arabic-speaking countries despite placing a ban on similar content in Europe and the West.” Conversion therapy, which seeks to eliminate same-sex identities, is widely considered a discredited and highly dangerous practice of coercion.

The origins of Outspoken Middle East are located in July 2020, when, when “a group of gay conservatives launched Outspoken, a campaign powered by the Log Cabin Republicans, to educate gay and lesbian voters and their allies on political issues,” wrote Grenell and Moore.

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