Gay Man Recalls Arab Incarceration

Paul Ciceri traveled to Abu Dhabi to teach English. He ended up getting a lesson in the Arab emirate’s penal code, instead.

A Canadian national, Ciceri took a trip from Abu Dhabi to Greece, where he and a friend enjoyed a bit of cocaine. Unfortunately, Ciceri forgot to toss the vial before returning to Abu Dhabi, which has severe anti-drug laws. 1/5000 ounce of the white stuff can yield 20 years in prison. Talk about a buzz kill.

Officials tossed Ciceri in the infamous Al Wathba, which has a reputation for lashings, stonings and other violent human rights abuses. And, as you can imagine, less than gay-friendly policies.

Openly affectionate gay men were held in a cell in a common corridor where they could be taunted relentlessly. Others I got to know in my block kept a low profile. We would talk in rare moments when we had privacy. To be caught having sex with another man in the block could result in up to two years being added on to one’s sentence.

Ciceri successfully closeted himself during his 33 months imprisonment, an ordeal he writes of in his new book, You Have No Rights Here. Ciceri says that although he’s not a proselytizer, his faith gave him strength, “When I went to prison I didn’t discover God like many do, but I took God there with me.”