MIDDLE EAST: Trouble In Tunisia, Gays In UAE “Revere” Madonna, LGBT Mag In Jordan

We recently reported on how gays joined the Celebrate Israel parade for the first time last weekend, but there’s more news from the Middle East, a region usually silent when it comes to the LGBT community.


At a press conference in Geneva, Tunisian government minister Samir Dilou rejected the United Nations Human Rights Council’s  request to decriminalize same-sex acts in the North African country, stating that “sexual orientation is specific to the West. Tunisia has its own identity as an Arab Muslim state,” according to Tunisia Live magazine.

Though Article 230 of the Tunisian penal code—which criminalizes homosexuality—dates back to when the country was a French colony, Dilou upheld it as an example of Tunisian tradition: “We have an identity that has to be respected. Such a recommendation does not align with the values of Tunisian society.”

The government in Tunis approved most of the Council’s other 100-plus recommendations, including ones on equality for women, disabled rights and judicial reform. Looking for a silver lining, activist AmenAllah Grich was pleased to see Dilou admitted all Tunisians, including LGBTs, deserved basic legal protections.

Well that’s something.



Though she’s known for sexually-charged imagery and lyrics, and a strong allegiance to her gay fans, Madonna wowed the crowds at her first Middle East concert, in Abu Dhabi.

Pink News reports more than 25,000 attend the Material Girl’s shows on June 3 and 4 in Yas Island Stadium, where her performance included “strong and clear messages about LGBT rights.”

Homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years jail in Abu-Dhabi, and the UAE penal code has a provision for the death sentence for sodomy.

“One of the [concert’s] strongest visuals for LGBT rights and against homophobic bullying was during ‘Nobody Knows Me,’” reports editor Shamil, “The interlude video highlighted the plight of young people who are driven to commit suicide because they are victims of homophobic bullying.”

During “Express Yourself,” (which included, as anticipated, a sly reference to Gaga’s “Born this Way”), images of gay and lesbian kisses were projected onto screens. Gender norms were flouted during “Erotica,” “Vogue” and “Girl Gone Wild,” when the male dance troupe Kazaki danced shirtless and in high heels.

“While the concert was predominantly about music and advertising for her new album, I left the show with the sense and overwhelming feeling that I had just witnessed something more extraordinary,” said one lesbian attendee. “Whatever else is said about that night there is simply no way to negate the simple fact that as a human being, rather than a musical legend, Madonna should be revered. To be so confident and unwavering in ones support for the rights of all people should be something to which we all aspire.”

You might be “over” Madge, but you gotta admit the girl’s still giving it to her gays.



Even as gay print media suffers in the U.S., the Middle East has seen the birth of the region’s first LGBT magazine. Our friends at Queer Women of Color turned us onto My.Kali, a four-year-old publication published monthly in Jordan and written in English.

From the magazine’s “About” section:

“My.Kali.mag is an LGBTQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and transgender, Q; questioning or queer) concerned monthly magazine. It concerns gay (and whose just interested) people from all around the world and it’s dedicated for people who live in the: Middle East, for foreigners who live in the Arab world, for those who live in closed-minded/open-minded environments, for those new-gay-to-be, for those who’re away from home and for those who’re interested in entering the world of My.Kali.

Judging from the cover, it looks like the mag covers similar beats as glossies in the West: fashion, celebrities, lifestyle. But there’s a definite goal of raising awareness about regional and international LGBT issues:

“We speak up for all those who’re quiet; we give you the voice of your silence. We’re the magazine your mom can’t find under your bed, we’re the magazine to keep and we’re the magazine that you can reach anywhere you are. We like to be your pillow of comfort, your best friend and your new wing-man/woman.”

We could use more of that here at home!


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  • hamoboy

    Lol… Madonna’s watered down “here’s some crumbs for you gay freaks” schtick is old hat next to younger artists who will cite their gay influences and put in the hard time for their gay audiences, so she needs to troll these countries where gay people are oppressed so they can have some Stockholm Syndrome-like gratitude for her lukewarm pop.

  • John B

    –Lady Caca is over. Get used to it and don’t take it out on the real queen.

  • SuperAmanda

    The Madonna vs. Lady Gaga debate is useless. Celebrate both of them!

  • jason

    Neither of them are indicative of gay progress. No man is allowed to be as successful as they are by doing the same thing.

  • christopher di crapito

    Madonna is looking more and more like a hag.

  • james

    @christopher di crapito: Please do us all a favor and off yourself. The world would not miss your troll-ass. I love Madonna and Gaga!

  • Jonathonz

    For those of you that are too caught up in being over of Madonna because of your age-ist attitudes she has put out an absolutely amazing album that you are missing out on. MDNA is her best album since Confessions on a Dance Floor and possibly even Ray of Light. IMO Turn Up the Radio and Love Spent are among some of her very best songs ever and there are several other contenders as well.

    Now more to the point of the article I’m glad that Queerty is covering gay news from the Middle East. It certainly puts our own travails as LGBT Americans in perspective.

  • Seth

    In my 20s and always have and will love Her Madgesty

  • Hephaestion

    Wow… the hateful comments here make me ashamed to be human.

    Quit the hate!

    Madonna should be commended for helping the cause of the gays in the United Arab Emirates. What she did could be a seed from which justice and equality will grow.

  • Kayo

    Gaga is the one who’s been extremely supportive of gay rights, before Gaga, what did really Madonna do? Express yourself? very generic

  • christopher di crapito

    @james: Well good for you. But she still looks like a hag.

  • MiltonHarvey

    @james: The fact that you think a person should commit suicide just because they don’t like Madonna tends to indicate that your maturity level is somewhat below that of a 10 year old. Have you ever considered growing up? I don’t know if you’re aware of this but this is the internet. Anyone can write anything they want and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Just because you like Madonna does not automatically mean that anyone who does not like her is evil. Please! There are far worse things going on in this world that people who are not impressed by Madonna. Learn to put things into perspective.


    @christopher di crapito: STFU, asshole. Let’s see how YOU age. Let’s see what YOU are doing at 53 and if anyone gives a shit. Go crawl back under your rock.

  • Danny

    Gotta love Madonna. She has been a human rights advocate for a longtime and was brave about speaking out for justice and fairness before it was more acceptable, and definitely bolder than many artists in advocating love and equality. She has helped pave the way for people to speak truth to power and to stand up for others. She definitely is a star and a great human being.

  • jason


    Madonna has not been bold at all. Faking one’s bisexuality in order to prop up the fantasies of sleazy straight guys is not bold. Madonna has allowed herself to be an object for the type of men who get off on girl-girl action but who think we gay guys are gross and disgusting.

    Ask yourself this question: why hasn’t a male singer had the success that Madonna has had? Same with Lady Gaga. Why isn’t there a male Lady Gaga with the same sort of commercial success?

    Face it – a lot of gay guys keep pretending that all is well in the entertainment industry because we have these “brave” women out there giving us shout-outs. Don’t kid yourselves. These “brave” women are simply propping up the sleazy straight guy fantasy for girl-girl action. They are not brave at all.

  • christopher di crapito

    @MADONNA: I’m actually older than 53 and I am doing quite well, thank you. And how are you doing at 12? I see your mommy didn’t wash out your potty mouth.

  • Anthony

    @jason: It really has nothing to do with Madonna and Gaga and all to do with how the gay community reacts to gay men. Believe it or not, what makes these women so incredibly popular amongst the gay community is that gay men can live vicariously through them, whereas a gay man can’t live vicariously through Adam Lambert seeing as Adam Lambert does what they do. It’s really not these women’s fault that gay men are attracted to them so easily and they’re smart to exploit it and make money from it.

    Anyways, Gaga is awesome and Madonna is awesome, even if I don’t like her because of her attitude. I just wish that Madonna would step away from the controversy. It’s been thirty years and it’s tired now. She should have just ignored Gaga instead of dedicating an entire act to her.

  • Jonathonz

    @christopher di crapito: News flash Crapito, we all have two options in life, hagdom or early death.
    Madonna is one of the most successful pop stars in history and, like everybody, she’s getting older. She takes care of herself and looks a hell of a lot better than most people ten years younger. More power to her.

  • xando

    so of course in typical homo fashion (I’m gay too so calm down) almost eeeeeeeevvvvvvverrrrrry one totally ignored the point and subject of the article which is giving some attention to the highly oppressed and often endangered gay population in Arab and Middle eastern countries (With the exception of Israel) and focused entirely on, oh my God how original, MADONNA!!!

    If there is one place where someone can look for a solid proof of the shallowness of gay men, it sure is the comments section on Queerty.

    How embarrassing for all of us.

  • Red Meat

    Madonna is fake and so is her LGBT “message”

  • nineinchnail

    @christopher di crapito: Still looks better than Gaga. ANYWHO, Madonna has been with us for nearly THIRTY years and her contribution to music can be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of ABBA, The Beatles and Elvis. Love her or hate her she is a remarkable human being whose contribution to society will be remember for many many years.

  • nineinchnail

    @Red Meat: Lay off the drugs as you quite obviously DONT know what you are talking about!!!!

  • nineinchnail

    @John B: +1. WELL SAID!

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