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Tens of thousands flood the streets of Tel Aviv for Pride 2022

Pride events are held under heavy police presence since an ultra-Orthodox extremist stabbed to death a teen during Pride in Jerusalem 2015

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Screenshot/YouTube i24NEWS

TEL AVIV, Israel – It is often referred to as the LGBTQ+ capital of the Middle East for its sizable population of people who identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and it has a reputation for hosting the arguably largest annual Pride celebration and festivities.

This year was no exception as Israeli officials estimate a crowd of nearly 170,000 was in attendance.

According to i24NEWS, an Israeli-based international 24-hour news and current affairs television channel located in Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv, Israel, the seaside city has a population of nearly 100,000 who identify themselves as LGBTQ+ and the city has hosted Pride for 23 years.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Israeli Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen kicked off the festivities.

“We have a majority here in Israel that supports this community,” said Mayor Huldai. “Tel Aviv has always been home for every transgender person, and every lesbian and gay person, and the home of anyone who wants to be who they are.”

The Associated Press reported some 250,000 people attended the Tel Aviv Pride parade in 2019, before it was called off the following year because of the pandemic. In 2021, an estimated 100,000 people attended.

Pride parades all over Israel are held under heavy police presence, particularly since 2015 when an ultra-Orthodox extremist stabbed to death 16-year-old Shira Banki during the Pride parade in Jerusalem.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides attended the march with a delegation from the U.S. embassy. “This is about tolerance and decency and respect, and being here with all the folks from the embassy is unbelievably meaningful to me,” he told The Associated Press.

Tel Aviv Celebrates Pride With Thousands In Attendance:

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Middle East

Iraq lawmakers plan to introduce bill to ban homosexuality

Violence against LGBTQ+, intersex people commonplace in country

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Baghdad, Iraq (Public domain photo)

BAGHDAD — An Iraqi lawmaker has said parliamentarians plan to introduce a bill that would ban homosexuality in the country.

Middle East Eye, a website that covers the Middle East and North Africa, reported MP Aref al-Hamami on July 8 told an official Iraqi news agency that members of his Parliamentary Legal Committee have agreed “to collect signatures after returning to session to legislate a law prohibiting homosexuality in Iraq.”

“[The] legislation of such a law will be reinforced by legal provisions that prevent homosexuality and the perversions associated with it,” said al-Hamami.

Homosexuality has been legal in Iraq since 2003, but violence against LGBTQ+ and intersex Iraqis remains commonplace.

“Despite repeated threats and violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, Transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals, specifically gay men, the government failed to identify, arrest, or prosecute attackers or to protect targeted individuals,” notes the State Department in its 2021 human rights report. “Some political parties sought to justify these attacks, and investigators often refused to employ proper investigation procedures. LGBTQI+ individuals also faced intimidation, threats, violence and discrimination, and LGBTQI+ individuals reported they could not live openly without fear of violence at the hands of family members, acquaintances, or strangers.”

The U.S. earlier this year condemned the so-called honor killing of Doski Azad, a Transgender woman in Iraqi Kurdistan.

A source in the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq has previously told the Washington Blade that militant groups regularly target gay men in the country. The Islamic State publicly executed men accused of engaging in sodomy in the parts of Iraq it once controlled.

“With an unstable economy and crimes taking place every day without any accountability or follow-up, the Iraqi Parliament’s Legal Committee has considered that putting an end to the LGBTQ community is a priority that must be achieved as soon as possible,” tweeted an activist in Iraq who calls themselves Anas Gilgamesh.

Amir Ashour, executive director of IraQueer, an organization that advocates on behalf of LGBTQ+ and intersex Iraqis, on Tuesday told the Blade that it won’t be “that long” until lawmakers approve the bill because “they claim to have what they need to pass it.” Ashour added his organization is “working behind the scenes to try and stop the law from passing.”

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Middle East

Kuwait rebukes U.S. embassy over LGBTQ+ rights support

Acting chargé d’affaires summoned on Thursday

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(Bigstock photo)

KUWAIT CITY — The government of Kuwait on Thursday said it summoned a senior American diplomat after the U.S. Embassy tweeted its support of LGBTQ+ rights.

A Kuwaiti Foreign Affairs Ministry statement notes Nawaf Abdul Latif Al-Ahmad, the country’s acting assistant secretary of state for Americas affairs, met with Jim Hollisteder, the acting chargé d’affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City, “against the background of the embassy’s publication on its social media accounts of references and tweets supporting homosexuality.”

The embassy on Thursday in tweets that it posted to its Twitter account in English and Arabic noted President Biden is “a champion for the human rights of LGBTQI persons.”

“All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they live,” said the tweets.

The Kuwaiti Foreign Affairs Ministry in its statement notes Al-Ahmad “handed” Hollisteder “a memorandum confirming Kuwait’s rejection of what was published and stressing the need for the embassy to respect the laws and regulations in force in the state of Kuwait and the obligation not to publish such tweets in compliance with what was stipulated in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.”

Kuwait is a U.S. ally that borders Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. It is one of the upwards of 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who is openly gay, on Friday retweeted the embassy’s tweet.

“The United States stands with the LGBTQI+ community everywhere around the world,” said Price.

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Middle East

Man arrested for death threats against Jerusalem Pride organizers

Israeli police on Wednesday arrested 21-year-old man

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The 2021 Jerusalem Pride parade. A man has been arrested in connection with death threats made against organizers of this year's parade. (Photo courtesy of Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance)

JERUSALEM — Israeli police on Wednesday arrested a man in connection with death threats made against organizers of Jerusalem’s Pride parade.

The Times of Israel reported the 21-year-old man allegedly sent a message to Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance Community Director Emuna Klein Barnoy and two Israeli lawmakers in which he described Jerusalem as “the Holy City” and said “we will not allow the Pride parade to take place in Jerusalem.”

The threat also referenced Shira Banki, the 16-year-old teenager who was stabbed to death during a Jerusalem Pride march in 2015.

An ultra-Orthodox man who stabbed Banki and five others during the march had just been released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence in connection with the stabbing of three people during a Jerusalem Pride march in 2005. The man is currently serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison.

Israeli media reports note the threat that Barnoy and the two lawmakers received on Wednesday came from an Instagram account that included the name of the man who killed Banki.

The Jerusalem Pride parade will take place on Thursday with more than 2,400 police officers deployed along the route. The Times of Israel reported the man who allegedly threatened organizers was expected to have appeared in a Jerusalem court on the same day.

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