Alex Blaze

Bahrain Raids Gay Party - What Are the Limits of Care?

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 07, 2011 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Bahrain, humorous blog post, irony, LGBT, Middle East, noise complaint, queer, raid, satire, snark, stephen colbert, torture, wedding

An estimated 127 queer men and women* were arrested in Bahrain this weekend at a party:

bahrain_map.gifAn undercover agent paid the 20 dinar [$53 --Ed.] entrance fee and was allowed into the hall where he saw dozens of cross-dressers drinking and smoking shishas. More patrols were called in and 127 people were arrested in the police swoop, the daily said.

Initial investigations have revealed that the gays were either Gulf nationals who came to Bahrain for the party or were living in Bahrain and flocked to the hall in Hidd. The organisers are being held separately.

In this brave new world, people who commit a crime clearly deserve whatever punishment the state can dream up. We've seen people pumped full of electricity for not letting go of a microphone while the rest of the country laughs, people tortured when they haven't even been convicted of anything while Americans shout for harsher treatment, and prominent liberals ask for the death penalty for the crime of HIV nondisclosure. If people know behavior is illegal and they do it anyway, well, any punishment is their own damn fault.

And before you assume that I'm siding with the Bahraini police just because these people are queer, then think again. Sodomy's technically legal in Bahrain, so clearly the police aren't homophobic. These folks committed a real crime:

Neighbours, complaining about the late night noises emanating from the sports hall in the traditional fishing village, had alerted the police who sent a patrol to verify the claims at around 2.30am.

Noise complaint!

Lock 'em up, torture them, and we shouldn't take the death penalty off the table. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

*Reports are using the word "gay" but they also mention that "dozens" of people there were wearing women's clothes and wore make-up. It's not a Western society, I don't know how people identified, etc., but clearly the queerness caused the problem. While sodomy is legal in Bahrain and has been since the 70's, vague laws against immorality are used to repress homosexuality and transgenderism.

One local report is also calling it a "wedding," which is what homophobic regimes usually do when they do a mass arrest at a gay party - they call it a wedding hoping it'll turn people against those who were arrested, since people's ability to party should be dependent on the arbitrary goodwill of a country's population.

Stephen Colbert was riffing on a similar theme last week. I don't know what to say about people today. We Americans have always had people who use "bleeding-heart" as an insult and mock people for caring about others, but it seems like it's just much worse today. There's no logical argument to make people care about other people's well-being, since it's one of those fundamentally human emotional reactions, we're going to have to find other ways to get people to care about others, even people who've done something wrong or illegal.

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Aubrey Haltom | February 7, 2011 1:00 PM

I agree with the basic premise of this article. A sense of compassion, empathy, sympathy is sorely missing from much of our dialogue, and our lives.
But you don't need to misrepresent a link to support your thesis.
Re: Aravois comment that 'my first instinct is to hang the man' - well, let's just say I didn't take him literally. After reading the complete post, I didn't get the sense he was advocating the death penalty for this person. He details some of the case, and then asks readers their opinions. I took his opening statement as a rhetorical device. Perhaps that's all you're doing, as well. But your comment ('prominent liberals ask for the death penalty') seemed much more literal to me than his 'my first instinct'...
I don't read Aravois that often, but I thought it self-evident he was expressing a personal disgust.
Which goes to your argument, but doesn't require misrepresenting his statement. (And to be fair, not just yours. The link's 1/27/11 post seems to state the claim that Aravois was actually calling for the death penalty...)
If Aravois was calling for the death penalty, I did not find it in the link provided.

Hm. I think that's a very generous reading of that post, where he makes that statement, then says the guy's actions were "despicable," then says "I just am finding it very hard to have pity on this man," then presents part of the guy's defense and says "Does this fact change your mind any?" He doesn't say anything else about what should happen to this guy, and when pushed on it by Michael Petrelis, he didn't take it back or anything, just letting it hang there like a big matzo ball:

Something tells me that if a prominent Christian conservative like Pat Robertson were commenting on Ricky Martin having a kid and the first thing he says is that his (robertson's) first instinct is to hang him (martin), I don't think the gays would be all that generous with Robertson's motivations. Then again, who knows.

Anyway, this post was mainly about people's first instincts, specifically how they're often violent, unforgiving, and hard to argue with.

Sadly, my first reaction to a middle eastern country is 'they may say their tolerant, but hell my grandparents in Mississippi were "tolerant"... They belived that you should only lynch a {black man} and not set him on fire as well.'

Also, to me taser's may be 'less than leatal' but honsetly they've killed over 2,000 poeple in the US since they were put on the market. Thats a pretty large body count. Also too many officers are NOT using them properly. They're only supposed to be used to subdue a person. Once they're on the ground, they're under control and you only have to slap cuffs on them.

To me, using a taser on any bear is a great way for someone to find out how thick a bears fur is and how fast they can run.

Aubrey Haltom | February 7, 2011 5:47 PM

I had not read the Petrelis post, so I followed the link.
I know it's not the central thesis of your post, Alex, but I want to respond.
Petrelis mentions, a couple of times, that Aravois' "my first instinct..." was probably a rhetorical device - not an actual call for the death penalty.
After some self-important posturing on Petrelis part (Petrelis was upset Aravois didn't reply to his e-mails within 24 hrs, effectively), Petrelis posts his provocative headline. And the meme starts rolling...
Petrelis has an excellent point when he talks about how even rhetorical language can damage.
Which coincides with your thesis.
But it's not a 'generous reading' to find Aravois engaging in rhetoric, not advocating for the death penalty.
Your excellent point in the article called for compassion for others, not an immediate dismissal of people's situations.
For some people "my first instinct" is where they have to start. Perhaps its not the most compassionate, the most sympathetic, the best articulated. But it's where they begin.
(FYI, whether it matters or not, I lived in SF prior to the AIDS outbreak, and then thru the 'plague' years. There is a decade of my life from which I have lost all but a couple of my friends and loves. And in 3 decades I have buried more of those I loved than celebrated recent birthdays. Some topics - such as the issue of disclosure - are terribly weighted.)
Sorry to take this thread so off-topic.

Tony Soprano | February 9, 2011 12:20 AM

> sodomy is legal in Bahrain ... laws against immorality are used to repress homosexuality and transgenderism ... call it a wedding hoping it'll turn people against those who were arrested ..."

Sodomy may be legal; but, homosexuality is still forbidden in Islam. Bahrain, despite the hedonistic portrayal it presents to the world, is, nevertheless, at its core, still Muslim.

What better way to get rid of their LGBTQQIAAP community? Increase the isolation of this already marginalized group, weaken any respect it has with the local cizenry, and then sit back and let the public do the government's dirty work for them?