"وصفي بالمثلية ليس إهانة"... الصحافية والناشطة اليمنية هند الإرياني تحكي عن "المحظور"
“I found many tweets telling me 'You're gay', thinking that I will get angry or feel offended by such a description. They are wrong. Describing me as a homosexual is neither an insult, nor demeaning. And it does not bother me at all. It is a description, exactly like describing me as being blonde or brunette. "
These were the words of Yemeni journalist and human rights activist Hind al-Eryani in a recent interview, nearly three weeks after she wrote the article "Why Fear Homosexuals?” on Monte Carlo International Radio website.
Al-Eryani points out that she addressed the topic after reading comments on the Facebook page of the Jaafar Talk program about "the life of the Finnish Prime Minister who was raised in the care of a gay family," noting that the comments showed her "to what extent there is a misunderstanding of homosexuality in Arab societies."
Indeed, Al-Eryani says that she saw many comments asking: “How did the Prime Minister not become a homosexual?", believing that "homosexuality is a decision taken by the person." She added that "one of the misconceptions about homosexuality is taking the gay man for a 'pedophile', which means that he feels sexually attracted to children."
In a courageous unprecedented move, Hind Al-Eryani, a well-known Yemeni journalist and radio presenter, defended the right of Arabs to be homosexual and proud. Will other media personalities further support the #LGBT community?
She additionally refers to the case of an Arab homosexual, who sometimes has to "hide his sexual orientation and take one of the two decisions: either to marry a heterosexual person and live unhappily, causing misery to the deceived partner who does not know anything about the reality of the partner's sexual orientation. Or to remain as a bachelor who can have sex secretly, which also means to be subjected to harassment by society and having the constant fear of being exposed." She indicated that such exposure may get him killed or, at best, leave him socially isolated.
Al-Eryani wonders: "Why do Arab societies tend to impose restrictions on homosexuals, causing them and those who are associated with them misery? Why do they not let them lead their lives normally and accept them as an essential part of society?"
She stressed that homosexuality "exists in humans, animals and even plants. It is neither a disease that needs treatment, nor a temporary whim. And it is certainly not a crime."
Is it because you're gay?
Al-Eryani was flooded with comments after the article link was posted on Twitter. While some declared that “they existed in spite of hatred,” and thanked the Yemeni activist and journalist for “her humanity”, there were also other comments that rejected her piece, including comments such as: “unfollow” (I will unfollow you on social media) – [you're] sick” – which prompted Al-Eryani to respond: “good decision.”
Other comments directed at Al-Eryani read: “Are you defending them because you have [homosexual] tendencies which you are embarrassed of, or is it just because you have homosexual friends, whom you are defending?", “An unsuccessful article, as well as an unsuccessful choice for an article topic”, and “I block you [with a block] the size of the sky even though I do not follow you, because of your vulgar topic”.
Do not accept them but...
Al-Eryani posted a video in January explaining the importance of the issue, saying: " The LGBTQ community suffers serious injustice: arrests, torture, murder, and at best they are ostracized or they decide to conceal their sexual identity."
She addressed a message to those who reject the presence of the LGBTQ community members saying: "I understand those who say 'This is what our doctrine or religion tells us', but what does your humanity tell you? You do not accept them but are you satisfied with the injustice they are subject to? Or do you accept inciting against them just because they differ from you?"
A Sheikh who belongs in prison
This is not the first time that Al-Eryani has sparked controversy because of her human rights “ideas”. She has an emotional story: she was forced to move from Istanbul to Sweden in search for asylum.
In 2017, she criticized Sheikh Abdullah Al-Adaini, a parliamentary member for the Yemeni Congregation for Reform Party (the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood), after he wrote an article titled “Young girls’ clothing is the gateway to rape", in which he cited the “rape of young girls on the pretext that their clothes are sexually provocative”, which prompted Al-Eryani to say that “this Sheikh belongs in prison in countries which value humans", and accusing him of "encouraging and justifying rape."
Hind Al-Eryani speaks out on Arab homosexuals two lifestyle choices: live in an unfulfilled heterosexual relationship or remain single, living surrounded by rumors and fearing being outed or extorted. Isn’t it time to be out and proud?
These words were said by the Sheikh a few days after the rape of a three-year-old girl, who died as a consequence. Al-Eryani said at that time: “Instead of raising awareness about the importance of punishing the criminal who raped the child, in order not to repeat this crime, the Sheikh - who is unfortunately very influential in shaping the awareness of many Yemenis wrote an article blaming the victim and one line blaming the perpetrator.”
Al-Eryani was subject to an avalanche of criticism on social media after she criticized other clerics, including Muhammad al-Humayqani, who said that “an ugly woman does not have to wear the hijab"; she replied to him: “I am ugly and proud” – advising him to listen “to people's concerns” expressed on her weekly Friday program on Monte Carlo International Radio instead of focusing his sermons on “people's hair”.
Al-Eryani points out that Yemen's State Television channel labelled her "a woman who has an agenda to distort the Islamic religion supported by international organizations,'' which led to her receiving death threats.
In response, she states: “Someone called me to threaten me, mentioning my daughter’s name and school in Istanbul, although I don’t talk about her. Then they called my daughter's phone. I don't know which party threatened me because I criticized all parties."
Al-Eryani currently resides in Sweden.