What are the most gay friendly nations in the Middle East?

The region of the Middle East is traditionally considered the least gay friendly place on the planet. The region is dominated mostly by conservative Muslim societies and cultures. Most of the countries in this part of the world are not just unfriendly to LGBT people but they are even dangerous for people with different orientation. Moreover, in most countries in the region of the Middle East to be gay is penalizable.

Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem

Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem by Guy Yitzhaki

In Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Afghanistan and Iran for example there are even death penalties for gay people.

In United Arab Emirates on the other side are penalizable all kind of sexual acts outside the marriage.

Although the region is really unfriendly to LGBT people, there are some countries that are very different and are actually even gay friendly in some respects.

Turkey

Turkey is very far from being the best example of a gay friendly nation.

However, compared to other countries in the Middle East, in many of which being gay is penalizable, Turkey looks like a Paradise on Earth.

The country is one of the first in the world to legalize homosexuality (that happened in 1858) but today gay couples still face numerous difficulties.

First of all, Turkey doesn’t recognise any form of same-sex union which is a serious barrier for the normal life of people with non-traditional orientation.

In addition, the idea of same sex marriage has very low support in Turkey (under 20%). Cities like Istanbul, however, are a different world.

Although not recognised officially by law as families, thousand of gay couples live together in Istanbul.

In addition, the largest city in Europe (part of Istanbul is in Europe and part of it is located in the Middle East) helds every year one of the large gay prides in the world, which in 2013 attracted nearly 100 000 people, making it the 31 largest in the world.

Cyprus

Although geographically the island is part of the Middle East, the culture of Cyprus and the lifestyle of the local residents are traditional for Europe.

Even if being a conservative society dominated by the Orthodox christianity, Cyprus is a member state of the European Union, and the rights of gay people are protected by laws.

Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade

Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade by GeorgeDement

Moreover, since Decembre 2015, same-sex couples can benefit of the right to enter into a civil union, which offers almost the same rights and benefits as the traditional marriage.

This is a big step forward for the small Mediterranean country. However, for some people in Cyprus being gay is still equal to a mental disease.

Fortunately, the island accepts every year a large number of young people from all across Europe and its residents gradually change their minds to people with non-traditional orientation.

Israel

Located in the hearth of the Middle East, Israel is very different from all the other countries in the region.

Every year in June in Tel Aviv, the biggest city of the country, is held one of the largest and most colorful gay prides in the world.

It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, both gay and straight.

On the one side, Israel doesn’t perform gay marriages, but on the other side, the country recognises gay marriages contracted in other countries.

Tel Aviv Jaffa Beach

Tel Aviv Jaffa Beach by israeltourism

Since civil unions are not performed in Israel, gay people cannot enter into a civil union.

However, same-sex couples living together in Tel Aviv for example are recognised as families and can receive many of the rights that the traditional couples have.

Where is Jordan in terms of LGBT rights?

While being gay in Jordan is much more difficult than being day for example in Israel, Cyprus or Turkey, the country is much more advanced in this respect in comparison with some of the neighbouring nations.

Being gay in Jordan is not illegal but still 97% of the people say homosexuality is not socially acceptable.

In addition, local society treats the demonstration of homosexual relationship in public as immoral with the exception of some gay friendly restaurants and cafes in the capital Amman.

Is Lebanon LGBT friendly?

Being gay in Lebanon is not illegal. However, the society is far from being opened and tolerant to people with non-traditional orientation.

Neither gay marriages nor civil unions are allowed so local gay couple don’t enjoy the rights and benefits that the heterosexual couples have.

The acceptance of the homosexuality is higher in comparison with the other countries in the Middle East but is much lower if compared to the modern European societies.

Jerusalem Gay Pride

Jerusalem Gay Pride by Andrew Ratto

According to a poll from 2007, only 18% of the people show tolerance and acceptance to people with non-traditional orientation.

What is the future for LGBT rights in the Middle East?

If we look at the past, the region of the Middle East has not always been so conservative as it is today.

Actually, if we compare this part of the world with Europe during the 13th century (the times of the Holy Inquisition), the Middle East was much more open-minded than Europe.

Probably over the next years we are going to see gradual changes in the region of the Middle East toward one more opened society which offers equal rights for everybody with no matter of their orientation.

The way will be long but the change is starting with small steps.