Peter Tatchell withdraws holiday auction to country where gays are imprisoned

PinkNews Exclusive
Following reports citing safety concerns for gay travellers, the Peter Tatchell Foundation has withdrawn its auction of a holiday to Morocco.

Ray Cole, 70, a retired magazine publisher from Deal in Kent, was imprisoned in Morocco in October, during a holiday to visit a Moroccan man, Jamal.

Mr Cole, who was released following a pressure campaign, remains strongly critical of Morocco, and described his 20-day experience in the jail as like “a concentration camp”.

Despite the incident, the Peter Tatchell Foundation had this week been auctioning a “five night holiday for two people” in Marrakesh as part of a charity fundraiser.

Mr Tatchell also took to Twitter to defend the auction, citing historic anti-gay laws in Western countries, and saying tourist boycotts should only take place in “severely homophobic states”.

Now Peter Tatchell has confirmed to PinkNews that the offer of the holiday has been withdrawn.

“The Peter Tatchell Foundation has withdrawn the offer of a Moroccan holiday from its fundraising auction. We apologise if people were offended,” said Director Peter Tatchell.

“We support campaigns for the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide, including in Morocco. But we normally only support tourist boycotts of severely anti-gay countries, such as Uganda, Iran and Saudi Arabia – and where local LGBT groups have urged a boycott.

“Although homosexuality is illegal in Morocco, the law is rarely enforced. The Moroccan gay community has not called for a tourist boycott.

“Jamaica is far more homophobic than Morocco but LGBT groups there have opposed a boycott by Western tourists. In many countries, LGBT communities see gay Western visitors as a positive influence to help breakdown homophobia.

“If we insisted on a boycott of all countries with anti-gay laws this would mean that over 170 countries would be off-limits to holiday-makers and business people, including the US and Australia where there are same-sex marriage bans.

“For consistency, we’d also have to boycott countries where there are non-gay human rights abuses, such as Thailand, Greece, Brazil, China and Turkey.

“The holiday was donated by a British gay campaigner who lives part-time in Morocco. He very generously donated his flat. He assured us that thousands of gay Westerners visit Morocco every year and that neither they nor gay Moroccans normally have any problems. By comparison to other Arab nations, and to most developing countries worldwide, Morocco is a better, safer place for LGBT people.”

Other offers up for auction include a copy of Stephen Fry’s new book ‘More Fool Me’, a twelve month subscription to Gaydar, and a signed art piece by Polyp featuring a satirical ‘Homophobes of the World Unite’ banner.

Hotel searches for Marrakesh reportedly fell by 46%, just one week after the news broke of Ray Cole’s imprisonment in October.