LGBTQ+ activists forced to flee Jordan over government persecution

Jordanian anti-riot police facing demonstrators during a protest in 2018.

LGBTQ+ activists have been targeted by authorities in Jordan, in what human rights groups are calling a crackdown on free expression.

Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID) and its Public Security Directorate reportedly intimidated several prominent activists in the country in an attempt to end gender and sexuality activism.

Those targeted were reportedly threatened with violence, arrests and prosecution. A number of activists were forced to shut down their organisations or even flee the country.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed 13 activists who said Jordanian security forces, particularly intelligence officials, repeatedly summoned them for interrogation, during which they were regularly intimidated.

“Jordanian authorities have launched a co-ordinated attack against LGBT rights activists, aimed at eradicating any discussion around gender and sexuality from the public and private spheres,” HRW’s LGBT programme senior researcher Rasha Younes said.

“Security forces’ intimidation tactics and unlawful interference in LGBT organising have driven activism further underground and forced civil society leaders into an impossible reality: severe self-censorship or fleeing Jordan.”

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Police approach a car in Jordan.
The authorities in Jordan have cracked down on LGBTQ+ groups and individuals. (Getty)

One owner of a cultural centre in the capital, Amman, whose LGBTQ+ film-screening event was cancelled after intimidation by authorities, said they interrogated by the city’s governor.

And the director of an LGBTQ+ organisation said that, following threats, they were forced to close their offices, discontinue their operations in Jordan and ultimately flee the country.

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“[My boyfriend and I] had to leave everything behind – our work, our friends, our families, our memories – and flee,” he said. “It is terrifying what influence they can have with intimidation alone, without having to lift a finger.

“They upended our lives, under threat, and the scariest part was that we knew they would do everything they threatened if we ever returned home.”

LGBTQ+ persecution in Jordan a ‘co-ordinated attack’, activists say

Similar accusations of intimidation by Jordan’s secret police were brought to light by The Guardian in August.

Sources told the paper of a recent increase in targeting LGBTQ+ individuals and groups in the country, with some people being detained earlier in the year.

One source, the director of an unnamed LGBTQ+ centre, was allegedly forced into a car by authorities and interrogated overnight.

GID agents then called his parents and told them he was homosexual, which the director said ruined their relationship.

All this comes despite Jordan being one of the few Middle Eastern countries where same-sex activity is not illegal. Sodomy laws, dating back to British rule, were repealed in 1951.

In its recommendations following the increase in threats against LGBTQ+ protestors, HRW called on the government to prohibit targeting people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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It also urged Jordan to “protect freedom of expression online and offline” as well as “the privacy of internet communications.”

Addressing the security forces involved with the interrogation, it said: “Stop targeting and intimidating civil society activists, including LGBT people.”

According to the LGBTQ+ rights index site, Equaldex, Jordan remains a dangerous country in which to be queer. It ranks 142nd out of 197 countries in their equality index.

Meanwhile, a World Values Survey found that more than 95 per cent of Jordanians think homosexuality is not ethical or justifiable, while 94 per cent would not accept queer people as their neighbours.

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