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Fifty Protest at Saudi Embassy Over Lashings of Gays


What the Saudi courts have done to their own citizens is unacceptable – student leader


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■ The 'Rainbow Flag" outside the entrance to the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London today.

LONDON, October 19, 2007  —  Around 50 students, some from as far away as Manchester, Salford and Hull, protested outside the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London this afternoon following the sentences passed earlier this month on two young Saudi  gay men.

The pair were sentenced on October 2 to 7,000 lashings each in al-Bahah following conviction for ‘sodomy’.

Amid chanting and singing, Claire Anderson and Scott Cuthbertson, LGBT officers with the National Union of Students, handed-in a letter of protest to an Embassy official.

The protest was supported by LGBT Labour and gay human rights group Outrage!

“What the Saudi courts have done to their own citizens is unacceptable,” said Katie Hanson, co-chair, LGBT Labour.

“Homosexuality is not a crime and LGBT Labour and others made our message clear that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans rights are human rights.

“The Labour government has achieved near legal equality for LGB people in the UK, we must now work through the UN and international structures to support others.

“It is in all our interests to further the campaign for human rights, LGBT rights is one vital part of this,” she added.

Claire Anderson and Scott Cuthbertson outside the Embassy with the letter of protest.

Peter Tatchell said that the 7,000 lashings is the latest incident that shows the barbarism of the Saudi regime.

“The Saudi leaders are also guilty of detention without trial, torture and the public beheading of women who have sex outside marriage,” he said.

“Migrant workers are de faction salves, the media is censored and trade unions, political parties and non-Muslim religions are all banned.  The country is a theocratic police state,” he pointed out.

Mr. Tatchell then went on to explain what lashings actually did to a body.

“A hundred lashes break the skin and after 150 the body goes into shock,” he said.  “Death comes after 500 lashes.”

He said it was not known how many lashes each man had at one time – nor the interval between each series of lashes.

Mr. Cuthbertson pointed out that sexuality was not a crime.

“People around the world should be free to express who they are without fear of intimidation, arrest, or even torture,” he continued.

“When abuses of human rights take place we must not be silent that is why we are demonstrating today.

“I call on the Saudi Government to stop the torture and murder of its own citizens and for the British Government to use its relationship to press home the need for human rights and democracy.”

■ The Student Union at Manchester University made the long trip to London to join the protest.

The protest was staged on the eve of the annual ‘two kingdoms’ conference in London next week. Due to attend is King Abdulla and other members of the Saudi government.

Michael Cashman, the Labour MEP for West Midlands and the president of the all-party Intergroup on gay and lesbian human rights in the European Parliament, was on Brussels and could not be at the protest.

But he sent a letter to the protesters which was read out by Richard Angell of LGBT Labour.

“The continuation of the penalisation of same-sex relations throughout the world is an unacceptable blemish in a globalised 21st century world,” Mr. Cashman wrote..

“I immediately addressed a letter to the representatives of the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia here in Brussels to protest in the strongest terms the continued sentencing of LGBT people for simply being who they are.  I have called upon them to do all in their power to pardon these men and to take action to remove these laws from Saudi Arabia’s law books.

“I strongly support your action today; it is only by standing together that we will end discrimination in the world.  It is only by speaking out together that we will create a strong enough wedge for equality.  Together, through our concerted efforts, we many yet ensure that the freedoms that we enjoy here in the UK are freedoms enjoyed everywhere in the world.  I wish you well in your effort to ensure justice is done,” the letter concluded.

■  An hour before the NUS-organised protest outside the Saudi Embassy, there was an protest across the narrow Charles Street.  A small, but noisy, group of exiles from Myanmar were protesting the recent action of the country’s military junta opposite the Myanmar Embassy.

■ Peter Tarchell with Claire Anderson and Scott Cuthbertson.




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Posted: 19 October 2007 at 20:00 (UK time)


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