■ 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
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
“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
“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
He said it was not known how many
lashes each man had at one time – nor the interval between each series of
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
■ 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
Anderson and Scott Cuthbertson.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Licence.
Posted: 19 October 2007 at
20:00 (UK time)