News (UAE): "UAE GAY GROUP USE CYBERSPACE FOR NETWORKING" - Khaleej Times
(NB: The following article appeared on the front page of the Khaleej Times of the UAE.)
UAE GAY GROUP USE CYBERSPACE FOR NETWORKING
BY V M SATHISH (Contributor)
11 December 2005
Clandestinely operated gay groups in the UAE have been extensively using the Internet and message boards to exchange information and secretly meet at predetermined locations. Homosexuality is illegal in the UAE.
Recently, police arrested 22 UAE men, one Indian, and three Arabs from neighbouring countries at a hotel in Ghantut in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
A random search on the Net indicates that they use nicknames in message boards. Their meeting places – hotels, residential villas and other undisclosed locations – are not revealed on the message boards. These groups also network through chat rooms. While Etisalat has blocked many gay web sites, some of the paid message boards are easily accessible.
"If you know the 'right' people and the 'right' places in Dubai, there is plenty of gay life. One can even read about some of the gay spots in Dubai in the Spartacus Directory. However, you can't compare the gay life here in Dubai with that of Western Europe. Here, it's all 'underground' and there are risks involved," reveals one message.
They are also cautious of police officials who go to pubs and bars to track down homosexuals. "I remember a big party about two years ago that took place in one of the international hotels here in Dubai. There were drag queens there, something considered illegal here in Dubai," says the message.
"The hotel parties are really nice, with modern music no different than a party in Europe. There is a strict admission policy in these parties. You must certainly be on the list of people invited in order to enter one of these hotel parties. It's easiest to get in if you bring a girl with you. If, for example, five guys show up together, even if they are all on the list, it will be tough for them to enter the party," advises gay group boards.
"I am involved in a long-term relationship with one person, so I don't go to these places. I know most of this information from friends who go to parties, pubs, and other places where gays meet. I only get together in safe circumstances with people whom I know, and they introduce us to people that they know. This way we are all sure that none of the people we get together with are police undercover agents. In general, I must say that I think even as a gay man, life in Dubai is pretty good. Maybe I feel this way because I just don't allow myself to spend too much time thinking about the limitations and risks," says another message.
"I am an Asian expatriate male looking for fun. Send me mail for details," says a 38-year-old man in such a message. He has also displayed a nude picture of the upper part of his hairy body.
Following the crackdown and arrest of 26 gays at a party recently, some of the proposed meetings have been cancelled. One gay group has cancelled three meetings, which were earlier scheduled for the first and second week of December 2005.
"Most gay teens meets around the world happen on the third Sunday of every month," says one message board. These message boards are hired from international cyber groups, which charge them $25 per month or more depending on the space used. According to the message boards, gay couples' meet takes place on second Thursday of every month.
"German guy travelling to Dubai in February and looking for a nice, hot time," says a man claiming to be a German gay who gives his vital statistics and other physical features.
"I Prakhun from Thailand, wanna meet a friend, I will arrive Dubai on 03/12/05...waiting for u," adds another man, claiming to be from South East Asia.
The UAE gay groups can easily get hooked to people with similar interest in other cities. There are also UAE-based gay couples meet up groups on the net. The Dubai Gay Meet Group, one active cyber group with 14 members, announced through its board that the next meeting scheduled for December 8 has been cancelled.