Australia: The Australian city of Sydney is hosting a two-month Queer Arab Film Festival to better understand the problems and challenges Arab, Muslim, Middle-Eastern LGBTIQ community face in a region that has harsh anti-gay laws and prejudices.
Classical Arabic and Islamicate literature from the 9th to the 16th centuries was replete with examples of characters who engaged in same-sex behaviors, writes Sahar Amer, Professor and Chair of Department at University of Sydney as well as organizer of the Queer Arab Film festival.
“Homosexuality was more prevalent and socially tolerated — at times admired — than we may have expected. This was especially surprising considering how taboo the topic has become today in Arab and Muslim societies. Homosexuality encounters severe repression in most Muslim-majority societies today,” she wrote in theconversation.com.
“Why are LGBTIQ people assumed to be non-existent, and their acts and orientations viewed as “sins” imported from elsewhere?” Amer asked.
The Queer Arab Film Festival launched last week at Sydney University invites the public to screenings every Wednesday afternoon until the end of October 2014.
This festival is a safe academic forum in which to raise awareness about the Arab and Muslim LGBTIQ community in Australia and around the world, she said adding that the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Sydney has a social and ethical responsibility to highlight the diversity of Arab and Muslim societies.
“We can work to correct misunderstandings and presuppositions about sexual minorities. We can help open a conversation about the personal, political, social and cultural struggles of Arab and Muslim LGBTIQ individuals who live, often silently, in our midst,” she said.
The festival includes both documentaries and feature films so as to give voice to the real, lived experiences of Arab and Muslim gay and lesbian individuals.
It includes a selection of films from a range of countries such as Lebanon, Iran, India, South Africa, USA, Australia.
Each of the 11 films to be screened at the Queer Arab Film festival is introduced by an academic from the University of Sydney or a by a visiting scholar. All screenings will be followed by discussion.
“Our festival aims especially to break the silence around LGBTIQ people in our communities. We seek to create a non-judgmental space for dialogue about the much-overlooked – and greatly misunderstood – subject of gay and lesbian sexualities and same-sex identities in Arab and Muslim societies today, she said.
Amer pointed out that despite the rising number of scholarly writings that tackle this controversial topic, there has never been a queer Arab film festival inside or outside the Middle East.
You can watch the trailer of a films that screens at the festival here: