In Saudi crackdown on LGBTQ expression, even rainbow toys aren’t safe

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The Saudi government is confiscating rainbow-colored toys, clothes and other items that they say evoke the famous Pride flag and promote homosexuality among children.

This is the latest crackdown by Saudi Arabia and some of its neighbors against objects and forms of art and expression that feature gay characters or are considered to promote LGBTQ rights, including superhero movies that aren’t shown in Saudi cinemas because they feature same-sex couples and hundreds of kites confiscated in Syria for their many colors.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce posted a video on Twitter this week that shows its officials walking through stores and inspecting toys, backpacks and other items for rainbow hues.

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“Our surveillance teams tour outlets and seize and confiscate products that contain symbols and signs that call for aberration and contradict the correct nature, and impose penalties on offending facilities,” the post said. , using a pejorative word to refer to homosexuality. .

The Commerce Department did not respond to a Washington Post request for comment.

The crackdown was also reported by state-run Al Ekhbariya TV, with a reporter following ministry workers at shops in the capital, Riyadh, as they confiscated toys, hats and other paraphernalia, while eerie music was playing in the background.

A ministry employee said of an article that it ‘indirectly promotes homosexuality’, and a voiceover said the toys ‘are nothing but poisonous messages that target the innocence of children “.

The U.S. Department of State, in its latest annual human rights report, reported “cases of official and societal discrimination, physical violence, and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education and health care” in Saudi Arabia.

President Biden is due to visit the oil-rich country in July to attend a summit of several Arab heads of state.

The crackdown follows reports that Marvel Studios’ latest offering – ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ – won’t be shown in Saudi cinemas because it briefly features a same-sex couple, like the first. Marvel’s “Eternals” movie. t shown, or “West Side Story” for similar reasons.

The Saudi Ministry of Culture did not respond to a request for comment from The Post. Disney, the owner of Marvel, did not respond in time for publication.

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Variety reported that Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear,” an animated film following the extraterrestrial adventures of Buzz Lightyear, was not submitted to Saudi authorities for approval because production studios believed it would not get the award. green light.

Other countries in the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon, have decided not to screen the film. The ban in the United Arab Emirates came six months after the Persian Gulf country announced it would stop censoring cinema releases. Lebanon is one of the only Arab countries to have a relatively strong and somewhat public LGBTQ presence.

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Chris Evans, who is the voice of Buzz Lightyear, told Reuters news agency: “There will always be people who are scared and unaware and trying to hold on to what was before. But these people are dying like dinosaurs.

The official celebration of Pride Month by the US diplomatic corps has also led to incidents in the region. Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the US charge d’affaires over the embassy’s social media posts celebrating the month. The ministry derided the embassy’s “symbols and tweets that support homosexuality” and said the posts violated the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

The embassy posts remained.

As the United States marks Pride Month, Republican lawmakers have drafted a slew of bills aimed at limiting discussions of sexual or gender identity in schools and challenging the rights of young people who identify as transgender.

In the Syrian city of Hama, the Directorate of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection said it confiscated around 600 children’s rainbow kites which “indicate sexual homosexuality”, claiming the toys were similar to the Pride flag. The announcement was made on the management’s Facebook page, listed alongside sales violations by butchers and bakeries.

Following reports that some Qatari hotels would not be accepting guests from the LGTBQ community during the upcoming World Cup, football’s world governing body issued a statement on June 1 insisting that it there would be no discrimination.

FIFA said the World Cup will be “a celebration of unity and diversity”, regardless of race, religion, disability or sexual orientation. He added that he had “insisted that hotels and other contractors involved in welcoming LGBTQIA+ fans in Qatar do so in a way that respects everyone’s rights and privacy.”

Timsit reported from London, Dadouch from Beirut. Ellen Francis in London contributed to this report.

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