Each of the four articles in question discusses an aspect of homosexuality in the Middle East. Despite the region being largely Islamic, with its attendant conservative sexual codes, queer sexuality is being expressed in unprecedented ways. Israel, Iran, Morocco and Lebanon are the focus of the four articles. Each of these countries has had key political developments in recent years. As a result, studying homosexuality in these regions also leads to the understanding of their political and socio-religious milieu. Moreover, while the articles focus on distinct issues while also being based on broad commonality. Apart from the obvious focus on homosexuality, a major common ground among the articles is how they all attempt research on their respective subjects in a logical and systematic fashion. The methodology and deductive reasoning that they employ are quite sound. What follows is a comparative and critical analysis of the four articles with the aim of highlighting the salient socio-political questions raised by them.
Changing female sexual expression in liberal and conservative societies:
The article ‘But What If Someone Sees Me?’ by Pardis Mahdavi is perceptive and witty in its take on the emergent ‘sexual revolution’ in Iran. Ever since the country fell into the grips of theocratic rule three decades ago, the rights and liberties of women have been largely suppressed. As the Mahdavi suggests, people of Iran seem to have decided on a subversive counterattack on authoritarian social norms in the country. The surprising fact in Mahdavi’s illustration is how it is women who are at the forefront of this sexual revolution. In retrospect, it is easy to understand why women were central to this revolution. In Yael Ben-zvi’s article on Israel, the focus is once again on queer women, but is set in a social and political atmosphere that is far more liberal. It exemplifies the diversities within the Israeli queer community. The main impact of the article is in showing how there could be conflict and disagreement even within members of the same sexual minority group. In contrast, in the rigid patriarchal mores of present day Iran, women find it hard to express themselves socially, politically or in the inter-personal domain. Of these domains for self-expression, the inter-personal is the most discreet and the most radical. That such a revolution is now taking place is evidence to the oppression and repression that has preceded this outburst.
Ben-zvi’s article stands in chronological relation to Mahdavi’s assessment of the Iranian sexual revolution. Whereas Iran’s theocracy doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of a sexual minority within its population, Israel celebrates its inclusive politics as a public relations exercise to boost the country’s image. I was intrigued by the attitudes and beliefs of the two personalities discussed in the article – Dana International and Michal Eden – who disagree on the best way to take their community forward. Dana faces more opposition due to her outspokenness and her integration of diverse Arabic themes in her music. Michal, on the other hand, is far more respectful of authority and is tactful as well – a disposition that has allowed her to run for political office.