Authorities in Jordan have intensified their efforts to suppress LGBTQ+ activism, leading to a troubling crackdown on free expression, according to reports by human rights groups. Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID) and Public Security Directorate have been accused of intimidating prominent LGBTQ+ activists, pushing some to close their organizations and even flee the country.
Coordinated Attack on LGBTQ+ Rights
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) conducted interviews with 13 activists who revealed that Jordanian security forces, particularly intelligence officials, frequently summoned them for interrogations, during which they were subjected to intimidation. HRW’s LGBT program senior researcher, Rasha Younes, described the situation, stating, “Jordanian authorities have launched a coordinated attack against LGBT rights activists, aimed at eradicating any discussion around gender and sexuality from the public and private spheres.” This campaign of intimidation has pushed activism further underground and left civil society leaders with a difficult choice: severe self-censorship or fleeing the country.
Silencing and Intimidation
Prominent LGBTQ+ activists in Jordan have faced threats of violence, arrests, and prosecution. The crackdown even reached cultural centers and LGBTQ+ organizations, where events were canceled and offices were shut down due to intimidation. One owner of a cultural center in Amman described being interrogated by the city’s governor, while the director of an LGBTQ+ organization had to flee the country with their partner, leaving behind their work, friends, and families.
No Legal Basis for Persecution
It’s important to note that Jordan is one of the few Middle Eastern countries where same-sex activity is not illegal, as sodomy laws dating back to British rule were repealed in 1951. However, despite the legal framework, LGBTQ+ individuals and groups continue to be targeted and persecuted.
International Calls for Action
In response to the escalating threats against LGBTQ+ activists, HRW has called on the Jordanian government to prohibit targeting people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The organization also urged Jordan to protect freedom of expression both online and offline and safeguard the privacy of internet communications. Additionally, HRW called for an end to the targeting and intimidation of civil society activists, including those from the LGBTQ+ community.
Public Opinion Challenges
Jordan’s LGBTQ+ community faces not only state repression but also significant societal challenges. A World Values Survey revealed that a vast majority of Jordanians view homosexuality as unethical or unjustifiable, and they would not accept queer people as their neighbors. Despite these challenges, LGBTQ+ activists in Jordan continue to fight for their rights and visibility.
Despite its legal status, Jordan remains a dangerous country for LGBTQ+ individuals, ranking 142nd out of 197 countries in the equality index according to LGBTQ+ rights index site Equaldex. The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ+ activists underscores the need for continued international attention and advocacy to protect their rights and safety in Jordan.