Manama: Saudi security authorities have arrested four gay men in the capital Riyadh after they raided the flat where they were living as married couples.
Acting on tips about the men living together after they held wedding parties attended by other homosexuals, members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the religious police, headed to the flat in Al Quds neighbourhood, Saudi news site Sabq reported on Tuesday, citing sources close to the Commission.
“As the religious police members arrived at the flat, they were spotted by two of the gays who tried to get rid of the fake breasts they were wearing”, the sources said. “The Commission members arrested and then detained the other two gays inside the flat. The four admitted they were living as ‘married couples’. The first couple said that they got married two days earlier at a recreational facility south of Riyadh and that they were still on their honeymoon. The second couple said they celebrated their marriage last week. The four said they used the flat as their residence.”
According to the report, three of the detainees were unmarried and one, 28, was married.
The sources added that the Commission found on the mobiles of the detainees several pictures and clips of the wedding parties and of the guests wearing women’s clothes and make-up.
“Several women’s dresses, bags, shoes, wigs, fake breasts as well as four bottles of locally produced liquor were found during a search of the flat,” the sources said.
Reports about the gay wedding parties went viral on Monday on Saudi media platforms, and several users claimed they were held in the Red Sea resort of Jeddah, prompting the local police to issue a formal denial.
“The reports about gay weddings in Jeddah are baseless and lack credibility,” the spokesperson for the police said. “The security authorities do not have any record of such a case, and we urge people to verify their information with the official and trustworthy sources before they disseminate them,” Ati Al Qarshi said.
Homosexuality and cross-dressing are socially taboo and legal offences in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Reactions from social media users to the raids mostly touched on the need to mete out tough punishment to those found to be involved so that it would act as a strong deterrent. Some users even suggested that those who took part in the party be secluded for five years in remote areas.
In June, authorities in Saudi Arabia arrested several people in Jeddah following raids on two parties in which most participants were homosexuals.
The raids were conducted simultaneously at dawn in the Harzat area, known for its recreational facilities.
Security staff and members of the Commission noted down the numbers on the licence plates of the cars parked near the party venues before they raided the premises. The vehicle details were recorded in order to ensure that those who managed to escape the raid would be tracked down and arrested.
“The raids led to the arrest of several people, mainly gays, and netted locally produced alcoholic drinks and hashish,” sources said. “Those who were arrested were referred to a police station while those who fled the premises will be summoned since they were all identified.”
In November 2014, a court in the port city of Dammam in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province sentenced a homosexual man to three years in jail for engaging in “immoral acts.” The man, in his 30s, was also ordered by the court to pay a 100,000 Saudi riyal fine.
The man was apprehended by the Commission after he posted pictures of himself naked on social media and offered to have sex with other men. “Offensive” pictures and chats with other people were found on his confiscated mobile phone.
In October 2014, police in Kuwait arrested 23 cross-dressers and homosexuals after they busted a “wild party” held at a chalet in the south of the country.
Lawmakers have been pushing for a crackdown on homosexuality, including the adoption of tougher immigration measures against expatriate homosexuals, including their prompt deportation.
In 2013, a suggestion by a health official to bar homosexual and transgender foreigners from working in the GCC raised a storm that eventually cooled off after officials clarified that the proposal was the personal view of the official and did not reflect the government policy.