Manama: Authorities in Saudi Arabia arrested several people in the Red Sea city of Jeddah following raids on two parties in which most participants were homosexuals.
The raids were conducted simultaneously at dawn on Saturday in the Harzat area, known for its recreational facilities, local news site Sabq reported.
Security staff and members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice noted down the numbers on the licence plates of the cars parked near the party venues before they stormed the premises. The vehicle details were recorded so as 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.”
Homosexuality and cross-dressing are social and legal offences in Saudi Arabia and other 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 November, 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 to pay a 100,000 Saudi riyal fine by the court.
According to a report in Sabq, the man was apprehended by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice after he posted pictures of himself naked on social media and offered to have sex for free with other men. “Offensive” pictures and chats with other people were found on his confiscated mobile phone, Sabq said.
In October, 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, as published in a local daily, 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.