HRC Global Innovator Leads #DigitalPride Efforts in Middle East and North Africa

Post submitted by Jay Gilliam, Senior Global Programs Officer, with contributions from HRC Global Innovator

Last month, HRC Global Innovator and human rights defender Aida organized an online campaign #DigitalPrideMENA to showcase the work the LGBTQ community is doing in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The campaign celebrated LGBTQ identities and sought to dispel the stereotype that LGBTQ members are perpetual victims.

Aida participated in HRC’s second annual Global Innovative Advocacy Summit in April where she met with 29 other global advocates for equality. The Global Summit focused on sharing innovative approaches to advocacy, especially ones that build public awareness of LGBTQ people through storytelling. No doubt she took some of those approaches back home.

#DigitalPrideMENA happened alongside #DigitalPride, the world’s first global and all-inclusive LGBTI pride series of globe events, screenings, parties and debates from April 24-30.

In a region where being LGBTQ and out is often explicitly criminalized and liable to invite both state and societal violence and oppression, this project was not easy. For instance, LGBTQ people – especially gay men – in neighboring Egypt have been severely persecuted and harassed by the military government since the coup of July 2013. Egyptian gay men have been charged with debauchery after being entrapped through social media and dating apps or after being hauled away from bars and social spaces. The situation in many other MENA countries is similar, if not worse.

M-Coalition, the organizer of #DigitalPrideMENA, asked LGBTQ organizations from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia to encourage their members to take part in a video. Twelve organizations from around the region, like Bedayaa and Mesahat from Egypt, shared posts on their social media pages, saying what they take pride in and raising issues faced by the LGBTQ community, like criminalization and stigmatization.

“At the beginning of the campaign, we were afraid of not receiving any contribution,” Aida, a member of M-Coalition, said. “We understand that there are lots of security issues involved. To our great surprise, more testimonies were received without people hiding their faces than with anonymous, faceless testimonies. We are very happy to see that all the work we are doing is bearing fruit!”

See more online posts from the week at #DigitalPrideMENA.

HRC Global is proud to amplify the work of creative, courageous and inspiring leaders like Aida who are committed to advocating for the rights of LGBTQ people in the Middle East and North Africa. HRC Global advocates for LGBTQ equality around the world through fellowships, partnerships and research. Read more about our work here.