The American embassy in the United Arab Emirates drew criticism from residents of the Middle East for flying a rainbow “Pride” flag.
As CNBC reported, the United States and the United Kingdom are the first nations to fly a Pride flag at their diplomatic missions in the Arab Gulf. Currently, Article 354 of the United Arab Emirates’ criminal code states that “whoever uses coercion in having sexual intercourse with a female or sodomy with a male shall be sentenced to capital punishment.”
Earlier this week, the U.S. Mission to the U.A.E. tweeted that “on the anniversary of Stonewall, a milestone in the American civil rights movement, the U.S. Mission shows its support for the dignity and equality of all people.”
On the anniversary of Stonewall, a milestone in the American civil rights movement, the U.S. Mission shows its support for the dignity and equality of all people. pic.twitter.com/vuc9RDzDs8
— US Mission to UAE (@USAinUAE) June 28, 2021
Middle Eastern social media users were not happy.
“More western cultural imperialism,” tweeted one commenter.
More western cultural imperialism.
— khalid A AlHashimi (@kalhashimi92) June 29, 2021
“I just want a reasonable appointment time to get a replacement visa,” quipped another.
I just want a reasonable appointment time to get a replacement visa https://t.co/xPjTLi0kXK
— سـعود حسـين يعود للأرض (@SaoodHMH) June 28, 2021
A similar move from the United Kingdom’s embassy caused “a major stir,” as journalist Ashleigh Stewart reported. “The commentary is a real mix of ‘wow, proud’ and ‘this is a national disgrace.’”
The British Embassy in the UAE causing a major stir today, flying the rainbow flag in a country where homosexuality is still illegal
The commentary is a real mix of “wow, proud” and “this is a national disgrace”
— Ashleigh Stewart (@Ash_Stewart_) June 28, 2021
“This is not acceptable,” replied one Emirati to the British embassy. “We consider this as an insult and disrespect.”
This is not acceptable
We consider this as an insult and disrespect
— محمد جاسم الريس (@Mohd_AlRais) June 28, 2021
“Disrespect the whole country with this childish action,” said another.
Disrespect the whole country with this childish action
— محمد المريخي (@UAEmohamed) June 28, 2021
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also announced that his department would fly the “Progress” flag — a variation of the rainbow Pride flag that incorporates black and brown stripes for ethnic minorities, as well as blue and pink for transgenderism — toward the end of June.
The Progress flag on display outside the State Department's headquarters reaffirms that LGBTQI+ rights are human rights, and without respect for human rights there is no possibility of full peace and stability. #Pride pic.twitter.com/ZbnTXsciCp
— Robert J. Faucher (@CSOAsstSec) June 25, 2021
Although Blinken permitted the Pride flag and its variations, the Defense Department refrained from any such action on its bases.
“After some careful consideration, the department will maintain the existing policy regarding the display” at military bases, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “There won’t be an exception made for the Pride flag.”
Nevertheless, the Defense Department is now offering — at taxpayers’ expense — “medically-necessary transition-related care” for servicemembers identifying as transgender.