Colega, the LGBT collective of Madrid, together with Kifkif, the association of LGBT migrants and refugees, denounce the organization of UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) forum, “Youth and Social Impact,” in Saudi Arabia, a country that persecutes, tortures and assassinates our collective.
The seventh annual “Youth and Social Impact” conference seeks to explore the commitment of young people and their potential to effect change in society at all levels. However, this conference is not going to be able to include the voices of many youth because it will take place in Saudi Arabia, a country that silences the LGBT collective by threatening them with prison, torture, and even death.
Saudi Arabian laws explicitly prohibit homosexual contact, going so far as to punish this act with the death penalty. Furthermore, the act of positively speaking about homosexuality carries a punishment of 450 lashes. Even the private sphere, such as social media, is closely monitored by the country’s religious police for homosexual activity.
It is practically impossible to criticize these policies from within the country: any word against them is considered an attack against Islam and, thus, a “terrorist” attack against the state. Therefore, our collective cannot run the risk of entering a country where they may be arrested and severely punished simply for being who they are.
Impossibility for all youth to discuss their own impact
The representative of education at Colega Madrid, Ana Riveiro, doesn’t understand “how an international organization like UNESCO can renounce its values and organize a global summit in a country that systematically violates human rights.”
“In fact, no one is going to be able to make any declaration about the human rights of our community because that would violate the Saudi Arabian penal code,” confirms Orlando López, the president of Kifkif.
“We are very sorry that UNESCO left out more than 10% of all youth,” continues Riveiro, “negating their right to express themselves, ignoring their needs, and preventing them from participating in the construction of a better world.”
“For our part, we hope that UNESCO reconsiders the celebration of events like these in countries that don’t respect the most fundamental rights, like Saudi Arabia, and looks for locations where people can freely express themselves,” concludes López.