WHAT most of us know as the Middle East is actually primarily comprised of the entire subset of Asian countries that make up West Asia (the term Middle East refers to the additional South Asian countries of Afghanistan and Iran and an additional small cluster of three East African countries—Libya, Egypt, and Sudan—as well).
As with much of this area of the world, religious beliefs and cultural norms have cultivated a hinderance on social progress, and as such, some of the countries have strict laws against homosexuality—some punishable with imprisonment, and some even punishable by death. Saudi Arabia rarely enforces it, but homosexuality is in the law books as a crime punishable by death. And in other West Asia countries—such as Oman, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Qatar, Syria, and the United Emirate States—homosexuality is in the law books as an imprisonable offense. In the case of Oman, it’s not usually enforced; however, it is enforced in the remainder.
Unlike many Muslim countries, Turkey does not technically outlaw homosexuality. In fact, same-sex sexual activity was legalized in the Ottoman Empire in 1858 and homosexuality has been legal since 1923, when modern Turkey was founded. Istanbul and some of the most tourist-friendly areas, such as Bodrum, have a fairly thriving gay scene, with pulsing dance floors, gay bars, and hamams.
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