Foreign Policy Blogs

Countries that repress gays should not partake in Olympic Games

Countries that repress gays should not partake in Olympic Games

According to an article published in the Russian media titled “Visa with a trick,” this year, the International Olympic Committee is banning Russians from partaking in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris unless they are ideologically opposed to the war in the Ukraine, act under a neutral flag, and have nothing to do with the Russian security agencies. This comes after countries like the Czech Republic banned Russian athletes from partaking in sporting events in their borders and Russian tennis player Vera Zvonareva was barred recently from Poland.  

By taking such a strong stance against Russian athletes, the international community has demonstrated that they care to punish Russia for the crimes against humanity that they have committed in the Ukraine.   Russia also is a country that systematically represses gays, another action which should prompt from them to be penalized by the International Olympic Committee.   In Russia, it is illegal to promote same-sex relations or suggest that it is normal to be gay, according to legislation put forward by Russian President Vladimir Putin last year.

According to Human Rights Watch, “The new laws significantly broaden the scope of a 2013 law which banned the dissemination of LGBTQ-related information to minors. The new iteration extends the ban on promoting such information to adults as well.”   However, Russia is not the only country that represses gays and yet there are many anti-gay countries which are partaking in the International Olympic Games, without anyone batting an eye.

One of these countries is Iran.   Iran is a country where being gay is punishable by death.  Up to 6,000 gays have been executed in Iran since 1979.   Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi also made homophobic remarks on his recent trip to Uganda: “The West today is trying to promote the idea of homosexuality and by promoting homosexuality, they are trying to end the generation of human beings.”  He referred to homosexuality as “one of the dirtiest issues.”

Another country which represses gays that is partaking in the Olympic Games is Yemen.   According to the 1994 Yemenite penal code, married men in the Arab country can be sentenced to death by stoning for homosexual intercourse. Unmarried men face whipping or one year in prison in the war-torn country. Women face up to seven years in prison for being lesbian.

Pakistan is another country that criminalizes gay conduct, with men potentially receiving life imprisonment for gay intercourse, yet the Asian country is participating in the upcoming Olympic Games.  Ifti Nasim, a Pakistani gay poet, within the past year was forced to flee his homeland and move to the United States, after surviving an assassination attempt.   This past year, Pakistan’s first transgender TV anchor also survived an assassination attempt as well.    However, Pakistan is treated at the Olympic Games like a normal country.

The Palestinian Authority is another anti-gay dictatorship that is partaking in the Olympic Games, even though there was a Palestinian gay man who was awaiting asylum in another country last year who was beheaded in Hebron for the crime of being gay.  “We, as Arab LGBT people, are viewed as trash by the Arab-Palestinian society. We are dead in their eyes,” a Palestinian gay man reported.  As a result, countless Palestinian gay men try to flee to Israel, as their lives are constantly in danger in the Palestinian Authority.  

While it is commendable that Russia, an anti-gay country, is getting penalized for the crime of being gay, countries like Iran, Yemen, Pakistan and entities like the Palestinian Authority should receive similar treatment.  Countries and entities that endanger the lives of gay people should not be permitted to partake in the Olympic Games.       



Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and the editor of the Economic Peace Center, which was established by Ayoob Kara, who served as Israel's Communication, Cyber and Satellite Minister. For close to a decade, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iran, and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.