April 7th, 2008
06:31 PM ET

Hard topics in the Arab world find the Internet

An Egyptian man with AIDS finds his voice on the internet website YouTube.

In a carefully crafted eight-minute clip, he highlights the stigma surrounding living with AIDS in the Arab world.

"I haven't seen my family in 5 years. I left them when I felt that their life will be easier without me. You know how rude neighbors and friends can be? I got tired so I left."

He then describes his family’s rejection: "my sister once said, 'leave us alone I don't want my kids to be... queer like you.' The words hurt me. Queer means abnormal, scandalous, and disgraceful."

With some 40,000 views on YouTube, the posting is inspiring debate. The kind that is generally missing in the Arab world. 

Syrian blogger Ammar Abdulhamid says, "The Internet came and gave an opportunity for activists, new voices, young people, democracy promoters and human rights activists. They are right there trying to carve a niche for themselves in this world."

A niche that activists are exploring no matter what their agenda is. From expressing one's homosexuality openly in Egypt with a gay man taping himself belly dancing, to the gay community in Lebanon asking for their rights to live, love and co-exist in another well-produced YouTube video.

Even the Queen of Jordan has posted a message on YouTube recently. Queen Rania claims she wants to dispel the negative image Arabs have in the west. In the video, she says, "I hope to be receiving from YouTubers some of the questions they have about some of the common stereotypes they hear about the Arab the world." She promises to answer the questions later this year.

Questions are already pouring in along with skepticism about the motives behind this initiative. Some of them claiming that the Queen is on a diplomatic mission trying to get exposure for herself and for Jordan.

One questioner says, "I'm afraid that the answers to the questions are already known” and calls for openness and transparency in Jordan to change the world’s opinion.

It is increasingly obvious that Arabs are turning to the social networking and video sharing websites to vent, call attention and rally support for their causes.


-Octavia Nasr,  Arab Affairs Editor

Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?

Filed under: Internet • Octavia Nasr
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Slater

    My best friend died of AIDS in 1996. He went from a famous guy to a guy with one friend; me.

    Suddenly his friends were afraid to touch him, hug him, or drink from the same straw. The difference with me was that I went and got educated about the disease.

    I found out later that while education was a barrier, a lot of his friends were engaging in the same risky behavior that got him the disease. Seeing him was a reminder that the disease did not discriminate and that yes, it can happen to you.

    On the Arab issue: I have been involved with three Arabs to the point of engagement to be married. As part of my commitment I read the Koran (spelled differently in Arabic). The truth is, they have fundamental Arabs and lenient Arabs (mostly Westernized) just like we have fundamental and lenient versions of our religions in the US.

    I could do a complete analysis, however, I recommend reading the Koran just for contrast to our culture in the US. Many of your astigmatisms may fall away, and they may not, however if you read it, you can say you have a clearer understanding of it and when you do give opinion, it will be an "informed opine".

    April 8, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  2. Taj

    If people believe in the creation of this universe & existance of God, they should accept & love Gays, lesbians, people with aids, rich or poor, black, white, brown or yellow etc. This is how God has created this universe and these people have the blessing of God. It is foolishness not to welcome them.

    April 8, 2008 at 11:11 am |
  3. Carla Ontario Canada

    This would have been a good segment on ac360. Where has the compassion, love and empathy gone in this world! There is so much hate, name calling, violence on this planet. I feel very sad for this man. Would they have disowned him if he had cancer or so other disease.

    April 8, 2008 at 1:31 am |
  4. Tammy

    The guy with AIDS in Egypt should talk to the countless gay men in America with AIDS whose families and religions tell them they deserve to die because of their lifestyles. The gay men with no rights in other countries should talk to gay men and lesbian women in America who still don't have the same rights as heterosexual couples, are shunned by their families and churches, are told not to tell in our military, have children who are teased because their parents love someone of the same gender, and still can't out themselves for fear of what some zealot will do to them personally and professionally. Bigoted idiots. It really is a small world, after all.

    April 7, 2008 at 7:12 pm |