Violence against homosexuals in Amsterdam seems to be on the increase. There are no hard figures but the number of reports is certainly rising. The perpetrators are mainly youths with a Moroccan background. But Arab homosexuals are also increasingly likely to be victims, says author, expert on gay issues and authority on the Amsterdam Arab gay scene, Rauf Moussad.
Moussad is a regular at the Habibi Ana in Amsterdam, a popular café with many Arab homosexuals. He is hearing more and more stories of violent assaults. Serious concerns were also expressed at a recent meeting for homosexuals held in the Amsterdam venue Paradiso. “I’m also more careful than I used to be when I leave Habibi Ana at night. The situation has really become more dangerous.”
The matter is receiving increasing attention in the Dutch media. This week and last week articles appeared on attacks on homosexuals by groups of youths. One of the victims was seriously injured. Rauf doesn’t think the increasing media attention is fuelling fears. He thinks the attention is “appropriate” because it makes people aware of what is happening.
The homosexual interest group COC is also sounding the alarm. It says that “old-fashioned queer-bashing” is back. The Amsterdam police have also observed an increase in the number of reports of violence against homosexuals. In the first half of this year a special phone line received 17 reported cases, a higher figure than for the whole of 2006. It is possible that the number of reports has also increased as awareness of the phone line has grown, but Elly Lust of the Amsterdam police thinks there is more to it than this alone:“For a long time Amsterdam has been the ‘gay capital of the world’, but now that seems to be changing. And of course, it’s something we don’t want to happen.”And although Officer Lust emphasises that although people with a purely Dutch background also harass homosexuals, most of those responsible are Moroccan. “As society has become more diverse, with different religions and cultures, the levels of tolerance towards homosexuality have also become more diverse.
But Rauf Moussad then wonders why the incidence of violence against homosexuals should have increased particularly in the last few years, when Dutch society has been “diverse” for much longer. He believes it is a reaction to the anti-Islamic sentiments that have permeated the parties of the right since the rise of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And many young Moroccans feel isolated and frustrated, says Mr Moussad. “They speak Dutch and they’re getting qualifications, but they aren’t part of Dutch society. Yes, with all due respect, they get jobs at supermarket checkouts. But the media is white and all the other prestigious professions are dominated by people with an ethnic Dutch background.”
And Mr Moussad believes this is why they are looking to religion and attending mosques where hatred towards homosexuality is sometimes preached. The young people also develop feelings of hatred towards the society which is excluding them, and hence towards all its typical values, such as tolerance of homosexuality. The increase in attacks on Arab homosexuals is easily explained, says Mr Moussad. They represent these Western values. Furthermore, they are defenceless. They keep their sexual orientation hidden from their families, so they are unlikely to report an assault to the police.
Pink in blue
It isn’t known how many of the reports to the special Amsterdam police phone line come from Arab homosexuals. Els Lust points out there is also a high threshold for Dutch heterosexuals to approach the police. Consequently a special unit has been created, consisting entirely of homosexual police officers, known as “pink in blue”. They man the special phone line and patrol events like the Gay Parade in Amsterdam, which will take place next week on Saturday 4 August.
For more information: radionetherlands.nl