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"We don't have a lot of lesbians coming out to bars," Ramazzotti says. While they promote AIDS education (at each event they pass out HIV prevention literature printed in Arabic and distributed by ACCESS, although they're not officially affiliated with the group), their primary goal, for now, is social networking and increasing the visibility of gay Arabs."Our long-term goal is to be like a PFLAG-type group," Ramazzotti says, referring to the national organization called Parents Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays.The suffocatingly sweet scent of peach-flavored tobacco wafts through the Male Box, swirling around the disco lights that ricochet off mirrored walls.The smoldering aroma is rising from a series of hookah pipes perched on glitter-flecked tables a rather odd juxtaposition in a beer-and-shot gay bar that's located on a desolate stretch of Seven Mile Road in Detroit.
Just weeks ago, the UN confirmed that gay Iraqis are being targeted for kidnapping and murder by Shi'ite death squads in response to a death-to-gays fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. His eyes are constantly roaming the Male Box, and he can't sit still for more than a moment.Zakharia adds that international news reports often draw huge attention to the plights of gay Arabs.In 2001, police raided a floating gay-friendly disco in Cairo ironically named the Queen Boat and arrested more than 50 men.(Last week it was hacked, the content temporarily replaced with the words "I hope you fucking die.") The site's recent unveiling was a critical step for the group like so many marginalized and secretive communities, gay Arabs found solace on the Internet, which allows them to interact, meet and converse while still retaining the crucial element of anonymity.One of the most popular sites is gayarab.com, which was started by GLAS, the Gay and Lesbian Arabic Society.