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​MENA Region

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and Queer (“LGBTQ”) citizens across much of the Middle East and North Africa (“MENA region”) are not free: under Islamic Sharia law, same-sex activity is illegal in 10 of the 18 countries in the region, punishable by death in six. State-sponsored repression is reinforced by the social stigma that is strongly influenced by the cultural traditions and religious mores of Muslim communities. A 2013 Pew Research Centre survey found that most people in the region believe homosexuality should be rejected: 97% in Jordan, 95% in Egypt, and 80% in Lebanon. Despite these grave legal and social hurdles, LGBTQ people in the MENA region are finding ways to speak out. They are telling their stories to combat homophobia and transphobia and to exercise their rights.

"Right to breath", uses anonymous portraits and interviews with LGBTQ community members living across the region to invite viewers into the hopes, fears, and lives of everyday people who are fighting just to be who they are. Photographing remotely over Zoom, collaborated with LGBTQ people to make portraits in which their identities are protected. Each portrait is then projected onto a white cloth on which has printed quotations from sharia law, Hadiths, and Verses of the Quran that are criminalizing homosexuality, homosexual acts are forbidden in traditional Islamic jurisprudence and are liable to different punishments, including stoning and the death penalty. The Muslim community as a whole, worldwide, consider homosexuality a grave sin.

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