Rainbow toys seized in Saudi ‘homosexuality’ crackdown
- Items targeted in raids include rainbow-coloured bows, hats and pencil cases – the colours send a ‘poisoned message’ to children, a local news report said
- The conservative kingdom regularly attracts scrutiny for its human rights record, including its outlawing of homosexuality, a potential capital offence
Officials in Saudi Arabia are seizing rainbow-coloured toys and articles of clothing from shops in the capital as part of a crackdown on homosexuality, state media reported.
The conservative kingdom opened up to tourism in 2019 but, like other Gulf countries, regularly attracts scrutiny for its human rights record, including its outlawing of homosexuality, a potential capital offence.
Items targeted in the recent raids include rainbow-coloured bows, skirts, hats and pencil cases, most of them apparently manufactured for young children, according to a report broadcast Tuesday evening by the state-run Al-Ekhbariya news channel.
“We are giving a tour of the items that contradict the Islamic faith and public morals and promote homosexual colours targeting the younger generation,” says an official from the commerce ministry, which is involved in the campaign.
Gesturing towards a rainbow flag, a journalist says: “The homosexuality flag is present in one of the Riyadh markets.” The colours send a “poisoned message” to children, the report says.
The report did not detail how many establishments were targeted or items seized in the commerce ministry operation, and Saudi officials did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
The rainbow raids come as Saudi Arabia gains headlines for restrictions on films that depict, or even refer to, sexual minorities.
In April, the kingdom said it had asked Disney to cut “LGBTQ references” from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the latest Marvel film, but that Disney had refused.
Saudi regulators objected to a scene that amounted to “barely 12 seconds” in which one character refers to her “two moms”.
An official said at the time that the government was trying to work with Disney to find a solution, but ultimately the film did not screen in Saudi cinemas.
Tuesday’s Al-Ekhbariya report showed stills of Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange and of apparently foreign children waving rainbow flags.
Disney’s latest animation Lightyear, which features a same-sex kiss, has also been banned in Saudi Arabia and more than a dozen other countries, a source close to Disney said. Riyadh has not commented, but the film has not appeared in the coming attractions of major cinemas.
Saudi Arabia lifted a decades-long ban on all cinemas in late 2017, part of a series of social reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that are shaking up the deeply conservative kingdom.
The country has since seen significant growth in film ticket sales, with revenues totalling US$238 million in 2021, a 95-per cent increase from the previous year, Variety magazine reported in January.