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Hamas enforces ban on women smoking water pipes

(AP)
Filed on September 16, 2010

GAZA - Hamas police ordered a Gaza hotel restaurant closed on Wednesday for allowing a woman to smoke a water pipe on its premises, one of its owners said.

It was believed to be the first time that Hamas Islamists who run the Gaza Strip have enforced their ban, announced in July, on women smoking the traditional tobacco-infused pipes in public.

“They acted as if they caught her red-handed committing a crime,” the hotel’s co-owner said of the encounter between Hamas police and the woman.

The man, who asked not to be identified, said the police “accused us of violating tradition and Islamic values” and ordered the hotel closed for three days. The order was later amended to cover only its restaurant.

A Hamas police spokesman denied the closure stemmed from a violation of the water pipe ban but said the hotels’ owners “committed some violations”, which he did not detail.

The water pipe ban has drawn criticism from human rights groups, which have accused Hamas of limiting public freedoms. Hamas leaders have denied any intention to impose Islamic law in the territory. (Writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi) REUTERS

Los Angeles gay Saudi diplomat seeking asylum

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A gay Saudi diplomat seeking political asylum said his position was terminated and he was ordered to return to his home country where he fears he will be killed.

In an e-mail to news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, Saudi consulate official Ali Ahmad Asseri said his passport wasn’t renewed and his position in the Los Angeles office was eliminated after Saudi officials learned that he is gay and he befriended a Jewish woman.

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

“My life is in a great danger here, and if I go back to Saudi Arabia they will kill me openly in broad daylight,” Asseri wrote in the message.

Asseri, who has been in the U.S. for five years, is in hiding, according to supporters.

His lawyer, Ally Bolour, told NBC News — which first reported the story over the weekend — that his client applied for asylum because he was a member of a particular social group that would subject him to persecution if he went back to Saudi Arabia.

Asseri was questioned Aug. 30 by a Department of Homeland Security official in Los Angeles, said Bolour, who declined further comment until the case has been decided.

In July, Asseri posted an appeal to King Abdullah on a popular Arabic website in which he railed against the “backwardness” of Saudi officials and “militant Imams who defaced the tolerance of Islam.”





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