British and American embassies in the United Arab Emirates raised the LGBT+ Pride flag in a historic regional first.
On Monday (28 June) the two embassies tweeted their support for LGBT+ rights as they raised the Pride flag alongside their national flags at their Abu Dhabi residence in the UAE.
t marked the first time any diplomatic mission has flown a Pride flag in the religiously conservative Arab Gulf, where homosexuality is punishable with prison time, chemical castration, public flogging, or even death.
“On the anniversary of Stonewall, a milestone in the American civil rights movement, the US Mission shows its support for the dignity and equality of all people,” the US embassy tweeted.
“June is Pride Month and around the world we celebrate the equality and visibility of LGBT+ people,” the UK embassy wrote. “Today, we are flying the rainbow flag to affirm our pride in the UK’s diversity and our values of equality, inclusion and freedom.”
The move attracted swift backlash from Conservative Emiratis, who were appalled by the visible display of support for LGBT+ people.
Hundreds of comments decried the embassies as “unacceptable,” “disrespectful” or “insulting,” while some suggested their behaviour was “racist”. Many more urged the embassies to remove the flags immediately.
“Very disrespectful from the British Embassy to the UAE and its people. Looks like someone there is still living the long gone UK imperial days,” tweeted Nasser Al-Shaikh, the former director of Dubai’s finance department.
One comment likened the move to a British consulate in the UK “raising a flag of a swastika”. The few who spoke out in favour of the embassy primarily appeared to be Western expats.
No comment has been made by the UAE in an official capacity, although one senior Emirati official speaking anonymously to CNBC labelled the act “so strange”.