Towards the end of last month, it was brought to world attention that Brunei would become the first country in Southeast Asia to make homosexuality punishable by death. From 3rd April 2019, the sultanate will be imposing death by stoning as a punishment for gay sex and adultery, as part of a three-phased plan (initiated in 2014) to impose Islamic Sharia law at the national level. Homosexuality was criminalised in Brunei under British Colonial Rule, as was done in many colonies, and would have been penalised by imprisonment until now.
SOAS SU joins international outcry and resistance over the planned implementation of these heinous and draconian homophobic laws. We also wish to extend solidarity to all LGBTQIA* members of our community, and amplify their concerns about studying at a university hosting a building so closely affiliated with a country that would so cruelly dehumanise them.
As Sabbs, we support changing the name of the Gallery and stepping up our efforts and commitment to make SOAS spaces as safe as possible. As such, we are calling on students to sign the petition ‘Rename SOAS' Brunei Gallery’. With other colleagues, we are looking into hosting an alternative exhibition in student spaces in the building and holding a panel event and/or teach-ins - to simultaneously take a stand against these laws which punish our community, and celebrate LGBTQIA* identities and struggles. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any ideas or contacts you would like to link into this organising.
We would also like to acknowledge SOAS’ links with Brunei in the form of the Brunei Gallery, which not only hosts exhibitions but also classes and events for SOAS students and the general public. In 1995, the Sultan of Brunei donated funds which were used for the construction of the building and therefore the building was named after the country. According to the School's statement on March 29th, ‘The donor has no role, influence or involvement in the policy or operation of the gallery or the wider School.’ However, it should be noted that in 2008, the Gallery hosted its one and only exhibition from Brunei, titled ‘The Islamic Sultanate of Brunei: Past and Present Culture’.
In 2016, our Director Valerie Amos gave an interview to the Guardian where she reaffirmed that the prospect of removing the Brunei Gallery would be up for debate because “that’s how we work.” We agree with her sentiments and invite students to join in this debate.
We wish to reaffirm our support for forms of resistance against this brutal manifestation of homophobia, and our firm solidarity with LGBTQIA* Bruneians. If there are any students who feel personally affected, we would encourage you to seek support, and to be in touch with us.
Love and solidarity,
Hau-Yu, Soph and Youssra xxxxx
PETITION LINK 'RENAME SOAS BRUNEI GALLERY': https://forms.gle/GSo7KtnfxuiqExac6
SOAS SU DEDICATED WEBPAGE: https://soasunion.org/liberation/bruneiandsoas/
MEDIA LINKS: https://www.soas.ac.uk/news/newsitem139948.html. BBC Asia, Radio 1, BBC Asian Network, BBC London: Youssra Omer Farouk Elmagboul interviewed on SOAS Brunei Gallery