Syrian authorities have raided several different private gay parties over the last few weeks, arresting over 25 men during the most recent swoop.

According to gaymiddleeast.com, the majority of men arrested have been charged with indulging in “homosexual acts”, while others have been charged with dealing and/or buying and consuming illegal drugs, organising illegal “obscene” parties and “encouraging” homosexual behavior.

All the men arrested are believed to still be in police custody, as their families have refused to pay their bail or even visit them. The mere accusation of homosexuality in Syria carries a dangerous stigma, even if the men are released without charge.

Syrian police are also known to pay special attention to gay cruising areas. Although Gay Middle East News say that to their knowledge no arrests have been made in such places, “there is the presence of what [are]called ‘security agents’ in Syria – commonly known in other parts of the world as ‘secret police’”. Syrian authorities however, claim that their presence in these areas is down to an increase in street robberies and that the parties were initially only raided owing to concerns over drug use.

Gaymiddleeast.com have called on the Syrian government to release the men and drop all charges and to repeal the “antiquated” Article 520 of the 1949 Penal Code which forbids homosexual and lesbian acts.

If the men are convicted, they face up to three years in prison. An article on the above website said that despite contacting Syrian embassies in London and Washington on the matter, they had, as yet, had no response.