"Boulak 4" Sentenced to Three Years in Prison: Europe and the Us
Bankroll Brutality Abroad
E-Mail Blast The Abusers and their Allies!!
Emergency Response Network
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
On February 3, 2002, a court in Boulak-al-Dakrour (in Giza, a suburb of
Cairo) convicted four men for consensual homosexual behavior. A judge
sentenced each to three years in prison with three years’ probation to
follow. Days later, Europe and the United States gave Egypt billions of
dollars to keep such courts, police, and prisons running.
The "Boulak 4" had been arrested on November 10, 2001. The
Egyptian press announced the arrests on November 15, the morning after
verdicts were handed down in the "Cairo 52" trial—in an apparent
signal that State pursuit of suspected homosexuals would be unrelenting. That
day, an IGLHRC representative was able to speak to one of the men through the
bars of a police wagon at the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Boulak. The
prisoner told how all four had been beaten and ill-treated during
The four men have been jailed since their arrest. The February 3 session
was the only full hearing in the case. Prosecutors called no witnesses and
submitted virtually no evidence. Other hearings had been aborted because the
prosecution failed to summon the accused from prison. The judge had earlier
described the defendants in abusive language.
Persecution for suspected homosexual conduct continues in Egypt. At least
eight men now face trial in Damanhour, capital of Al-Beheira province; the
Egyptian press has already described them as the "Beheira Perverts’
Organization." IGLHRC has also learned of seven men who were arrested and
tortured for alleged homosexual conduct after a September 2001 police raid on
a birthday party in Haram, a Cairo suburb. More information on these cases can
be found below.
IGLHRC is alarmed not only by the pattern of persecution, but by other
governments’ unconcern—a malign neglect almost amounting to tacit
approval. Barely two weeks after the Cairo 52 verdicts, the European Union
approved a new trade agreement with Egypt, brushing aside human rights
concerns. Three days after the Boulak verdict, the United States and the
European Union, joined by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund,
pledged over $10 billion in aid to Egypt.
IGLHRC calls for IMMEDIATE letters to the Egyptian government to protest
these ongoing arrests. IGLHRC also calls for IMMEDIATE letters to officials of
the European Union and of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United
States. Condemn the bankrolling of brutality. Urge them to link their aid
programs to human rights records in all cases, throughout the region and
worldwide, and to promote basic values of freedom and justice in their
dealings with all their allies.
Below, find e-mail addresses to write to; a sample letter; and a Background
section with information on:
A. The "Boulak Four"
B. The Damanhour case
C. The "Birthday ambush" in Haram
D. Human rights and European and US aid to Egypt
A sample letter for Egyptian officials, and another for European and US
officials, can be found below. Send e-mail messages to:
His Excellency, President Mohammad Hosni Mubarak
His Excellency, Counsellor Farouk Seif Al Nasr
Minister of Justice
Mr Ahmed Maher Al-Sayad
Minister of Foreign Affairs
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or ForMin@idsc.gov.eg
Note: These addresses may be shut down in response to mass e-mails.
If so, try resending the message in a few days.
Mr. Romano Prodi
President of the European Commission
Mr. Christopher Patten
Member of the European Commission, External Relations
Herr Elmar Brok, Chairman, European Parliament Committee on Foreign
Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security, and Defense Policy (Germany)
Mr Geoffrey Van Orden, Vice-Chairman, European Parliament Committee on
Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security, and Defense Policy (United
M. Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic
Go to http://www.elysee.fr/ecrire/mail.htm
and paste your message into the box
M. Lionel Jospin, Prime Minister
Go to http://www.premier-ministre.gouv.fr/PM/MAIL.HTM
and paste your message into the box
M. Hubert Vedrine, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Herr Gerhard Schroeder, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
Herr Joschka Fischer, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Rt. Hon. Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth
Or go to http://www.fco.gov.uk/feedback.asp
and paste your message into the box
Mr. George W. Bush, President of the United States
Mr. Colin Powell, Secretary of State
To Egyptian Officials:
I am shocked by the continuing persecution of people suspected of
consensual homosexual behavior in Egypt.
On February 3, four men were convicted of homosexual behavior by a court in
Boulak-al-Dakrour, and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment each. This
trial took place under unfair conditions. No evidence was introduced to prove
their guilt; the judge abusively called the men "khawalat" in open
court. In Damanhour in Al-Beheira governorate, eight men were arrested in
January for alleged homosexual behavior. I am shocked by other reports of
police raids on private residences. I am also shocked by reports that police
entrap men through the Internet.
These abuses must stop.
Your government has recently allowed a new trial for Saad Eddin Ibrahim,
who was imprisoned for the exercise of his political and civil rights. You
should see that he is pardoned immediately—and that the 23 men convicted of
homosexual acts on November 14, 2001, who were tried by the same repressive
courts, are similarly freed. You should also ensure that all persons now
imprisoned or facing trial under Article 9(c) of Law 10/1961 are immediately
freed, and that this repressive law is repealed.
To European and Us Officials:
(Please remove last two sentences before pasting into the UK Foreign Office
web page text box, to fit character limits)
Dear . . .
I am shocked that Europe and the United States continue to lavish aid on
the government of Egypt despite its repressive policies.
Egypt regularly tortures and imprisons men for consensual homosexual
behavior. In Boulak-al-Dakrour, 4 men received 3-year prison sentences on
February 3; in Damanhour, eight men were rounded up in January for the same
"crime." These follow the 2001 Cairo case in which 23 men were
sentenced to years at hard labor.
The persecution of homosexuals is of a piece with the persecution of other
groups in Egypt, including non-violent Muslim activists who are jailed and
tortured under repressive legislation which conflates dissent with
Democracies discredit themselves by turning a blind eye to violence and
abuse. I am shocked by the US/European decision to support Egypt with $10
billion in aid, only days after the Boulak verdict. Please strongly condemn
Egypt’s brutal persecution of homosexual conduct, as well as its suppression
of other forms of dissent. Please see that your support for so-called allies
worldwide, whoever they may be, is firmly tied to an examination of their
human rights records. Human rights must not be detached from a humane foreign
A. The "Boulak Four"
On November 10, 2001—four days before the verdict was handed down in the
Cairo 52 case—four men were arrested in or around the Boulak-al-Dakrour
district in Giza, a Cairo suburb. The arrests were first reported on November
15, in the newspapers Al-Akhbar and Al-Gomhureya, as addenda to their articles
on the Cairo 52 trial. The papers stated that the men had been arrested for
turning an apartment into a "den of perversion."
The exact circumstances of the arrest are unclear. Prosecution accounts
later claimed the men were arrested at the alleged apartment. The accused and
their lawyers stated that all were seized on the street—one in Giza Square
in Giza, the other three were arrested one by one in various places around
Cairo. apparently fingered by an informer. (See Section C below for more
information on informers.)
An IGLHRC representative, in Cairo to attend the November 14 trial,
immediately learned that the four menwere being questioned at the Boulak
Public Prosecutor’s office. Arriving there, the IGLHRC representative was
able to speak to one of the defendants through the bars of a police wagon.
Speaking in tears, the defendant said that he had been stripped naked and
beaten with batons, splashed with cold water in the face, and left hanging by
the bars in his jail cell. He said the other three defendants had been beaten
as well. He said that only two of the defendants actually knew one another
before their arrests.
Only by chance had the accused men been able to get legal representation—a
difficult task for detainees, whom the Egyptian criminal justice system
virtually bars from contact with the outside world. At their first
interrogation at the Public Prosecutor’s office, the four had seen two
lawyers passing in the hall and had begged them in tears to take the case. At
the November 15 hearing at the Prosecutors’ office, their detention was
extended for 45 days. Detention was renewed again at a January 1 hearing, with
the prisoners ultimately moved to Tora Prison.
The four defendants—Rami S., Sherif H., Sherif A., and Mohammed S.—were
jailed until their trial ultimately took place on February 3. January saw a
display of ineptitude by the Boulak Public Prosecutor’s Office. The trial
was scheduled to begin on January 20 in the Boulak al-Dakrour Court of
Misdemeanors; however, the prosecution had neglected to send a summons to Tora
Prison, to bring the prisoners to court. The judge opened the proceedings by
demanding of the bailiff, "Where are the khawalat [a demeaning term for
transvestites or homosexuals]? Bring in the khawalat."
A hearing was next attempted on January 27; the prisoners were again
absent, as the prosecution had still not sent a summons. The judge issued
another summons for February 3, and this time sent the men’s defense lawyer
to carry it to Tora Prison, warning him that if the prisoners were not brought
to court on that date he might sentence them in absentia.
The prisoners finally appeared at the February 3 hearing, white-clad and
with their heads shaven. The trial was conducted in the office of Judge Medhat
Fahwaikh, with a representative of Amnesty International also in attendance.
The men were charged with "habitual practice of debauchery" [al-fujur]
under Article 9(c) of Law 10/1961—a provision commonly used in Egypt to
consensual homosexual behavior. However, they were also apparently charged
under other Articles in that law which criminalize prostitution, and it was
alleged that they had run an apartment for homosexual prostitution. The
prosecution introduced the address of an apartment but no contract showing its
owner/renter, or any evidence that any of the defendants were connected with
it. All defendants denied the charge or any such connection.
IGLHRC is gravely concerned that the Egyptian government—aware that the
mandates of major international human rights organizations may include
consensual homosexual conduct but not prostitution—intends to place future
defendants outside the penumbra of protection by charging them with performing
homosexual acts for money.
The prosecution introduced virtually no other evidence. The defendants had
not been referred to forensic examinations, and none had confessed. No
prosecution witness was summoned. The vice squad officer responsible for the
arrests never appeared, despite no fewer than four summons. Nonetheless, the
judge convicted all four men, and sentenced them to three years’
imprisonment, to be followed by three years’ probation.
Because (unlike the Cairo 52 trial) this case was not heard by an Emergency
Special Security Court for Misdemeanors, the defendants are allowed to appeal.
B. The Damanhour Case
On January 20, 2002, the opposition newspaper Al-Wafd reported the arrest
of a "network of perverts" in Damanhour, the capital of Al-Beheira
province, southwest of Alexandria. The newspaper report was headlined,
"Major Network of Perverts Arrested in Al-Beheira: Social Security
employee used his home as a lair for the practice of debauchery." The
newspaper said that eight men had been jailed after police "stormed the
apartment" and found the eight defendants "in debauched
positions." It also stated that some of the defendants "were wearing
gowns and makeup."
According to the report, the civil servant who owned the apartment was
arrested along with all others present. The prisoners reportedly included an
upholsterer (52 years old), a shoe-shiner (52 years old), a factory employee
(37 years old), a mechanic (32 years old), and a carter (19 years old).
Damanhour prosecutor Yaseen Zaghloul ordered that the men be subjected to
medical examinations of their genitals and anuses. Police confiscated "an
address book containing the names and addresses of a large number of
perverts," the newspaper said— raising fears of further arrests.
Activists in Cairo were able to hire an attorney to investigate the case.
On January 23 he was able to speak to police in Damanhour. However, the chief
inspector, whom police identified only as Yaseen Bey, refused to share
information or show him the police report. (One difficulty faced by pre-trial
detainees in Egypt is obtaining legal representation: only the detainee
himself or immediate family can sign documents authorizing representation, a
right denied to NGOs, friends, and others. However, the prisoner obviously has
severely restricted contact with the outside world; and in cases, such as this
one, where stigma and shame are severe, relatives may sever relations with the
defendant—or the defendant may wish to conceal the case from them.) The
lawyer was able to learn that three men had been released, apparently on bail,
but five were still imprisoned: police refused to tell him their names. The
secretary at the police station said to the attorney, "dol mosh fujur ya
austaz dool khawalat" [it is not a case of "debauchery" but of
On January 26, the defendants appeared before a judge, who extended their
detention for a further 45 days. It is unclear whether the 3 who had
reportedly been freed were again jailed. Officials closed the hearing and
barred the attorney from attending, and the prosecutor told him, "I have
orders to be extra careful in this particular case."
The attorney continues to attempt to contact the prisoners and obtain the
right to represent them. In the meantime, on January 28, the national paper
Al-Osboa published what purported to be the "Beheira Perverts
Organization Ringleader’s Confession," recounting how he and his
confederates "plotted ways and means which would lead us to our
fellow-perverts." The article included initials, ages, and employment
details of most of the accused.
The exact charges are still not known. IGLHRC fears that the allegations,
involving "debauchery" in an apartment, resemble the "Boulak
Four" case—and that the government may again try to mask the
persecution of suspected homosexuals under legal strictures against
C. The "Birthday Ambush" In Haram
IGLHRC has learned disturbing details of a 2001 case in which an informer
handed seven suspected homosexuals over to the police. The case may be
connected to the case of the "Boulak Four."
"H" recounts that on September 7, with a friend, he attended a
birthday party in the Cairo suburb of Haram, at the apartment of a man named
Sherif, whom they had met at a discotheque. Six other men were present. At 11
PM, Sherif left to buy more drinks, locking the men in the flat. Fifteen
minutes later, the police came—unlocking the apartment door with its key.
All seven in the flat were taken to the Haram Police Station. Police told
them they would be questioned about a case of theft, then freed. However, they
were held in detention for two days. Only on their first appearance before the
Public Prosecutor did they learn that they were charged with the
"habitual practice of debauchery" under Law 10/1961.
Their detention was extended for four days, then for an additional 45. In
the end, the men spent almost two months in custody. "H" reports
that for the first 25 days, in the lockup in Haram Police Station, they were
beaten every day. They were eventually released after a court hearing.
"H" does not know what happened to the other six defendants.
He did not attend his trial. However, an attorney making inquiries at the
Haram Court of Misdemeanors was able to learn that "H" was sentenced
to six months’ imprisonment. He faces serving this sentence if found by the
police. "H" reportedly learned about the case of the "Boulak
Four" while in detention in Haram Police Station, and heard that Sherif
had also informed on them to the police.
D. Human Rights and European and Us Aid to Egypt
On November 30—two weeks after the Cairo 52 verdict was handed down—the
European Parliament approved a Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement for
economic cooperation between Egypt and the European Union.
Many parliamentarians criticized Egypt’s human rights record. The
European Union’s External Affairs Commissioner, Chris Patten, told the
Parliament that Egypt had "made many strides" in both economic
reform and human rights. However, British MEP Michael Cashman protested
strongly to Patten, and secured signatures of 32 MEPs to a letter to President
Mubarak, expressing concern over the Cairo 52 trial. The Parliament’s
Committee on Foreign Affairs produced a report calling on the Egyptian
government to respect human rights, repeal the death penalty, and end trials
of suspected homosexuals.
Amid the controversy, the Speaker of the Egyptian People’s Assembly,
Fathi Sourour, wrote to the European Parliament, declaring that "Only the
Egyptian Parliament has the right to monitor the respect of the
government" for human rights. He also asserted that "homosexuality
does not figure in Egyptian law," and that the Cairo 52 were
"accused of debauchery and contempt of religion," not homosexual
acts. Sourour’s mendacious statements were apparently accepted by the
Parliament in approving the accord.
The founding treaties of the European Union make human rights putatively
central to its external relations and economic agreements. The 1993 Treaty on
European Union mandated that Community policy in the area of development
cooperation "shall contribute to the general objective of developing and
consolidating democracy and the rule of law and to that of respecting human
rights and fundamental freedoms." Article J.1 of the 1999 Treaty of
Amsterdam named the same purpose as an object of the Union’s foreign and
security policy. And the 2001 Treaty of Nice made the same requirement of all
"economic financial, and technical cooperation measures with third
countries." As a result, EU economic agreements with other countries have
since the mid-1990s always included a "human rights clause," making
enforcement of the agreement depend on respect for human rights by both
parties. Sample language usually reads (among other promises): "The
Parties refer to their international obligations and commitments concerning
respect for human rights. They reiterate their deep attachment to human
dignity and human rights, which are legitimate aspirations of individuals and
peoples. Human rights are universal, indivisible and inter-related. The
Parties undertake to promote and protect all fundamental freedoms and human
rights, be they civil and political, or economic, social and cultural. . . .
Respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law . . .
shall underpin the domestic and international policies of the Parties and
constitute the essential elements of this Agreement."
The European Union’s self-deception about Egypt’s rights record raises
renewed questions about whether such clauses are effective or enforceable, and
whether such words retain their dictionary meanings. MEP Cashman, together
with several colleagues, has introduced resolutions calling for the European
Commission to "draft a concrete proposal for the implementation of the
human rights clause." IGLHRC urgently supports such measures to turn
paper rhetoric into proper action. (See http://www.michaelcashmanmep.org.uk/press/releases/22_11_2001_egypt.htm
for more information on the European Parliament and Egypt.)
The United States, meanwhile, regards Israel and Egypt as its prime allies
in the region, supports both with extensive foreign aid, and only gingerly
criticizes the human rights record of either. On February 6—three days after
the "Boulak Four" verdict—representatives of the United States and
the European Union, together with the World Bank and International Monetary
Fund, met at Sharm-el-Sheik to pledge Egypt $10.3 billion in aid over three
years. Over $2 billion would be disbursed immediately. The US delegation head
praised Egypt’s "quest for regional peace and stability."
Reports of the discussions do not suggest that human rights concerns were
raised. The World Bank, however, issued a statement calling for
"accelerating structural reforms [and] improving the business
environment." The words suggest that the aid may be destined for only
limited sectors of the population, and that the politics of impoverishment—which
drive many developing States to demagoguery and abuse, in quest of
distractions from economic and social disaster—may also, in Egypt, proceed
The mission of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
is to protect and advance the human rights of all people and communities
subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation, gender
identity, or HIV status.
1360 Mission Street, Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94103
How to Subscribe to Our Emergency Response Network (ERN):
To receive our action alerts via email (saving printing costs, postage, and
trees), write to email@example.com,
with a blank subject line, and the following message in the body of the email:
For the English version: "subscribe ern-en <your email
For the Spanish version: "subscribe ern-es <your email
[Home] [World] [Egypt]