Egypt Escalates Anti-Gay Crackdown
May 15, 2001
CAIRO The Egyptian government dramatically escalated a months-old
nationwide crackdown against its gay citizens last week when Cairo police
stormed a gay party held on a Nile river boat, arresting everyone on board.
The Reuters news agency confirms that as many as 60 predominantly gay men
were taken into custody by Cairo police in the Wednesday night raid. Several
press reports said the party-goers aboard the riverboat disco called the
"Queen Boat" were reportedly celebrating a gay commitment ceremony,
but witnesses labeled the claim as false.
The news agency says five foreigners were detained and released, but that
55 others were being questioned by government prosecutors on charges of
"violating the teachings of religion and propagating depraved ideas and
According to eyewitnesses, ten undercover officers from both state security
and the vice squad entered the boats disco, known as a gay hang-out on
Thursday nights, around 2am. Within minutes they began arresting the Egyptian
men present and loading them onto three vans parked outside.
The boats manager, Mamdouh Eleiwa, told the Cairo Times that a surgeon
and professor at Cairo Universitys Faculty of Medicine was slapped across
the face several times by a police officer and called derogatory gay names
when he refused to go.
While there is nothing in Egyptian penal code that specifically condemns
homosexuality, some statutes criminalizing obscenity and public indecency have
been used against gay men in the past. Since last February, authorities have
taken to manufacturing charges based on "offense to public morals and
sensitivities." Some have erroneously been charged with prostitution.
The Cairo Times also reports that after spending Thursday night at the vice
squad headquarters in Abdin station, the men were questioned for two days by
High State Security Prosecution on charges of "exploiting religion to
promote extreme ideas to create strife and belittling revealed
religions." If found guilty, the defendants could face up to five years
Sources who requested anonymity told the DataLounge that many of the
arrested men are being held in undisclosed locations throughout the Egyptian
capital. There have also been as yet unconfirmed reports that some are being
denied access to lawyers and concerned family members.
The Queen Boat has reportedly been raided before, but detainees have been
released after 3 to 10 days of detention. Sources say this is the first time
that the arrested men have been transferred to the prosecutors office to
face charges. If charged, the defendants will stand before a state security
court, whose rulings are final and incontestable.
The state-owned Al Ahram newspaper published that the defendants were
members of a new devil worshipping cult that included students, doctors and
other professionals. Al Ahrams coverage of state security cases is widely
considered to reflect the prosecutions views. So-called confessions of
"satanic worship" were printed in the newspaper.
Reports indicate local human rights groups are reluctant to side with the
men who have been arrested. "We generally defend liberties but here are
red lines that we should stop at," said Samir Al Bagouri of the
Association for Human Rights Legal Aid.
Hafez Abu Saada, the Secretary-General of the Egyptian Organization for
Human Rights, said similarly that defending gay rights was not part of his
groups mandate. "Personally, I dont like the subject of
homosexuality, and I dont want to defend them," Abu Saada said.
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