Egyptian Tourism Office Slammed by Protesters
March 29, 2002
BERLIN—An expensive dinner sponsored by Egyptian
tourism officials at a travel expo held in Berlin this week was beset upon by
human rights activists protesting recent anti-gay repression in Cairo.
The protest, organized by Amnesty International and other international
human rights groups with a presence in Berlin, passed out leaflets to travel
agents and German government officials as they entered the dinner sponsored by
The dinner was part of a lavishly funded marketing effort being pushed by
the Egyptian government, which is desperate to recover from dramatic losses in
tourism revenue since September 11th. The Berlin Travel Market is the largest
industry gathering of its kind in the world.
Several hundred people accepted the Amnesty notices which outlined the
ongoing anti-gay campaign in Egypt which has resulted in the arrest and
imprisonment of scores of innocent people. Allegations of electric shock
torture and regular beatings at the hands of Egyptian authorities were also
detailed. The human rights leaflets borrowed Egypt’s new tourist logo—a
happyface symbol above the tagline: A Smile On Every Face—by putting it
The protests enraged the Egyptian delegation led by Minister of Tourism,
Mamdouh El Beltagui. Several of them came out to heap abuse at the protesters.
"You are liars! You are against Egypt! You dishonor our country! Get out
of here!" they shouted.
An Egyptair employee entering the hotel where the dinner was being held
told the protesters: "It is wrong to attack Egyptair, we have nothing to
do with this." He then added, "We have three homosexual colleagues
in our offices in Germany, and there is no problem at all because of
But Thomas Kolb, who led the protest effort, said the Egyptair official was
glossing over the issue. "He was omitting the fact that these [airline
employees] would most probably lose their jobs and go to jail if they worked
in the Cairo office of the airline and were known to be gay."
A spokesperson for the airline, who refused to give his name, told German
journalist Juergen Bieniek: "We don’t want gay tourists in Egypt. We
would be very pleased if they did not come here."
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