Last edited: February 14, 2005

Egyptian Tourism Office Slammed by Protesters

Datalounge, 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 Egyptair.

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 behind bars.

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 this."

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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