Last edited: January 03, 2005

Gay Pride Day in Egypt–May 11, 2003

Red Is the Colour., February 6, 2003

Several small groups of gay men in Egypt have decided collectively to celebrate 11 May as Gay Pride Day. Although they will be also remembering the anniversary of the notorious police arrests and beatings conducted during the infamous raid on the Queen Boat in the early hours of 11 May 2001, they will be also be celebrating Gay Pride! A clear demonstration that Egypt’s gay community is resisting repression, fighting back and still very much alive.

On that day they are asking people to come out on to the streets wearing red, though enthusiasts may well decide not to hide their red clothes in the closet for the rest of the year. It’s a colour they hope will be worn in memory of all those who lost their liberty and were victims of state repression in recent years and also as a clear sign of visibility and resistance.

Red is a particularly appropriate colour. It is the colour of blood and repression but it is also vibrant and can be worn as a clear symbol of defiance. But it is not so exclusive as the rainbow colours as to make it easy for the police to retaliate with arrests.

However, people are advised to be careful about what red clothes to wear and where to wear them. Egyptians in Upper Egypt, including Luxor, Aswan and especially Asyut should be particularly careful.

Elsewhere Egyptians are also urged to consider carefully what red clothes to wear. Red underpants or trousers or anything particularly unusual such as red hankies hanging from back pockets might be used by Egyptian police, especially when the courts seem so ready to accept the flimsiest of evidence, to incriminate individuals who might otherwise escape arrest. However bright red shirts could be worn with less risk and in any number they would be a very visible symbol of open defiance to Egypt’s apparatus of repression.

Tourists are requested to wear as much red as possible, whether they themselves are gay or straight, in sympathy with the gay struggle for freedom in Egypt. They are extremely unlikely to be arrested simply for wearing red clothes and the sight of groups of tourists roaming the streets dressed in red will be a sure sign of the strength of international anger at the State’s homophobic policies that have seen hundreds of gay Egyptians arrested.

One of our Editors, though the rest of us feel it a fanciful notion, insists we suggest that a clenched fist rested discreetly next to one’s drink at a table could also be a sign, not just of open-mindedness on sexuality, but also of liberal reform-minded opposition to Egypt’s corrupt and repressive ancien regime.

But we are all, without exception, delighted by the news that the colour red is rapidly being adopted by Egypt’s gay community. We don’t know quite how and where the idea originated. We wish we could claim credit for it but we can’t. We are very happy however to give the “Wear Red for Gay Freedom” campaign ( we can’t resist the temptation to use a tentative temporary name for this as yet unnamed spontaneous movement ) all the publicity we can.

So, apart from being a vivid vibrant colour of resistance, does red have any special place in Egypt ? It certainly appears so. Red was the favourite colour of Cleopatra and Egypt has both the Red Pyramid and of course the Red Sea with its redish coral reefs and teeming shoals of red fish. It is the colour of the Egyptian national football team and of the traditional tarboosh. It even comprises one third of the national flag. And there is, though set against these other national symbols it might easily be sadly overlooked, also a beautiful Hibiscus flower known as the “Cairo Red”. Wear one only at your own risk!

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