Egyptian Government Denies Gay Crackdown
April 4, 2003
CAIRO—Despite mass arrests and a
widespread crackdown aimed at smothering what is left of a once thriving gay
scene in Cairo, the Egyptian government has denied a concerted campaign of
anti-gay suppression, The New York Times reports.
The Egyptian government dramatically escalated a
months-old nationwide crackdown against its gay citizens in May 2001 when
Cairo police stormed a gay party held on a Nile river boat, arresting everyone
Some 52 predominantly gay men were taken into custody by
Cairo police in the raid. Early reports carried in the state-run press said
the party-goers aboard the riverboat disco called the “Queen Boat” were
celebrating a gay commitment ceremony. Later dispatches described an orgy.
These claims were later proven to be fabrications by the authorities.
Two weeks ago, a Cairo court convicted 21 of the Queen
Boat defendants of “debauchery” and sentenced each to three years in jail,
after two highly publicized trials that were widely criticized by human rights
groups and Western governments. Gay Egyptians, lawyers and human rights groups
told The Times that the Queen Boat case was only the beginning of an intense
nationwide crackdown that has quietly intensified over the past year.
Since the beginning of 2003, the police have made an
average of one arrest a week. Scott Long, the Egypt researcher for Human
Rights Watch, said he suspected the number of arrests was higher than the
almost 70 tracked since the Queen Boat raid.
One diplomat told The Times that several Western
governments continued to express concerns about the treatment of gays and were
pressing the Egyptians on the matter. One unnamed Western official, “It’s
definitely one of the top issues on our agenda.”
Given the current turmoil in the region, such vague
assurances have given few advocates much hope. Especially when coupled with
continued and unwavering opposition to social liberalization from the
leadership in Cairo.
Nabil Osman, a government spokesman, flatly denied any
such crackdown is underway, though he did say that homosexuality was in
“sharp contradiction with our religious values.”
“You are allowing homosexuality abroad,” Osman said.
“It is not accepted here, and everybody should accept that what is good for
America or for Europe may not be good for another place.”
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