Last edited: January 26, 2005

Frank Urges Gay Groups to Lobby Against Egypt

Frank accuses Egyptian ambassador of lying, calls Egyptian government brutal

Barney Frank, April 14, 2003
Congressman, 4th District, Massachusetts Washington Office:
2210 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-5931

CONTACT: Daniel McGlinchey 202.225.3548

In the face of a sustained, blatant and increasingly brutal crackdown against gay men in Egypt, Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass) is urging gay groups to lobby Congress against Egypt. Frank also wrote last week to the Egyptian ambassador to the U.S. telling him that he believes the ambassador lied to him last year when he told Frank that Egypt was not targeting and persecuting gay men.

A sweeping campaign in Egypt against gay men caught international attention in May 2001 when state security agents in Cairo arrested 52 allegedly gay men during a raid on a gay nightclub. Since that time, Egyptian authorities have intensified their actions against gay men, raiding private homes and tracking down and entrapping gay men who try to meet people over the Internet. 

Egypt's aggressive anti-gay policy peaked last month, when the verdict in the civilian retrial, which had been ordered by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, of the men arrested at the nightclub raid in Cairo, was handed down. All 21 men who were convicted of "sexual debauchery" in the first trial were again found guilty, but this time they received longer prison sentences - three years in prison, compared with between one and two years in the first trial. Frank organized a number of congressional letters to the Egyptian government over the past two years condemning its persecution of gay men. Egyptian ambassador Nabil Fahmy responded by telling members of Congress that their allegation that the 52 men in Cairo were arrested because of their sexual orientation was "inaccurate." The ambassador told members that the "Egyptian penal code has no provisions against homosexuality per se," and he assured them that Egyptian laws against promiscuity are upheld "without a distinction or discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation." Frank's letter last week to the Egyptian ambassador states in part, "Based on the recent convictions and the continued arrests of gay men in Egypt . . .I can come to no other conclusion than that you lied to me." "I feared then that the ambassador was lying," Frank added, "but I was somewhat encouraged at the time that he felt the need to deny any policy of intolerance towards gays, but in the face of such continued and blatant oppression of men who happen to be gay, I wanted the ambassador to know that his fundamental dishonesty is now evident." Frank also sent letters last week to national gay rights organizations urging them to lobby Congress to curb international assistance to Egypt.

"It would not be practical to seek a total cessation of aid to Egypt," said Frank, "particularly that aid we provide annually to Egypt for the constructive role it played in the late seventies when it signed a peace treaty with Israel. But the Egyptian government has other goals it is seeking that require congressional approval, such as weapons sales, trade preferences and in other areas. Egypt must understand that it cannot continue to be so oppressive towards people's human rights and expect us to support these additional requests." Frank also pointed out the sharp contrast that exists between Israel and all other countries in the Middle East in respect for the right of gays and lesbians to be free from prejudice. "In Israel, for example, gay and lesbian people serve openly in the Israeli army," said Frank, "and those who think that having openly gay and lesbian people in the military undermines the morale and effectiveness of the Army will have a hard time explaining that to the Israeli Defense Force, whose morale and effectiveness I do not think has been recently questioned."

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