Last edited: February 12, 2005

Gay Activists Launch Protests Against Egypt Network, May 12, 2003

A weekend of protest began Friday in over a dozen cities across the world against the continued trials and detentions of gays in Egypt and to mark the second anniversary of the Queen Boat raid, which led to the arrests and trial of 52 men.

Though many were acquitted after several months, at least 20 were rearrested and convicted for “habitual acts of debauchery,” a euphemism for homosexuality.

Protesters held an hour-long rally in front of the Egyptian mission in New York on Friday. Michael Heflin, director of Amnesty International’s OUTfront program, and journalist Mubarak Dahir, who represented the Gay and Lesbian Arabs, spoke at the event.

Most of those attending the New York rally were asked to wear red in solidarity with those participating in a clandestine gay pride demonstration in Egypt.

A representative in the press office of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C., when contacted on Friday for comment about the protests, repeated the common refrain that homosexuality per se was not illegal in Egypt.

Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told the Network, “I, along with Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), am imploring members of the House to refuse to support free trade agreement with Egypt, until it stops persecution of gays.”

He said he has “no hopes” for the Bush administration, as it went along with the Islamic bloc to stop a key gay rights vote at the United Nations, but said he pins his hopes on congressional allies to help stop Cairo’s persecution.

Faisal Alam, founder of Al-Fatiha, a group for gay Muslims, said from Washington, D.C., that the protest weekend had been planned as part of renewing focus on the “human Egyptian tragedy” unfolding in Egypt but was being neglected “because of the war on terrorism and the Iraq war.”

He said the reason why Egypt had been selected—while there are many Islamic countries with worse records on gay rights—was multifaceted.

“Egypt does not have any laws against homosexuality, it’s the second largest recipient of U.S. monies, or $2 billion each year, even its president and ministers have become parties to the issue, and lastly it is a beacon of hope and light in the larger Muslim community,” Alam said. “Egypt has been striving to improve its democratic credentials.”

Protests are planned for London, Geneva, Madrid, Toronto, Montreal, Paris, Berlin, Hong Kong, Norwegian cities of Bergen and Oslo, Manila and cities across Ireland.

Throughout Europe, the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) teamed up and bolstered Amnesty International’s protest actions. The two bodies are said to be jointly approaching the EU Commission to express concern over the Egypt situation.

In Geneva at noon on Saturday, 52 people will chain themselves on the Place des Nations, the entrance to the European headquarters of the United Nations, while in Washington, Amnesty International’s OUTfront team and Al-Fatiha will stage a “teach in.”

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