Egyptian Trial Draws International Concern
The Data Lounge,
August 17, 2001
CAIRO, EgyptThe trial of 52 gay Egyptian men
accused of "offending Islam" and "practicing debauchery"
continues to arouse concern and promises of gay-organized protests in major
world capitals, the BBC reports.
The men were arrested in May when police raided a luxury river boat called
"Queen Boat" moored on the Nile in Cairo. The floating disco was a
popular gay hang-out because it allowed men to enter without the accompaniment
of women, which us highly unusual.
The Queen Boats new management is emphatic about the changes in its door
policy since the raid. "Couples, couples, couplesman and woman,"
the BBC quotes a manager as saying.
Nigad Borai, a pro-democracy activist, told the news agency he believes
the case is primarily an attempt by Egyptian authorities to deflect peoples
attention from other problems.
"Were facing a very, very bad economic situation. Were facing a
very bad political situation. Then from time to time its better for the
government to divert attention from the real problems that they face," he
Many gay Egyptians believe their increasing visibility on the internet may
have prompted the authorities to increase its surveillance of the community,
but they say they also make an easy target.
One of the defendants, an English teacher at the British Council in Cairo,
struggled to talk to reporters through the bars of the defendants
enclosure. "I want to know, what have I done? I am not a criminal to be
in the prison. Ive been in the prison for 95 days, for what crime?
"People are suffering, we are really suffering. Whats the aim
behind all this?"
The signs of an impending crackdown were visible early in the year, when
the government began the systematic closing of Turkish baths in Cairo, long
one of the few safe havens in Egypt for gay men to socialize and find
The February 2001 bath closures coincided with the shutting down of several
websites catering to gay Egyptians. The offices were raided by security
officials, the operators arrested and the computers seized.
The BBC reports a cultural clash has erupted between Egyptian and foreign
human rights activists, who are angry that local groups have shown absolutely
no interest in involving themselves in the case. Hisham Kassem of the Egyptian
Human Rights Organization told the BBC that taking on gay rights could
jeopardize other work.
The Egyptian press has also been avidly whipping up the sensational aspects
of the story. "In all the Egyptian media theyve been attacking
homosexuals and describing them as agents of Israel, and of course they dont
mention the word homosexuals they say perverts," a source
calling himself Horus told the BBC.
He said that as Egypts gay community came out on the web, the
authorities adopted a more aggressive posture. "They used to say that we
dont have homosexuals ... homosexuals are only in the West. Just lately
they started arresting homosexuals through the net by going to matchmakers
websites and making dates with gay men and then arresting them."
Horus says that with most of the mailing lists closed down, gay Egyptians
are keeping a low profile, meeting in small groups and leaving the country if
they have the means to do so.
[Home] [News] [Egypt]