Gays Petition Foreign Office Over Arrests at Egyptian Disco
21 August 2001
119 Farringdon Rd., London EC1 3ER England
By Lucy Ward, political correspondent
The Foreign Office is being challenged to warn gay travellers of the risks
of visiting Egypt after 52 men at a Cairo disco were arrested and charged with
Days before the men return to court for Egypts biggest gay trial, a
petition launched today will press for warnings to be placed on Foreign Office
websites alerting tourists to the apparent government clampdown.
The human rights campaign group Amnesty International has already called
for a tourist boycott of Egypt, and the mass arrests prompted international
The petition is being organised by the gay internet company Gay.com. A
spokesman, Mark Watson, said: "We understand that Europeans were arrested
at the same time as the 52 Egyptians but were released after questioning. Gay
groups in Cairo are urging gay tourists not to visit the country.
"We are calling on the Foreign Office to update its travel advice
notice for Egypt."
The petition will also urge the FO minister with responsibility for the
Middle East, Ben Bradshaw, to express concern.
The 52 Egyptians, arrested in May when police raided the Queen Boat, a
floating disco on the river Nile, are due to appear at a closed court on
August 29 in Cairo. They could face prison terms of between three and five
Although homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Egypt, regulations
on offending "public morals and sensitivities" are often used
against gay men.
Egypts prosecutor general, Maher Abdel-Wahid, has accused the defendants
of "exploiting Islam through false interpretation of verses from the
Muslim holy book, the Koran, in order to propagate extremist ideas".
They are also charged with "performing immoral acts, the use of
perverted sexual practices as part of their rituals, contempt and despite of
heavenly religions, and fomenting strife".
The case is being treated as a matter of state security and will be tried
under the emergency law established in 1981 to protect the Egyptian government
from Islamic militants. There is no right of appeal, but sentences have to be
ratified by the president.
The accused, aged between 18 and 35, are all Egyptians. About a dozen
Europeans, along with a Saudi, a Qatari and a Kuwaiti, were released on the
spot. Women were also allowed to leave the boat, which was not an exclusively
gay venue but, unlike most discos in Cairo, had no "couples only"
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We keep our travel advice under
constant review and will obviously look at new information and whether it
warrants an update when it comes in."
FO website advice on Egypt was that travellers should respect local customs
and sensitivities, she added.
[Home] [News] [Egypt]