Last edited: February 14, 2005

Egypt Continues Gay Crackdown Undeterred

Datalounge, February 13, 2002

CAIRO—As part of its ongoing anti-gay crackdown, Egyptian courts have convicted and sentenced another man to three years in prison for reportedly advertising his interest in other males on a gay website. A court in Cairo sentenced computer engineer Zaky Sayed Zaky Abdel Malik on Feb. 7 to three years in prison, followed by three years’ probation for "promoting immorality." Police allegedly monitored Malik’s ad, which he used to make contact with men for sex, for several months before arresting him.

Twenty-three of 52 men arrested following a raid on the Queen Boat disco, were sentenced by an Egyptian security court in November to prison terms of up to five years. Two weeks ago, security forces arrested eight men in the Nile Delta town of Damanhur on similar charges. Local newspapers refer to the men as a "network of perverts."

Newsweek reports this week that the arrests are an embarrassment to the government of President Hosni Mubarak, who has sought to portray Egypt as a moderate ally in an region awash with radicalism. But the analysis notes the Egyptian crackdown is politically useful.

It is thought the government has orchestrated the anti-gay to bolster its Islamic credentials and create a buffer between the government and radicals. Though condemned in the West, jailing gay people has proved enormously popular.

As has been reported several times this week, not even the country’s major human rights groups want to be associated with protecting the rights of gay people.

Hafez Abu Saada, the Secretary-General of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, said shortly after the Queen Boat raid last May that defending gay rights was not part of his group’s mandate. "Personally, I don’t like the subject of homosexuality, and I don’t want to defend them," he said. Even mildly sympathetic rights groups in Egypt say their credibility would be destroyed if they took up the cause.

Newsweek quotes Western diplomats as saying the current crackdown may have been precipitated by Egyptian security forces after they learned several Egyptian activists were contemplating launching a gay-rights movement in the country. "It’s possible that the security forces said, ‘Oh no—we won’t let that happen’," the unnamed diplomat told the magazine.

Given the country’s potential instability (more than 15,000 Islamic radicals now languish in Egyptian prisons), few expect the crackdown to end anytime soon. That hasn’t stopped international human rights groups from pressing their concerns.

"Homosexuality is not a crime and is not obscene," said Scott Long of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). "Jailing and torturing innocent people is both, and the United States and the European Union [in their dealings with Egypt] need to make that distinction perfectly clear."

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