The persecution of gays in Egypt continues unabated as seven gay men were ordered to be arrested by Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat for appearing in a video of a same-sex marriage which was posted on YouTube. Despite the fact that neither homoexuality nor gay marriage is illegal there, the seven were detained and subjected to humiliating examinations on the charges of disseminating a video which violated public morals and incited debauchery. The statement by the prosecutor claimed that the images shown would “anger God.” These claims of alleged blasphemy have been repeatedly used to justify the arrest and detention of gay women and men in the country.
Institutionalized religion in the country has led to numerous laws which provide for these types of attacks on the gay community. The legislated morality prevalent in the country’s statutes, police are able to arrest and convict gays for their very existence. It is uncomfortable to begin with for people to give even a hint of their true selves because of the constant fear of public reaction, when government officials add to that the very real possibility of arrest and assault it turns into a self-imposed imprisonment. In that closeted environment, many consider the holding of a marriage ceremony an act of bravery, and the posting of the video on YouTube virtually unimaginable.
The seven men arrested for their participation in the wedding video were arrested and subjected to physical examinations allegedly intended to discover their sexual orientation. These “forensic” anal exams, used supposedly identify homosexual activity, have been publicly criticized by the New York based group, the Human Rights Watch (HRW), along with several other watchdog groups. Graeme Reid, a spokesman for HRW reports that the Egyptian authorities have been regularly using similar tactics to torture and persecute gays, and is currently calling for the release of the seven arrested for the wedding video. He cited the pattern of arrests and abuses as a violation of basic human rights, and a testament to the Egyptian authorities’ disregard for the “rule of law.”
This past April, four gay men received a sentence of imprisonment of up to eight years based on convictions for violations of those religion-driven laws which are directed at repressing homosexual activity. The denial of basic protections under the law has watchdog groups like the HRW calling for more international pressure to be brought to bear on the Egyptian government, and more public awareness of the situation.
Given recent questions raised about the safety of gay-oriented mobile phone apps for social networking which use location-based functions, many have expressed concern over rumors that the Egyptian government has already begun to use the reported security loophole to begin a concerted manhunt for men and women in the country who use them. Some reports even claim that the police are using agents to lure people into compromising situations so that they can be arrested. Egyptian authorities are being tight-lipped about the accusations, but given the lengths they have gone to in order to harass and persecute gays in the country, there are very few that doubt the reports. Egypt has become a very dangerous place to be gay.
By Jim Malone