Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Crackdown in Egypt as suspected gay men arrested


Mashrou Leila concertgoers waive rainbow flags during the Lebanese indie rock band's September 22 concert in Cairo, Egypt. Photo: Courtesy Enterprise Press
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Egyptian police have cracked down on Cairo's LGBT community, detaining nearly two-dozen suspected gay men and subjecting them to anal examinations following a concert where rainbow flags were flown.

Egyptian authorities wouldn't provide information to local LGBT and human rights organizations.

Human rights and Egyptian LGBT rights organizations haven't been able to independently confirm the number of people arrested or the six men alleged to have undergone anal examinations, which are illegal according to international law, reported Amnesty International.

However, 17 men accused of homosexuality were charged with "debauchery" and "incitement to debauchery" and faced a closed-door hearing October 1, reported Al Bawaba.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Dokki Misdemeanor Court in Giza sentenced one unidentified detained individual to six years in prison and a fine for debauchery and inciting debauchery for being among those who raised the rainbow flag at the concert. The court also sentenced the individual to an additional six years probation, requiring the individual to regularly report to police until 2029.

The individual did not have legal representation at the trial.

The individual has now obtained an attorney and is appealing the judgment. A hearing is set for October 11.

HRW attempted to corroborate news reports that at least 14 men arrested in two separate instances September 27 and 28 were scheduled for trial October 1. However, the organization couldn't verify the reports.

At least 22 people have been arrested since the concert, Dalia Abdel Hamid of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a Cairo-based human rights organization, told Middle East Eye.

It isn't illegal to be gay in Egypt, but the Muslim-majority country is very conservative and anti-gay. Police crackdowns are routine and involve authorities raiding gay gatherings and arresting men, charging them with anti-prostitution and debauchery laws that date from the 1950s and 1960s.

The most high-profile incident was when the Queen Boat. The gay-friendly floating nightclub on the Nile was raided in 2011 and 52 men were arrested. More recently, last year 11 men suspected of being gay were sentenced to 12 years in prison for inciting debauchery.

Mashrou Leila is a Lebanese indie rock band whose lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is gay. The band's music often addresses issues such as homophobia, politics, sexism, sexual freedom, social justice, and religion.

The band performed, along with a band from Jordan and a local Egyptian band, in Cairo September 22, according to Mashrou Leila's statement posted on Facebook late October 2 after news of the arrests.

During the concert, which was attended by an estimated 35,000 people, several groups of individuals raised rainbow flags. Videos of the flags went viral, sparking a heated debate about LGBT rights throughout the country.

In the statement, band members said they were "heartbroken" that their music was being "used to scapegoat yet another crackdown by the government." They denounced the men's arrests, the hate speech spread by the government and media outlets, and apathy.

A week passed as the band members gathered and sorted through false news reports filled with hate speech and weighed inflaming the situation any further, they wrote. However, they realized that the "state apparatus is hell-bent on executing the most atrocious of human violations."

"It is sickening to think that all this hysteria has been generated over a couple of kids raising a piece of cloth that stands for love," wrote the band, apologizing to its fans that the Egyptian government was using its concert as an excuse to attack them.

The band, in a release, called for an international campaign for Egypt to halt its ongoing witch-hunt of LGBT people and release the detainees.

M-Coalition, a local HIV/AIDS organization, called on supporters to use #WeAreStillStrong in their messages, reported Gay Star News.

The Egyptian Musicians Syndicate opened an investigation into the event, and Mashrou Leila has been banned from hosting future performances in Egypt, reported HRW.

Amnesty International, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and HRW also denounced the crackdown in Egypt.

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa at HRW, and Najia Bounaim, North Africa campaigns director at Amnesty International, demanded the detainees be released.

"The Egyptian government, by rounding people up based on their presumed sexual orientation, is showing flagrant disregard for their rights," Whitson said in a September 30 statement from the organization.

Bounaim called Egypt's public prosecutor's "hunting down people based on their perceived sexual orientation ... utterly deplorable."


Appeal filed on behalf of Lively

Even though he won his case, anti-gay pastor Scott Lively is appealing the decision.

Liberty Counsel filed the appeal on Lively's behalf October 3 with the First U.S. District Court of Appeals.

The appeal is an attempt to strike "prejudicial language" in federal Judge Michael A. Ponsor's June 5 ruling and dismissal of the case brought against Lively by Sexual Minorities Uganda, also known as SMUG.

In its lawsuit, SMUG charged Lively with crimes against humanity for his work against gays in the African country.

Liberty Counsel claims that the court lacked jurisdiction on SMUG's claims and called for Ponsor's conclusions about Lively's faith " without even a pretense of legal or factual analysis" to be struck from the court's opinion, according to a news release.

The legal organization cited Ponsor's findings that Lively "supplied no financial backing, directed no physical violence, hired no employees and he provided no supplies or other material support," according to the release.

"Today we defend Pastor Scott Lively's name in the Court of Appeals and work to remedy Judge Ponsor's shameful diatribe against Lively's Christian values and beliefs," said Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel's vice president of legal affairs and chief litigation counsel. He was referring to Ponsor's statements in his opinion calling Lively a "crackpot bigot," among other things, according to the release.

"Once Judge Ponsor concluded that he lacked jurisdiction over SMUG's preposterous lawsuit, the only thing left to do was dismiss it. However, instead he chose to include an unnecessary tirade of words against the pastor," Mihet said.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented SMUG, responded to Lively's appeal.

"We believe Lively's appeal of a ruling he actually won – because of language in the opinion he objects to – to be meritless and have filed a motion to dismiss it with the Court of Appeals," said CCR senior staff attorney Pamela Spees. "Moreover, the notion that the court's ruling amounts to an attack on his 'Christian values and beliefs' is an attempt to district from his attacks on the basic, fundamental rights to equality and free speech of LGBT people in Uganda and elsewhere."


First gay couple weds in Germany

Karl Kreile, 59, and Bodo Mende, 60, tied the knot October 1, becoming Germany's first gay couple to wed as the new law took effect.

The couple, who have been together since 1979, exchanged vows and cut a rainbow cake during a ceremony at Schoeneberg town hall in Berlin.

"This is an emotional moment with great symbolism," Kreile told reporters. "The transition to the term 'marriage' shows that the German state recognizes us as real equals."

Germany legalized same-sex marriage in June.

The couple were marriage equality activists and one of the first to enter into a civil partnership in 2002 when it became legal.

Civil partnerships granted fewer legal rights to same-sex couples than marriage for heterosexual couples.

The marriage equality law also granted adoption rights to same-sex couples. The first adoption was expected to occur Wednesday, Joerg Steinert, who is the head of the Berlin branch of Germany's LGBT association, told ABC News.

However, there is a technical glitch in Germany's marriage registration system. The system, even after next year's upgrade, won't be able to reflect the genders in accordance to the new law. Kreile and Mende are sorting out who will register as "man" and who will register as "woman," reported ABC.

Other German city marriage offices specially opened Sunday to perform same-sex weddings, according to media reports.


Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at Skype: heather.cassell or



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