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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 18, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 07
Does political revolt in Egypt mean freedom for Gays and Lesbians?
Section One
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Does political revolt in Egypt mean freedom for Gays and Lesbians?

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The resignation of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was a monumental and historic moment for Egypt - and the world - as it showed the power of peaceful protests. The dramatic changes in Egypt, following the uprising in Tunisia, have inspired others in the region to challenge the repression of their own dictatorship and demand democracy.

More than just a political victory, this is a moment of hope for the Egyptian people. Among the country's 82 million people, a large number of LGBT Egyptians - many of whom took part in the ousting of Mubarak - are looking towards an uncertain future as the fate of the Gay community rests in the balance of power between the Egyptian military, the Muslim Brotherhood, and others vying for power over one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Currently, the nation is in the hands of the high council of the Egyptian armed forces. The Egyptian protestors are asking that they end emergency rule and initiate a meaningful and inclusive process of democratic transition to ensure free, fair, and competitive elections.

'We understand that there is, since the fall of Mubarak, a division of opinion,' said Ali Asali, GayEgypt.com editor, in a statement obtained by Seattle Gay News. 'We respect both those who wish to continue to protest and those who prefer to return to their normal lives, having sacrificed their earnings and endangered their own lives by staying out on the street night after night.'

'We hope that all protests are peaceful, and above all, that the army remains loyal to the wishes of the people and continues to refrain from violence,' he said. 'We demand that those guilty of acts of violence against peaceful demonstrators and organizing such actions will, in due time, be brought to court.'

Asali said 'the contribution of thousands of Gay men and women in this revolution should not be forgotten, and freedom for the Lesbian and Gay community must be an integral part of a new democratic society.'

GayEgypt.com was a willing partner in the internet war that was being raged on Mubarak.

When the protests first began in Egypt on January 25, Asali told his readers to join the revolution. 'Egypt's Gay and Lesbian community has had enough & of police brutality and torture, and GayEgypt.com calls on all Lesbians and Gays to join their brothers and sisters on the street to demand immediate change,' he posted on his website.

He asked everyone to 'please take care' and to 'try to minimize your risks.'

'Don't give up,' said Asali. 'What happens here will have a lasting impact on the entire Arab world.'

Now that Mubarak is gone, what's in store for Egypt's robust LGBT community?

For decades, homosexuality was barely acknowledged by Egyptian authorities. Homosexual acts are covered by general legislation governing public (Muslim and Christian) morality. According to GlobalGayz.com, 'In the 21st century, this [Egyptian] legislation has been subject to stricter interpretation, and homosexual men live under continual threat of persecution and imprisonment.'

Life for Gays and Lesbians in Egypt has been a struggle over the years. A 2004 Human Rights Watch report on anti-Gay persecution in Egypt found that well over 1,000 Gay men had been arrested in cities and town throughout Egypt between 2001 and 2004 in a crackdown against LGBT people.

According to Human Rights Watch, authorities charged the mostly Gay men trapped in the crackdown with violating a provision in Egypt's anti-prostitution law that prohibits the 'habitual practice of debauchery.'

The Human Rights Watch report said that Egyptian courts interpreted the sweeping law to cover consensual, non-commercial sexual relations between people of the same sex. Police used the law to arrest Gays, even though it was clear that the men arrested were not engaged in prostitution.

The report grimly documented the widespread use of torture against the Gay men arrested in the crackdown - with many of them sent to the same police detention centers known for physical abuse of political prisoners that Egyptians participating in the protests to oust Mubarak have denounced.

Currently, the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic organization, is considered to be the most organized group ready to gain control of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood bills itself as a fundamentalist faction that would never embrace LGBT rights.

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