THREE MINUTE VIDEO SUMMARY ON EGYPT’S HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS.

 

Just published today a three minute summary of the human rights crisis in Sisi’s Egypt looking at the issues of mass arrests, disappearances, torture, press freedom, the universities,  trade unions, women and child prisoners and LGBT rights. Please note that although all the captions contain documented facts from credible sources – they should not be taken to infer anything about any particular individual in any particular photograph.  The photographs are for illustrative purposes only.

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Eleven men given a total of 101 years in prison for gay sex.

Eleven men arrested in Agouza, Cairo in September last year were given prison sentences on Sunday of between three and twelve  years for consensual gay sex .

They were convicted of various debauchery charges used by the regime for many years as a loophole to imprison gay men as there is nothing technically illegal with same-sex behaviour either in Egyptian law or under the constitution.

However, despite the spurious nature of the charges, even under Egyptian law, the eleven defendants nevertheless received prison sentences which added together amounted to a staggering 101 years in prison. Four of the defendants were sentenced to three years in prison,  one to six years,  three to nine years and three to twelve years.

My understanding is that the length of some of the prison sentences for consensual same-sex acts is unprecedented in modern Egyptian history and ironically under a regime that claims to be anti-Islamist and backed by Egypt’s powerful military  and which played a crucial role in toppling the Muslim Brotherhood allied presidency of Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Of course the regime will claim that they can’t interfere in judicial matters even if it might have the power to change the debauchery laws used to criminalize gay sex.  However the truth is that judges in Egypt no longer ever dare to issue verdicts which challenge the government’s policy on important issues or they know they will be purged, as many more independently minded judges have already discovered.

Many observers seem surprised that the supposedly anti-Islamist military backed Junta of Abdel Fatah el-Sisi should be responsible for such a brutal crackdown on Egypt’s gay community.    However this supposedly pro-secular military backed government has witnessed the arrest of 95 LGBT people between July 2013 and December 2015.

Others don’t even seem to realise the irony assuming that surely it must be an Islamist government in power – one activist obviously unfamiliar with Egyptian politics tweeted  a few hours ago – (I won’t embarrass him by mentioning his name or Twitter account) –

Egypt‘s Muslim Brotherhood-led government has sentenced 11 people to lengthy jail terms for being gay – 

More to follow shortly.

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SISI’S EGYPT FACING A CRISIS OF INJUSTICE AND PUBLIC ANGER.

Although the protests today were called over President Sisi giving his Saudi backers two islands as presents, the real reasons are far deeper.  Sisi’s Egypt faces a human rights crisis unprecedented in the country’s history.

Hundreds of activists, lawyers and journalists have been arrested in the last few days while the President continues to consolidate his power still farther having turned the Egyptian parliament into little more than a rubber stamp and with the judges who have survived political purges now falling over themselves to implement Sisi’s decrees and those journalists who are not in prison all too eager not to report anything than might upset government officials and going out of their way to denounce “subversive elements” – formerly known as human rights activists.

Meanwhile dozens of LGBT people continue to be arrested,  corruption is endemic, government and police accountability virtually non-existent and not a street in Egypt free from the fear of forced disappearances, arrest and torture.

 

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Egyptian woman shot dead by police on eve of anniversary

An Egyptian woman who was part of a secular protest for greater democracy, justice and accountability was shot dead in Talaat Harb by police as she marched with others towards Tahrir Square yesterday.

Canadians stand with Egyptians in the struggle to realize the goals of the revolution –

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Bathhouse Trial Date Set For 4 January – Egyptian Law Student Starts Facebook Campaign

A Court has set a date of 4 January for the resumption of the hearings on 26 men currently held on remand pending investigations in to as yet unspecified charges relating to their arrest in a raid on the bab el bahr bathhouse on 7 December. All the defendants were refused bail.

The majority of the men were forced to undergo medical tests. One claimed that he and other defendants had been beaten by the police and forced to sleep on their stomachs. In previous instances of the arrest of men suspected of homosexuality, human rights organizations have found extensive evidence of the use of torture against gay men.

http://www.hrw.org/news/2004/02/29/egypt-crackdown-homosexual-conduct-exposes-torture-crisis

This afternoon at around 1.40 pm, 26 prisoners were herded into the court room, heads bowed in desperation to hide their identities and all of them chained in a line. According to witness Scott Long – “The bailiff at the door beat them as they entered” (Paper-Bird.net)
before they were pushed into a metal cage.

Forensic department spokesman Hisham Abdel Hamid said that 21 of the men had undergone forced medical examinations to determine if they had been sexually penetrated. The results, he claimed, showed that three had been the victims of recent non consensual sexual assault. There was no suggestion as to who the alleged culprits were.

The other men did not show signs of sexual penetration but the spokesman argued that this in itself did not prove they were not homosexuals.

The extensive use of such “medical examinations” in Egypt has long been condemned by human rights activists. In fact forced tests as evidence of a person’s sexuality have long since been rejected by police authorities around the civilized world not just because they would be illegal, unprofessional and unethical but also because even if not, they wouldn’t constitute scientifically valid evidence.

FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED IN PROTEST

A protest on Facebook has been launched against the collaboration of Egyptian TV journalist Mona Iraqi with police authorities on the raid on the bathhouse. Cairo law student Ramy Youssef has bravely started a page to promote “tweeting and blogging against informer journalists and homophobia.”

https://www.facebook.com/events/1525738924350037/

“Contributions will be made through all social media to protest Mona Iraqi’s unethical cooperation with oppressive police forces, which led to the largest crackdown on people based on their assumed sexual orientations in recent Egyptian history. Not only did she lead the police in arresting 26 people — men kept naked while she filmed them using her camera phone like a bounty hunter – she covered her tracks with a media campaign spreading the idea that this is about HIV and prostitution. We protest the real perversion practiced by Mona Iraqi and her like. We protest the journalists who become informers rather than neutral transmitters of fact. We protest the state brutality and extreme injustice against people suspected of being gay or transgender in Egypt.”

He has quickly won the support of the distinguished Canadian filmmaker Professor John Greyson who wrote –

“We all need to speak out with equal outrage……. speak out in particular as journalists and filmmakers who can’t stomach Mona’s abuse of her position; speak out in particular on behalf of all those who are unable to, living as they do under the thumb of a thuggish Egyptian police state; speak out for immediate justice for the…. men who are right now languishing in a Cairo prison.”

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The Witch Hunt Returns.

 

A TV presenter working for Egyptian pro-government TV program Al-Qahira wal Nas (Cairo and the people)  appears to have initiated a police raid on a bath house leading to the arrest and public shaming of dozens of men who now stand accused of engaging in homosexual acts.

CONFUSION OVER NUMBERS

One witness put the number arrested at around forty while an official informed a Reuters correspondent that twenty six men were being held in detention and General Ali al-Demerdash, head of the Cairo security directorate, told AFP that thirty three men had been detained.  

Whether the original witness overestimated their number or whether some men have been “disappeared” is not clear. What is almost certain is that they all  face the prospect of forced medical examinations and beatings in custody followed by lengthy prison sentences from which they will be lucky to survive.

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MEN DRAGGED AWAY WEARING ONLY THEIR UNDERWEAR

The raid took place at 10pm on Sunday in the Ramses District of Downtown Cairo. Iraqi was present alongside police and leather jacketed State Security officials as around twenty six or more gay men were rounded up and led to police trucks.

The photos appear to show that the arrests took place at hammam bab el bahr which is just a short walk from Ramses Square and dates back to the Ottoman period. Quite how the police were able to see what was happening through all the vapor and steam is an interesting question, but one that state appointed lawyers are unlikely to ask.

Neither are they likely to point out that in a recent academic article the authors were seemingly surprised to discover that at bab el bahr the management encouraged modesty by handing out pairs of shorts along with the towels (HBRC jounral “Survival of the Mediterranean Hammam in Contemporary Societies”).

Nevertheless TV presenter Mona Iraqi published photos on her Facebook page of the hammam’s customers claiming she was filming a program to highlight the dangers of  HIV and called the bathhouse “a den for spreading AIDS in Egypt” saying that those detained had been taken to the prosecution without any clothes “since these were needed as evidence.”

Some photos however indicated that the men might have been allowed to wear their underwear as they were herded into police vans. However even this would have been a shameful humiliation on a bitterly cold winter’s night in Cairo. And if they were taken semi naked to police cells directly, as is likely, they would have met a very hostile reception from other inmates.

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ORDERS FOR RAID CAME FROM HIGH UP

It’s unlikely that Iraqi was the author of this witch hunt.  A decision for such a highly publicized event would have had to have obtained very high clearance from the Ministry of Interior and possibly even from the office of the president.

The government has to meet head on any criticism that they are less conservative on social issues than the Muslim Brotherhood and at the same time the publicity afforded to any trial will help to focus media attention away from the government’s failure to tackle poverty, inequality and corruption.

The police have been aware for years of what was going on in Cairo’s few remaining bathhouses but until October 2013 they choose to look away. That month there was a police raid on a bathhouse in Marg, a poor neighbourhood in north east Cairo, during which 14 men were arrested. However this latest round up is considerably larger and the first ever to be accompanied by a television journalist.

It is ironic that Iraqi claimed she had instigated the raid in order to bring about greater awareness of HIV and AIDS.   What is now certain is that the gay community will be driven underground.

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FIGHT BACK BY MAKING YOUR OPINION KNOWN.

Please post what you feel on her Facebook page.  Don’t forget to log into Facebook first.

https://www.facebook.com/MonaIraqiTv

EGYPTIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST SPEAKS OUT

Hossam Bahgat, founder and director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, has already risked local public outrage, by bravely criticizing Mona Iraqi’s action on her Facebook page.   He needs the support of Egyptians and people worldwide. And more to the point the thirty three men arrested need your support.

Fortunately there is already a torrent of condemnation online for Iraqi’s gutter journalism with Peter Rullez commenting on her Facebook page – “This photo [of Iraqi filming the men entering the police van] will haunt you your entire life. May you be happy and proud as you photograph inside a men’s bathhouse and ruin men’s reputations for a scoop” Let’s make that torrent a tidal wave !

Meanwhile in Britain Labour politician and lgbt activist Michael Cashman CBE tweeted for people to contact the Egyptian Embassy in London to complain (tel 020 7235 9777 daily 9am to 3pm ).

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SHAME ON THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT AND MEDIA

What a shame on Egypt ! What happened to the revolution when Egyptians in Tahrir Square, Suez and Alexandria inspired the world ?   The very first slogan of 25 January called for  “freedom and human dignity” but these arrests prove the current regime no longer cares. And why should they when the Western governments and corporations continue to back them.

Sisi’s government has turned the clock back to the age of Mubarak and to the time of the Queen Boat arrests in 2001 when 52 gay men were detained during a raid on a floating discotheque on the Nile.

These latest arrests follow several other high profile raids including the detention two months ago of seven Egyptians accused of debauchery after a video was posted online showing a marriage between two men on a Nile riverboat.

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Please also make your views clear below Monica Iraq’s homophobic program on Youtube.
Click the Youtube button to navigate to the Youtube page to leave comments.

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Harshest Ever Sentences For Gay Sex In Egypt.

Men charged with alleged "gay crimes" in 2001.

Detainees during Egypt’s infamous Queen Boat case in 2001.

An Egyptian court has sentenced four men convicted of the “crime” of gay sex to a total of twenty eight years in prison, three of them receiving an eight year term and one a three year term.

To my knowledge eight years is the longest ever stretch of prison time handed down for consensual sexual acts in Egypt’s modern history and surpasses any of the sentences handed down in the notorious Queen Boat case of 2001 which brought Egypt international condemnation from across the globe including strong criticism from the then French president Jacques Chirac as well as from singer and songwriter Elton John.

The accused, like the female protesters dragged off to the Egyptian Museum by the military police in March 2011 and like the Queen boat detainees arrested under the Mubarak regime in May 2001, were forced to undergo humiliating medical tests.  In this case to “prove” (using long discredited medical techniques) that they were “habitual gays”.

The news in depressing. In the last ten years much of the world has progressed to legally  accepting gay lifestyles as having a complete equality to a heterosexual one.  But Egypt, despite recently toppling the Islamist Morsi regime, seems to have taken the opposite direction.

And the headline punishment says nothing about the real consequences for these men. Let’s not forget that they will be lucky to survive their sentences. If the treatment of gay men previously arrested is anything to go by then they will receive the most degrading and brutal abuse conceivable at the hands of prison guards and other prisoners.  Can you imagine how they will manage inside ?

Their cell mates will be drug dealers, hardened criminals, religious zealots (either Muslim or Christian) with whom they will also have to share the crowded sweltering prison vans. When the guards say “Here are prisoners who are the cause of all Egypt’s problems – khawalaat, perverts, mitnakeen” will the prison authorities care in the slightest what happens to them ?

We cannot allow their lives to be abused and lost so cheaply.

Egypt should remember that many of the tourists who visit Egypt – and on whom one in seven of the country’s jobs depends – are either lesbian, gay or have close friends who are or they will be at least sympathetic to the idea of treating the lgbt community with respect and dignity. Many will surely think twice about continuing to holiday in a country which imposes such draconian and inhumane punishments for what men chose to do in the privacy of their own homes.

GayEgypt.com recently reluctantly decided to deactivate its’ message forums in light of the recent spate of arrests in Marg and Nasr City and the consequent risk to online posters from Egypt’s infamous internet police.

This is not a promising start to Egypt’s new regime. These sentences are symptomatic of a weak and cowardly government and judiciary that lacks any sense of moral direction or principle. Instead the new “secular” government is nothing more than a front to facilitate Sisi’s procession to the presidency. The thinking behind these prosecutions being presumably that Sisi needs to prove that in the new Egypt people need not be afraid of having “Western freedoms” forced on them.

 

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