John M. Becker

Is Egypt Cracking Down on Gays?

Filed By John M. Becker | April 18, 2014 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Africa, anti-LGBT law, arrests, crackdown, Egypt, police raids

gay-egypt.jpgGay Egyptians say they're noticing an alarming uptick in arrests targeting their community. The Guardian reports:

Egypt's gay community fears it is the latest target of the country's authoritarian government following a series of recent raids on gay people.

Activists interviewed by the Guardian said they had documented up to nine raids across the country since October 2013 - an unusually high rate of arrests. Most significantly, at least seven raids have seen people arrested at home rather than at parties or known meeting places, raising concerns that the community is facing the start of a targeted crackdown.

The latest and most concerning raid saw four men seized from their east Cairo apartment on 1 April within hours of signing the lease, according to activists. Within a week, the four were given jail terms of up to eight years - sentences unusual for both their length and the speed at which they were handed down.

While those interviewed by The Guardian emphasized that Egypt's underground gay community is flourishing and that the oppression they face should not be exaggerated, they recent increase in arrests has them worried and perplexed.

[R]egardless of the background to each raid, what is unusual is how regularly and how willingly the state has prosecuted individuals - especially at a time when there is so much else in Egypt for the authorities to address.

Dalia Alfarghal, a human rights activist, said: "We have a lot of crazy things going on in the country - and they're detaining these guys instead of catching terrorists."

Many wonder if the government wants to assure a largely homophobic Egyptian society that - despite ousting Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last summer - they can be as conservative as the man they replaced. April's arrests, for instance, came soon after a police chief announced a special taskforce to arrest atheists...

Another explanation is that widespread coverage of the raids would help distract the public from the government's failings - much as the media storm sparked by the 2001 arrest of 52 men at the Queen Boat, a gay nightclub in Cairo, did for Hosni Mubarak's regime.

Another one to keep an eye on, folks.

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