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Is Egypt Surveilling Social Media To Hunt Down Gay People? - VIDEO

Egyptian surveillance

Concerns are mounting in Egypt that authorities will use new online monitoring software to hunt down LGBT people, reports Buzzfeed.

Earlier this month, Egyptian authorities arrested nine men for "debauchery" but later concluded that "the men tested negative for homosexuality."

Using U.S. technology, Egypt is now monitoring online communications, giving the government an unprecedented ability to comb through data from Skype, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and Viber.

In recent weeks, Egypt’s LGBT community has issued warnings to avoid using Grindr after rumors spread that officials were using the app to arrest gay men.

Although Egyptian officials have said their monitoring of online activity will focus on preventing terrorist attacks, one Interior Ministry official said the current mandate was “much broader”:

“We are looking at any conversation, any interaction, we might find worrying or would want to keep a closer eye on. We are watching conversations between Islamists, or those who discuss Islamism. We are watching communities, which we consider at risk.”

EgyptThe official went on to say that those taking part in “debauchery” or “homosexual acts” would be watched “for the protection of Egypt.”

He added that although he wasn’t familiar with Grindr, there were “dozens of Facebook groups” used by the LGBT community that are being watched.

Gen. Hany Abd el Lateef, a spokesman for Egypt’s Interior Ministry, denied that the government plans to monitor citizens’ private lives.  

However, a copy of the tenders issued by the Interior Ministry which specifies the type of online communications it will be searching for suggests otherwise.  The list includes:

  • Blasphemy and skepticism in religions
  • Spreading of rumors and intentional twisting of facts
  • Sarcasm
  • Pornography, looseness, and lack of morality

Providing the service to the Egyptian government, See Egypt is the sister company of the U.S.-based Blue Coat.

Ali Miniesy, the CEO of See Egypt, said that the company had been contracted to provide Egypt’s State Security with the system, and to teach officials how to comb through data gathered from email accounts and social media sites.

He added that although the software can be used to penetrate social media and other software, it is a system similar to that used by most Western governments, including the United States.

According to Eva Blum-Dumontet, an advocacy officer with the U.K.-based NGO Privacy International:

“This new software makes it very easy to target anyone, en masse. The user simply says, ‘I want to look for atheists, or homosexuals,’ and the company gets all the data. It’s extremely easy.

"There is a difference between what you do on social media and what you do in the real world. The concern is that people who are not necessarily our protesting would suddenly be on the radar of the Egyptian authorities because they liked a status on Facebook or retweeted something.”

Egyptian Human Rights groups filed a lawsuit on June 17 alleging that the system used by Egypt “threatens private life and public freedom.”  However, the lawsuit could take years to work its way through the courts, and in the meantime the See Egypt technology will continue to be used.

Watch a report on this story, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Muslim Academic Receives Death Threats Over Plans For Gay-Friendly Mosque - VIDEO

Burka

Death threats have been sent to organizers of a planned women- and gay-friendly new mosque in Cape Town, South Africa, reports The Telepgraph.

According to Taj Hargey, the director of the “forward thinking” organization Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, his Open Mosque will welcome all genders, religions and sexual orientations when it opens in Wynberg, a Cape Town suburb, on Friday.

6a00d8341c730253ef01a73e17c457970d-800wiHargey, who previously called for Muslims in Britain to ban the burka, said that he has received many positive responses to the mosque but confirmed that he has also received “a lot of death threats.”

Explaining the mission of the mosque, he said:

"You go to churches and often see the sign 'All Welcome'. This is the single mosque in the whole country that sadly has the words 'All Welcome' underneath it. I decided that being Cape Town-born I had to do something. We had a political evolution in this country 20 years ago and what we need now is a religious revolution, especially in the Muslim community.

"You enter the mosque, do I ask you the question who did you sleep with last night? No. It's not my business who you slept with.

"Women will enter the same doors as men, women will take part in the service. This is the first time you'll see men and women praying together. We wanted a mosque that reflects 21st century South Africans not some seventh century utopia that never existed."

However, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), a non-profit religious advocacy group, is "in the process of investigating the policy and objectives of the mosque".

Last week, the MJC’s deputy president Riad Fataar said:

"We see and feel the anxiousness in our community. We see in the newspaper clippings and the messages that this is a place of worship but we can't call it a mosque. But again we cannot make a complete statement until we have all the facts."

In November 2012, a gay-friendly mosque opened in Paris, France.

Watch a report on Hargey's call for a burka ban in the U.K., AFTER THE JUMP...

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Robert Mugabe Prefers Aid From Anti-Gay Countries, Continues To Accept Aid From Anyone - VIDEO

Robert mugabe

Anti-gay Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe has said that he prefers aid from China because aid from Western countries always comes with conditions such as accepting homosexuality, reports The Telegraph.

Speaking to a TV reporter during a trip to China, Mugabe praised Beijing for being "very constructive" in its assistance towards Zimbabwe:

"Whereas Europe and America, when they give little funding assistance to countries they always attach conditions. And that is our objection."

Mugabe, who nonetheless accepted international aid to the tune of $715 million in 2011 and has in the past threatened to jail and behead gay people, last railed against the ignominy of receiving aid from gay-loving countries back in March when he voiced his support for Uganda’s draconian anti-gay laws.

Watch a CCTV Africa report on Mugabe's recent visit to China, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Six LGBT Ugandans Reportedly Stoned To Death In Rural Town

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Three gay men, two lesbians, and one trans-identified person were stoned to death in the Ugandan countryside this past weekend, according to a press release sent out by Ugandan queer minorities activist Denis Nzioka. Eyewitnesses claim that one man, who survived the stoning was set aflame following the initial attack and a seventh man was attacked by a mob before succumbing to his injuries the next day.

The Friends New Underground Railroad, an outreach project of the Quaker-run, Washington-based Olympia Friends Meeting, is reporting that the names of the attacked are not currently being shared with the public. Tensions have risen in Uganda following the country’s repeal of its Anti-Homosexuality Act that formerly criminalized lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered people’s existences.

The law was nullified following a court ruling stating that the Ugandan parliament did not have the appropriate quorum necessary for its enactment. Rather than curtailing Uganda’s societal slant towards the homophobic, the repeal of the law marked the beginning of an uptick of violence against LGBT Ugandans. Since the repeal, more than 400 LGBT individuals have sought their help in successfully escaping the country, according to the FNUR.


LGBT Ugandan Refugees Face Persecution, Unemployment Difficulties In Kenya

Ugandans fleeing from the country to avoid its brutal, discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Act are finding the cultural climate no less hostile into neighboring Kenya, according to their accounts. Legalized in February before more recently being struck down on a technicality, Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act criminalized a variety of behaviors and threatened lifetime imprisonment for those found in violation. Hoping to avoid persecution, many LGBT identified Ugandans fled to Kenyan refugee camps hoping to find a more accepting, if temporary, home.

3489571906_f6bfb32682_z"The reaction shocked me. I went there. I thought it would be a celebration, but ... nothing," Brizan Ogollan explained to the Huffington Post."They knew at an international level and at the diplomatic level, the decision is going to have impact, but at the local level, it won't really. You can overrule the law, but you can't overrule the mind."

Ogollan runs an international aid organization that coordinates with the Kakuma refugee camp. Kakuma, whose name in Swahili means “nowhere” is known as a transitional camp through which many refugees pass on their way to their permanent resettlements. Kenyan society, Ogollan says, is no less homophobic than Uganda’s.

Like in Uganda, homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, and LGBT Ugandan refugees are faced with ostracization both for their sexual and gender presentations as well as their status as displaced people. Queer Ugandans report facing open aggression within the camps and persistent difficulty finding work within Kenyan cities.

The United Nations' refugee agency has taken note of the difficulties facing the refugees and has expressed its intention to expedite the relocations of the 35 Ugandan refugees officially registered as LGBT with the U.N.


Ugandan President Says Foreign Pressure Had 'Nothing To Do' With Striking Down Of Anti-Gay Law

MuseveniPresident Yoweri Museveni has denied that the recent court decision to scrap Uganda’s draconian anti-gay law had anything to do with the U.S.-Africa Summit taking place this week, reports the Mail & Guardian.

In the lead-up to this week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, human rights groups had urged President Obama to discuss anti-gay discrimination in Uganda and other African countries. Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act last February, which penalizes same-sex relations with life imprisonment.

Museveni has said that the decision by Uganda’s constitutional court to overturn the country’s anti-gay legislation last Friday had “nothing to do” with the summit or with the sanctions placed on the country by the U.S.

However, saying he intends to take the issue to the country's Supreme Court, Christian evangelical pastor Martin Ssempa, who has campaigned to “kick sodomy out of Uganda”, described the court’s decision as a “judicial abortion” designed to polish Uganda’s reputation before the summit.

Under earlier legislation which is expected to return following the court’s decision, homosexuality in Uganda remains illegal and punishable by jail sentences.

 


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