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Egyptian Government Encouraging Media To Boost Anti-Gay Coverage

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Gay issues in Egypt have been cropping up a fair bit lately, with the country itself devoting a large amount of its news coverage to explicitly reporting the anti-gay angle. According to Ibrahim Monsour, editor-in-chief of a leading Egyptian liberal newspaper, the Tahrir News, the reason for this coverage is that it's a mandate from the Egyptian government itself.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Monsour says, “These are instructions from the state apparatus” to cover sex scandals and other “silly” issues. The motivation is likely much like the case in Russia: the focus on "morality" cases and whipping up a frenzy over an individual group in order to distract the populace from the failings of the government itself. In the case of Egypt, the government hopes to distract the betrayal of the hopes of the revolution that toppled President Mubarak in 2011.

The media is complicit in all of this because, just like with the U.S. media, it's all about what sells. Unfortunately for them, the case with the bathhouse raid and Mona Iraqi's slanderous report is showing that the public is only going to be pushed so far, with a family member of one of the acquitted men saying,

If I have to sell the furniture in my house to bring a case [against Iraqi] to send her to jail, I will not let her rest until the end of her life.

Mona Iraqi


Egypt Court Acquits 26 Men Charged With 'Debauchery' in Gay Bathhouse Raid

Egypt

An Egyptian court has acquitted the 26 men arrested in the televised raid on a Cairo bathhouse early last month, the Associated Press reports:

The men in the bathhouse raid faced various charges, including debauchery and performing indecent public acts. Monday’s verdict came after only three hearings, during which families quarreled with journalists who tried to photograph their relatives in the dock.

The courtroom erupted into a frenzy after the word “acquittal” was heard from the judge and women ululated. Scott Long, an American researcher who had followed the case said he was both “shocked and delighted.”

“I hope this is a sign that these raids will come to an end,” Long told the Associated Press amid the cheering. “Finally there was a judge who listened to the evidence.”

Rights activists say 2014 was the worst year in a decade for Egypt’s gay community, with at least 150 men arrested or put on trial.

“They destroyed our lives. God rescued us,” said one of the defendants, who didn’t give his name.

Following the acquittal, defense lawyer Tarek el-Awady said he would file charges against the officer who led the raid, Lt. Col. Ahmed Hashad for fabricating testimony and would also bring charges against reporter Mona Iraqi. Iraqi has been accused by activist groups of breaking various laws in her filming of the bathhouse raid.

IraqiBuzzfeed reports:

“We will not leave Mona Iraqi,” said a relative of one of the accused who gave his name as Mahmoud. “We will take her to court. We will not leave Ahmed Hashad. If I have to sell the furniture in my house to take a case to take her to jail, I will not let her rest until the end of her life.”

One of the pieces of evidence seized upon by defense lawyers was the anal exams performed by police medical experts after their arrest. Egyptian authorities maintain testing the tightness of the anal sphincter can establish whether or not a man is gay, though many international medical experts say the exams are unreliable and human rights groups have denounced them as a violation of basic human rights.

But instead of reporting many of them had been penetrated – as Hashad claims to have seen with his own eyes – the examiners reported only three had “wounds” in the anus. Defense attorney Mohamed Zaki told BuzzFeed News that in these cases the examiners reported scratches or tears, which could be evidence of trauma that actually occurred after the men were in police custody.

One of the three men also told lawyers he had been raped while in police custody, claiming police had presented him to other prisoners using an Egyptian expression that roughly corresponds to "here's a hot piece of ass". The man refused to allow his lawyers to use his claim to contest charges, however, due to the social taboos surrounding penetration.

“How can he stand in the court and say he has been penetrated?” said defense lawyer Mohamed Zaki. “Even if we can prove that he was raped inside the police station, this will never clear his reputation … once you have been penetrated, you are not considered a man.”


NYT Criticizes Obama Administration, Lawmakers Amidst Egyptian Persecution of Gays

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As we reported yesterday, the trial of the 26 men arrested last month in a raid of a gay bathhouse in Cairo is now underway and already proving both ludicrous and tragic. In an Op-Ed piece published today, The New York Times criticized the Obama administration and congressional leaders for continuing to provide financial assistance to Egypt amidst the country's "crackdown" on gays and for failing to condemn the country's egregious actions:

Egypt’s treatment of gays is part of a dismal human rights record that has only gotten worse in recent months. The Obama administration and American lawmakers have not done enough to denounce the abuses of an increasingly authoritarian Egyptian government, which is one of the largest recipients of American military aid. As Congress convenes this week, influential lawmakers should take a fresh look at the plight of vulnerable Egyptians and speak out on their behalf. Among them are Representative Kay Granger, a Texas Republican who has fought efforts to pare back Egypt’s military package, and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

The 26 men on trial now may never be able to shed the stigma this prosecution has inflicted on them, their careers and their families. But strong international condemnation may keep authorities in Egypt from victimizing more men.

in 2014, the U.S. gave $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt, "with the majority of it going to the country’s military," according to The Washington Blade

The raid on the Cairo bathhouse was documented and orchestrated by journalist Mona Iraqi who aimed to expose "the biggest den of group perversion in the heart of Cairo." While Egyptian law does not strictly ban homosexuality it does criminalize debauchery and perversion, both of which being charges that have been leveled against the 26 men who were arrested on December 7th. 


From Will and Grace to Modern Family: The Global Effect of Gay Characters on American TV - VIDEO

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In a new video for BBC News, Tom Brook reports on the ubiquity of gay characters in American TV shows and the effect these characters have worldwide.

The short video segment profiles two men: one with a more optimistic outlook on the issue, and one who is more pessimistic.

WillandgraceThe former is activist Omar Sharif Jr.,  who spent his youth in Egypt. He didn't know any gay people growing up, but he was familiar with characters like Jack from "Will and Grace." Said Sharif:

By seeing these characters on TV, youth across the world — myself included — learned that we weren't alone, that different isn't bad. That there's a community out there (even if it's across vast oceans sometimes) that supports them and loves them for who they are.

Russian-born pianist and journalist Oleg Dusaev has a different take. He now lives in New York, but he has experienced homophobia in Russia. Dusaev says he once "had hope these shows and films could change society in a more tolerant way."

Unfortunately, he worries that shows like "Modern Family" could make people "resistant" to new attitudes; he believes homophobic people "hate gays" point blank, and that these shows "could increase the hatred." 

Sharif makes a similar point, noting that gay characters are sometimes used "as a tool to propagate hate," but that in terms of net effect, these shows are doing much more good than bad to change the cultural tenor.

Head to BBC, or check the video out embedded AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "From Will and Grace to Modern Family: The Global Effect of Gay Characters on American TV - VIDEO" »


Trial Begins for Egyptian Men Arrested in Gay Bathhouse Raid

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The trial has begun for the men arrested in early December's Egyptian bathhouse raid, Buzzfeed reports.

This story is the latest in the ongoing crackdown on gays by the Egyptian government under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Activists suspect this is a response to criticism from the Muslim Brotherhood that "a non-Islamist government can’t be a conservative, moral authority in Egypt."

Egyptian activist May Wasan said of the raid: "It is a spectacle...“[the government] is trying to make a show and treat these men like they are not human.”

A lawyer for the defense, Tarek Awady, expressed a similar sentiment, saying:

This case was created by Egyptian authorities to get people talking...It was made to divert our attention to something else so that we don’t focus on the real problems in Egypt.”

The AP adds:

One lawyer representing 14 of the men, Islam Khalifa, told the court Sunday that the defendants suffered "psychological duress" from the publicized arrests, which defamed and endangered both them and their families in conservative Egypt. He said having the television crew there violated the men's right to privacy and Egypt's constitution.

Of the 26 men, 21 have undergone medical examinations to see if they had had anal sex. Three of men had trauma that required further examination, defense lawyer Tarek al-Awadi said.

While Egypt has no explicit laws against homosexuality, in cases like these the government targets gays citing "perversion" and "debauchery," which are illegal under Egyptian law.

Last week, a group of eight men arrested in Egypt for appearing in a "gay wedding" video back in September were sentenced to one year each in jail. 


Egyptian Men Involved in 'Gay Wedding' Video Receive One Year Prison Sentence Each

Egypt

The group of eight men arrested in Egypt for appearing in a video back in September purportedly featuring a gay marriage have had their jail sentences reduced from 3 years each to one year each by an Egyptian appeals court.

The men were originally convicted in November of broadcasting images that "violated public decency" after video surfaced of what prosecutors said was a gay wedding ceremony aboard a Nile riverboat. 

AFP reports:

The defendants' families, who were expecting their acquittal, screamed and wept on hearing the new sentences, according to an AFP reporter.

Homosexuality is not specifically banned under Egyptian law and the men were initially accused of debauchery.

That charge was dropped after an invasive anal exam of the men showed that they did not have receptive anal sex.

The defence repeatedly denied that the men were gay, and insisted that the lower court had caved in to popular pressure.

One of the defendants told a television talk show prior to their arrest that the video was recorded during a birthday party.

Earlier this month, Egyptian police raided a bathhouse in Cairo and arrested a large group of men on charges of "perversion".


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