LGBT Egyptians Go Into Hiding As Regime Cracks Down
“The targeting of gay persons in Egypt happens when someone, on the senior level, chooses for it to happen,” an Interior Ministry official told BuzzFeed News.
Last week, eight men went before an Egyptian judge in the country’s highest-profile trial over homosexuality in more than a decade. The men stand accused of appearing in a video showing two men exchanging wedding rings, and face the possibility of more than three years in prison.
Police hunted down the men early this month after the video blew up on Arabic social media and made headlines around the world. One of the men involved called into a popular TV show to say it was a joke, but politicians and much of the press treated it as a real same-sex wedding — a first for Egypt. Websites associated with the Muslim Brotherhood — the now-banned Islamist movement that just over a year ago was ruling Egypt — began featuring the wedding video as a sign of the moral decline in Egypt under the military-backed regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who ousted it from power last year with the help of the army.
Egyptian officials have been enforcing morality laws with a renewed zeal almost since Sisi took power. According to human rights activists in Egypt, at least 77 people have been arrested in well-publicized cases of “debauchery” or “violating public decency,” the two charges used to prosecute people alleged to be LGBT since Egypt has no law explicitly against homosexual relationships, since October last year. Though Egypt mounted a crackdown on LGBT people just over a decade ago — most famously in the trial of more than 50 people in a case known by the name of the Nile River night club where many were arrested, the Queen Boat — there were only occasional arrests in the years since, and they were almost never prosecuted nor publicized in the press. That didn’t change during the year that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi was president, before Sisi deposed him.
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