Egypt: Gays in Egypt Latest Casualty of Terrorism and War

Cairo-52 Men Expect Harsh Sentences

For Immediate Release: September 21, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO – The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is concerned about the effect of terrorism and war on the fate of the Cairo-52 men detained in Egypt because of their presumed homosexuality. IGLHRC is concerned that the decrease in media attention to the situation in Egypt and the relaxing of international pressure will allow the government of Egypt to continue to punish the Cairo-52 unchallenged.

The ‘war on terrorism’ is seen in parts of the Middle East as an attack on Islam. The government of Egypt, trying to appease the religious right’s opposition to Egypt’s participation in such a ‘war,’ is ready to sacrifice the rights of its own homosexual population," said Surina Khan, IGLHRC’s Executive Director.

One of the detained has already received the maximum penalty allowed by law. A teenager, tried in a juvenile court because of his age, was sentenced September 18 to three years in prison, to be followed by three years of probation. Lawyers and trial observers expect the other detainees to get heavy sentences as well. Some of the imprisoned men have told reporters and families that they have been continuously tortured in jail.

"We are concerned that the United States will forsake human rights consideration as it tries to forge its world-wide coalition," said Scott Long, IGLHRC’s Program Director. "If this happens, the US Government will have not only abandoned the Cairo-52 to an unfair and lengthy prison stay but it will also betray the very values it has sworn to defend."

"Many news agencies are focusing most of their attention on the dreadful September 11 attack and its after-effects, leaving little room for anything else," stated Sydney Levy, IGLHRC’s Communications Director. "The Egyptian government is using this moment to seal the fate of the Cairo-52, knowing that its actions will go unchallenged by the world’s public opinion."

The 52 Egyptian men were arrested in May at a Cairo discotheque believed to be a gathering place for homosexuals. They were charged with "obscene behavior" and "contempt of religion." International human rights organizations have expressed concern that the men were arrested solely because of their homosexuality, that some of them have been submitted to beatings and other forms of torture while in detention, and that their case is being tried in an Emergency State Security Court whose rulings cannot be appealed.