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Powell "should be taking a stand against torture, and taking a stand for democracy and for freedom."

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Special police officers rush some of 52 alleged gay men on trial into court in Cairo, Egypt. Nov.14, 2001. Reuters

Gays Guilty in Cairo

NOVEMBER 15, 2001. The Gully speaks with Sydney Levy of the San Francisco-based IGLHRC (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission) about yesterday's verdict in the Queen Boat trial in Egypt. Almost half of the 52 men held because of their alleged homosexuality were convicted of "obscene behavior" and some of "contempt of religion" in a Special Emergency Court originally designed to try terrorists. None of the acquitted have been released. Some defendants report they have been tortured during their imprisonment.

The Gully: What is IGLHRC's reaction to the verdict today? And what are your plans?

There is no question that the verdicts were a severe blow. We're really disappointed and upset. Scott Long, one of our staffers, is in Egypt now conferring with activists and lawyers about what can be done inside the country. Unfortunately, there is no appeal for what happens in the Emergency Court. And it's not just the time in jail. We're talking about hard labor here.

IGLHRC is doing an Action Alert urging Mubarak to take action, and urging Secretary of State Colin Powell to take action. He [Powell] should be taking a stand against torture, and taking a stand for democracy and for freedom. He should be making sure our partners in the war reflect well on us.

At this moment, the only one who can stop this madness is President Mubarak. He has in his power the ability to pardon the men who were convicted, and order the immediate release of those who have been acquitted, and also order the stopping of further raids.

The Gully: Have you met with anyone in person?

It wasn't with Colin Powell, but Amnesty's Michael Heflin had a meeting earlier today at the State Department. We're just getting started. Up til now, our efforts have been to provide support to those in Egypt.

I want to reiterate this. This is not over, President Mubarak can still act.

The Gully: Do you think that IGLHRC's job is more difficult following September 11?

Yes, in a number of ways. Up until today, the media was not as interested. They were focusing on other issues. And we remain concerned that the U.S. government, in its desire to form alliances, has decided to forget all about human rights obligations. Worse, other governments know it and are taking advantage.

We've been concerned from the beginning about what motivations were behind the case, about whether the Egyptian government would be using this case to prove to the religious right in Egypt that they are okay with Islam. By associating itself with the U.S. now, it may have received criticism from the right. With this case, and this verdict, they prove, hey, we're still okay with you guys.

The Gully: Where are the major U.S. gay groups in this? Like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)? Any gay Republicans?

Most of them certainly know. We've been in touch. We have a strong relationship with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on this issue because the focus has been on human rights. We share the language of human rights. Because of that, the United Nations has also weighed in against this case.

Another after-effect of September 11 and then the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan, is that that language is a little more bruised than it was before. The language of human rights and accusations of abuses are discounted as political tools of the West.

Related links:

For IGLHRC (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission).

For the Human Rights Watch report on Egypt, 2000.

For GayEgypt.com, the only surviving Egyptian gay website (it's based in London).

For Complete Coverage Gay Mundo

For Complete Coverage Africa

For Complete Coverage WTC Attack

Gay Mundo
gay pride The Gully's ultragay coverage. Includes musings on activism, info on queers from Puerto Rico to Taiwan and more.

Africa Emerging
News, opinion, politics from Algeria to Zimbabwe. Including homophobia in Southern Africa and the colonial legacy everywhere.

WTC Attack
Guide to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on NYC and DC. Includes info on Afghanistan and the Taliban.

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