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The persecution against gay people... is part of a strategy to mollify Egypt's rabid religious fundamentalists.

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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, meets with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in Cairo, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2001. Amr Nabil

Throwing Gays to the Fundamentalist Wolves

by Ana Simo

OCTOBER 12, 2001. As Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was tentatively pledging support for U.S. bombings in Afghanistan, his Special Emergency Court, originally set up to try terrorists, resumed on Wednesday the trial of 52 Egyptian men. They were jailed on May 10 after the police raided the Queen Boat, a gay-friendly Cairo floating club.

The men are accused of "obscene behavior" and "contempt for religion," since merely being gay — the real reason why they're in court — is technically not a crime in Egypt. The Special Emergency Court verdict, which cannot be appealed, is expected on November 14. The men could face up to 5 years in jail.

The accused, all of which naturally deny that they're gay, have already been found guilty by the government-controlled Egyptian media, which has been demonizing them for months. Defense lawyers have charged the authorities with beating and torturing some of the men, and fabricating the case against them.

The persecution against gay people unleashed by the Mubarak regime for the past two years is part of a strategy to mollify Egypt's rabid religious fundamentalists, while the government cracks down on violent Islamist opposition groups. Although a secular state on paper, Mubarak's Egypt has in recent years given religious fundamentalists growing authority to censor the arts, stifle intellectual debate, and police social mores.

Buying stability for corrupt Middle Eastern satrapies such as Mubarak's by throwing women, gays, and democracy to the fundamentalist wolves may work in the short term, but in the long run, it ensures a social explosion of titanic proportions, as Iran, Algeria, and Afghanistan variously prove.

The current Anglo-American mania to deny any ideological connection whatsoever between Islamic religious fundamentalism and terror groups could tempt some in high places to apply the Mubarak model to the global "war on terrorism."

After all, who cares if women are beaten for exposing their eyebrows, and gays are crushed by bulldozed walls in Afghanistan — or for that matter, tortured in Egypt, or beheaded in Saudi Arabia. Who cares, as long as Washington and New York are safe.

Related links:

For an eyewitness account of the trial, in the London-based (the only surviving Egyptian gay web site).

For Egypt: U.S. Must Not Ignore Rights Abuses and its companion Human Rights Background. (Human Rights Watch, Oct. 10, 2001)

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For Complete Coverage WTC Attack

For Complete Coverage Africa

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

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