December 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Dozens of Egyptian men arrested, charged with ‘perversion’

Cairo, Egypt, gay news, Washington Blade

Egyptian authorities on Sunday arrested dozens of men at a Cairo bathhouse. (Photo by Evan Hill of Al Jazeera English via Wikimedia Commons)

The State Department on Monday criticized the reported arrest of dozens of men at a bathhouse in the Egyptian capital over the weekend on charges of “perversion” and “debauchery.”

“We condemn any discrimination against individuals based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” a State Department official told the Washington Blade. “The United States places great importance on the protection and promotion of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons around the world.”

The statement comes in response to a report on former Human Rights Watch staffer Scott Long’s blog that indicates Egyptian police “carried out a massive raid” on a bathhouse in Cairo’s Ramses neighborhood late on Sunday.

Long said authorities beat some of the men and arrested them without their clothes.

He added Mona Iraqi, a reporter for a pro-government television station, and a cameraman tried to enter the bathhouse before the raid. The owner reportedly kicked them out, but Long said someone contacted the police to report the incident.

“I have not seen that report,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told the Blade on Monday during her daily press briefing, referring to Long’s report.

The Associated Press reported authorities arrested 25 people during the raid. Other media outlets said more than 30 men were taken into custody.

Long on his blog said Iraqi posted pictures on her Facebook page that appear to show several dozen men detained inside the bathhouse. He said Iraqi herself is in one of the pictures, apparently filming the men with her cell phone after police detained them.

Iraqi described the bathhouse as “the biggest den of group perversion in the heart of Cairo.” She wrote that her program had planned to air a segment on the establishment on Dec. 3, but the station postponed its broadcast in order to “give security institutions a chance to close down the baths.”

“Immediately a force of morals police under the instruction of Gen. Mohammed Kassem, the head of general administration for Cairo Intelligence, and with the leadership of Col. Ahmed Hashad, the head of the investigations department of Cairo Morals Police, arrested the men who were in the baths, caught in the act during a group sex party,” wrote Iraqi on her Facebook page in Arabic, according to Long. “They also arrested the head of the den and all the workers. They were immediately transported to the prosecution with no clothes. Their clothes were taken as evidence.”

Social media reports indicate that Iraqi’s television station on Monday broadcast video of the raid. They also note the program’s anchor said the men detained inside the bathhouse have AIDS and same-sex sexual contact spreads the epidemic.

Iraqi did not return the Blade’s request for comment.

Gay Egyptians ‘feeling terrorized by our own government’

The Cairo arrests took place against the backdrop of ongoing persecution of LGBT Egyptians that has increased since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi ousted his predecessor, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, in July 2013.

Egyptian authorities last month sentenced eight men who appeared in a “gay marriage” video on YouTube to three years in prison. Grindr in September issued a warning to its users in Egypt after reports of police entrapping gay men on social media apps began to emerge.

Authorities in 2001 arrested 52 men on a floating gay nightclub on a boat moored along the Nile River in Cairo. Published reports indicate the men — who became known as the Cairo 52 — were beaten and forced to “prove their homosexuality” while in prison.

Ahmed, a 28-year-old Egyptian LGBT rights advocate, told the Blade on Monday that he has been to the bathhouse where the men were arrested.

He said bathhouses provide gay Egyptians with a rare refuge from the persistent discrimination and persecution they face in their country.

“The gay scene in Egypt is terrified,” Ahmed told the Blade. “We are truly feeling terrorized by our own government. Most gays feel as prisoners here, either because they want to leave but can’t due to the lack of job offers abroad, or because they don’t want to leave and fear being themselves and living a normal healthy life where they can only focus on building a career.”

Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-born journalist, criticized the raid and the government over its broader human rights record that includes its crackdown on LGBT people.

“The witch hunt against LGBT Egyptians is a reminder that regardless of who’s in charge — military rulers or Islamists — Egypt is a patriarchal society in which straight, conservative Muslim men are top of the totem pole and anyone who ‘deviates’ from that is denied full rights,” she told the Blade. “The regime has carried several raids like this latest one, knowing full well that its humiliation and dehumanization of those men will be welcomed by many. The regime also knows that its targeting of the LGBT community is a welcome distraction from it’s political and economic woes.”

Egypt receives $1.5 billion in aid from U.S. a year

The U.S. during the 2014 fiscal year gave $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt, with the majority of it going to the country’s military. The State Department said more than $7 million of this allotment went to “other security assistance programs.”

The Obama administration earlier this year cut aid to Uganda after President Yoweri Museveni signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act into law. The White House in June imposed a travel ban against officials responsible for human rights abuses in the East African country.

Washington in October 2013 suspended $260 million in military aid to Egypt following Morsi’s ouster and clashes that left more than an estimated 1,000 people dead.

A State Department official told the Blade on Monday there “has been no decision” on whether the Obama administration would consider cutting additional aid to Egypt over its LGBT rights record.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

1 Comment
  • Mona Iraqi is PERSONALLY responsible for the imprisonment of those people. This is a serious breach of journalistic ethics. In a country that respects human rights you would be tried and convicted. Since when reporter are working for the government ?

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