October 3, 2017 at 11:31 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
State Department expresses concern over Egypt, Azerbaijan crackdowns

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Oct. 3, 2017, expressed concern over the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdowns in Egypt and Azerbaijan.

The State Department on Tuesday expressed concern over the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdowns in Egypt and Azerbaijan.

“We are concerned by reports of detentions and arrests of LGBTI persons in Azerbaijan and Egypt, respectively,” spokesperson Heather Nauert told the Washington Blade in a statement.

Reports indicate Egyptian authorities on Sept. 22 arrested at least seven people who waived a rainbow flag during a rock concert.

Amnesty International on Monday in a press release noted Egyptian authorities have arrested 32 men and one woman because of “their perceived sexual orientation” since Sept. 22. The group also notes officials have conducted so-called anal examinations against “at least” five of those who have been detained.

“In a matter of days the Egyptian security forces have rounded up dozens of people and carried out five anal examinations signaling a sharp escalation in the authorities’ efforts to persecute and intimidate members of the LGBTI community following the rainbow flag incident,” said Amnesty International North Africa Campaigns Director Najia Bounaim.

@Egaypt, an Egyptian LGBT rights advocate in D.C. who uses his Twitter account to identify himself, told the Blade on Tuesday the “situation in Egypt is very scary.”

“I have never seen anything like it,” he said. “It’s certainly the second biggest hunt for gays and lesbians this Arab generation has ever seen, only second to what Da’esh has been doing in Syria and Iraq.”

More than 80 detained in Azerbaijani capital last month

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday noted authorities in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku “have detained dozens of people on dubious charges” and beat them and used electric shocks “on them to coerce bribes and information about other gay men.” An official with the former Soviet republic’s government on Monday confirmed authorities detained 83 people between Sept. 15-30 on grounds they are protecting public morality and health.

“The round-ups in Azerbaijan fit a familiar horrifying narrative that exploits so-called traditional values to justify violence against sexual and gender minorities,” said Human Rights Watch LGBT Rights Director Graeme Reid. “Authorities are targeting gay and bisexual men and transgender women using tactics that indicate an intent to continue, and widen, the crackdown.”

Egypt’s LGBT rights record in recent years has come under increased scrutiny, especially after police arrested 26 men at a Cairo bathhouse in late 2014 and charged them with “debauchery.”

Brian Dooley of Human Rights First in an op-ed the Blade published in August noted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson withheld almost $100 million in foreign aid to Egypt and conditioned nearly $200 million more on whether the country improves its human rights record. The State Department’s 2016 human rights report notes police brutality is among the abuses that LGBT Azerbaijanis routinely face.

Nauert on Tuesday noted Tillerson in his Pride month statement reaffirmed “our solidarity with civil society organizations and human rights defenders working to uphold the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI persons.”

“This holds true globally,” Nauert told the Blade.

“We urge countries to uphold and respect their international human rights obligations and commitments,” she added. “The United States will continue to engage on issues of universal human rights and democracy.”

@Egaypt told the Blade he is skeptical the U.S. government will pressure Egyptian and Azerbaijani officials to stop the anti-LGBT crackdowns in their country.

“The decision to stand here in D.C. in solidarity with our LGBTQ family in Egypt . . . has been hesitant as we know it will not be heard in the Trumped (sic.) House, I mean White House,” he said.

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

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