A gay man from Egypt who prefers to remain anonymous describes his lived experience.
Being a homosexual in the Middle East can be unbearable. In some countries it is publicly regarded as a filthy sin. Here in Egypt it is seen as an act of debauchery, even though there are so many public places where gay people can meet and practice their “filthy sin”.
So how did gay people meet safely in the early days in Egypt? They used to meet in certain spots downtown and in night clubs. Guys would give one another warnings about people who would rob you and who to be careful of, but they would also introduce you to other guys in the same city, or in other cities.
Besides public places, they would meet in flats of mutual friends or parties. There were some regions which were considered more safe than others, such as Heliopolis carpark, some bars where it was known that gay people interacted with each other, some coffee shops downtown, and even train stations.
You might be attacked and murdered in some other places. It could depend on the socio-economic situation of a certain region. In some middle-upper class areas, homosexuality was slightly more accepted in comparison with others.
In 2001, there was the case of the Cairo 52, when 52 men were arrested on a floating gay nightclub called the Queen Boat. The men were charged with “habitual debauchery” and “obscene behaviour”, the trials went on for five months and the men were attacked in the media, which printed their real names and addresses. During the trial homosexuality was called “un-Egyptian”.
In 2014, 33 men were arrested and charged with debauchery after police raided a bathhouse in Cairo. The reporting could not be more cruel and vulgar towards gay people. The men were asked whether or not they belonged to a dangerous brotherhood. There were reports they had been raped and beaten up in jail.
The crackdown on LGBTQ+ people in Egypt has been unmerciful. Human Rights Watch stated “Egyptian authorities seem to be competing for the worst record on rights violations against LGBT people in the region.” There has been no support from organisations except for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and some lawyers, such as Taher Abou al-Nasr.
All in all, the LGBTQ+ community is hoping to be more accepted, to live our lives safe and unharmed. But socio-cultural values and politics get in the middle and make it even more challenging to let minorities fit in.
As social psychologist Serge Moscovici theorized once, the minority has a lot more of an impact on a nation than the majority. We hope that will be the case when it comes liberty here in Egypt for the LGBTQ+ community, when we can live with no harm and no harassment.
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