The Sisi government’s repression of Egypt’s LGBT community

Under the pretext or preserving public morality gay men have found self-described the Egyptian Ministry of Interior’s “vice squad” (a euphemistic term with connotations eerily reminiscent of “moral police”) charging and arresting them for “debauchery”. Their rights are, like many of their compatriots, pretty much non-existent, especially if they are deemed by the authorities to be a threat to the security of the state or public morality.

Remember, this isn’t Saudi Arabia, Iran or Gaza. This is today’s Egypt under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Even though his regime has tried to promote itself as secularist it certainly isn’t very liberal and has taken some questionable actions which it apparently thinks will ameliorate a disgruntled populace who have had to endure years of, often very violent, instability, terrorism and political repression. Things which are clearly not going to end anytime soon. The present government claims to represent what Egyptians sought in the 2011 revolution, yet resembles more and more that of the authoritarian Mubarak regime which Egyptians of all sectors of society rallied together in the streets to protest against in January 2011.

The increasingly anti-LGBT stance of the authorities under Sisi resembles more the kind of behaviour Egyptian liberals would have expected from the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohammed Morsi. However in the wake of the banning and crackdown upon the Brotherhood the Egyptian government has exploited the instability in Egypt in order to arrest anyone they find objectionable, consequently the inmates of Egypt’s prisons these days consists of Islamists and secularists alike whose activism the Egyptian authorities deem to be a threat. As with many Middle Eastern autocrats before him Sisi claims there are no political prisoners in his jails, just terrorists and common criminals.

In Egypt, as is the case in the Palestinian Territories and elsewhere in the region, LGBT communities aren’t explicitly forbidden but are nevertheless quite taboo, consequently Egyptian LGBT communities and individuals are often quite discreet and their various meetings are seldom, if ever, public for similar reasons. 2014 was the worst year for the LGBT community of Egypt for quite some time, the only precedent in recent years of such a systematic crackdown on the LGBT community would have been back in 2001 during President Hosni Mubarak’s lengthy tenure. More LGBT’s have been arbitrarily arrested and detained under Sisi than during the relatively short time the Muslim Brotherhood, which preached about preserving and upholding what they deemed to be very traditional values, were in power.

Sisi’s government seems to be addressing that very base from which the Muslim Brotherhood has built its grassroots throughout the years. This is why some speculate the arrests of members of Egypt’s LGBT community are done so publicly, to portray itself as a bulwark against what many conservative-minded Egyptians deem an affront to their conservative and quite traditionally religious society. One LGBT activist quoted by The Guardian recently said that the Sisi government are sure that their crackdown on LGBT gatherings or other so-called immoral events deemed to constitute “debauchery” is done in the full light of day for everyone to see in order to “help show they can be society’s moral gatekeepers.”

Also, in a country where political freedom does not grant the right to critique the conduct and policy of the state mainstream media in Egypt is apparently toeing the government line and trying to get the public to focus more on such scandals and arrests. Ibrahim Monsour, the editor of Tahir News in Egypt, has claimed as much saying that the government wants “silly” issues like sex scandals to get more prominent news coverage in lieu of reportage dealing with political matters. And it makes perfect sense, as pro-government status quo journalists and mainstream broadcasters stir-up chauvinism over things like the private lives of the LGBT minority in public attention will be diverted from the issues that really matter and affect the direction the ship of the Egyptian state is headed.

by Paul Iddon in LGBT
Source – The News Hub