Oct 4, 2010

Homophobic crimes in Egypt?

I have to admit it's always hard to ever approach homosexuality here in Egypt. Homosexual people (or behavior) here is usually seen as one of three views: deviant people who deserve to be punished or even executed; sick people who need medical attention; or normal people only with a different sexual orientation (hardly ever adopted or expressed, even by gays themselves).

I hesitated to write about the upcoming account of events, but I felt it's too disturbing to ignore. The story goes as follows:

A young boy, Kareem (16 year old) was walking by in downtown area, Cairo. He was followed by four guys who were shouting insults to the young boy calling him a faggot. The boy just ignored their insults and kept going, the thing that seemed to provoke them, so they chased him until they caught him and started slapping and beating him violently (they were older and much stronger). It's not very clear why they decided to be that violent and abusive; although it seems to be basically driven by homophobia as Kareem's appearance looked “different”. Kareem screamed and ran towards police informers nearby but they didn’t bother to help the boy.

Appalled by what they saw, a group of friends sitting at a downtown cafĂ© decided to intervene and help Kareem from the brutal attack. The one who stepped in first; Mohamed was met by violence and he was slapped and hit too. He was told by the perpetrators “Why do you want to help him? Are you a faggot too?”

Since the fight started to involve more people, the police finally started to take action and step in. They automatically took the side of the perpetrators because the victim seemed to be a homosexual. They wanted to take Kareem and Mohamed (who only wanted to help) to the police station. The police seemed reluctant to arrest the perpetrators, but finally decided to take the main perpetrator for investigations.

What followed was even worse. The police tortured Kareem and decided to perform a rectal examination to determine if he was a homosexual! This was done using violence and in front of the perpetrator! Mohamed was met by sarcasm and ridicule. Police informers harassed him. The only thing that might have saved Mohamed from further humiliation was that he had an American passport.

Finally, the police decided that the rectal exam didn’t prove Kareem to be a homosexual! (This kind of exam is based on old and false medical knowledge). Then, the police suggested a reconciliation deal with the perpetrator. Desperate to leave and end the awful experience, both Mohamed and Kareem agreed so they can get out of the terrifying police station. A police report was issued and it had a completely different story from what happened.

Now does Kareem deserve being attacked and humiliated like this? Does any human deserve this? Is being homosexual a good reason to be treated like this by the police even if you were a victim? Does someone's appearance or thoughts or identity give any person the right to attack others? Isn't the police role to protect people when they need them?!

Police torture is a common issue here, but more light is being shed on it as activists are getting more vocal about it and spreading awareness mainly using the internet and social media. But it's sad when no one is willing to advocate a person's rights if the person is thought to be homosexual! I highly doubt that torture activist would stand by Kareem.

The Egyptian penalcode has no clear articles against homosexuality however an outdated law to combat prostitution is used to prosecute homosexuals under the title of (habitual practice of debauchery). I wonder if criminalizing homosexuality help Egypt become free from homosexuals. Does this law really change anything to the better? Or it only infringes on some people’s personal freedoms and privacy?

Can someone in Egypt speak against the homophobia? Is it a “good cause”? Would this kind of activism gain any support inside Egypt?

A lot of questions worth contemplating and discussion, however homosexuality is a huge taboo and most activists fear stigmatization if they advocate it. Another taboo yet to be broken!