Edited: A previous version of this story included references to an individual who has told us that he is not gay, We have deleted and removed any reference to him.
By Paul Canning
Amongst the crowds protesting the 30 year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarek in Egypt are many lesbians and gay men.
They have also been amongst the opposition during the past years.
Saber, a very brave man whose name deserves to be more widely known outside Egypt, has been arrested, tortured and thrown in jail many times.
"After a while," he told the LA Times last year, "you stop paying attention to the charges they stack against you."With each jailing, he said, he met activists, laborers, professors, taxi drivers, Islamists, journalists and others arrested by security forces. Saber is not the ideal Arab dissident; his homosexuality has made him a curiosity to opposition groups and an easily vilified target for police and religious conservatives.
He told the LA Times that he was contemplating seeking asylum in another country, but didn't want to betray all those years on the protest line, all those months spent in prison.
His body shook. He wiped his eyes; he said that no matter what, he would never fit in here.Last Thursday the website GayEgypt issued this call to action:
He stepped out, turning the corner toward riot policemen peering through the wire mesh of transport trucks. About 200 protesters were chanting for better wages. He rushed toward them, throwing his fist into the air.
Egypt's gay and lesbian community has had enough of years of police brutality and torture and GayEgypt.com calls on all lesbians and gays to join their brothers and sisters on the street to peacefully express their demand for immediate change.It is now carrying news and information about the protests including this photo gallery (nb: download speed is slow due to authorities imposing internet restrictions). There have been reports of many lesbians and gays joining the protesters in Alexandria and Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Last October we published this everyday tale from the Rebel With A Cause blog of police harassment and torture of gay, or in this case 'gay appearing', people in Egypt:
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 café 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.In 2005 Human Rights Watch reported that the Egyptian government arrests and routinely tortures men suspected of consensual homosexual conduct.
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.