Tillerson Urged to Condemn Persecution of LGBT Community in Egypt
Washington, D.C.—In response to the ongoing crackdown against the Egyptian LGBT community, Human Rights First recently called on Secretary Tillerson to condemn unequivocally the rampant abuse and to take action to encourage the Egyptian government protects the human rights of all its citizens. The call came in a letter from Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino urging the secretary to demand the immediate release of all Egyptians detained as part of the government’s campaign and an end of the vilification of LGBT people in state-controlled media. The organization notes that over 65 people have been detained during the crackdown, some have been subjected to so-called “anal examinations,” a form of torture.
“This campaign against LGBT people is part of a concerted effort to paint legitimate criticism of Egypt’s dismal human rights record—by the U.S. and other governments, inter-governmental organizations, and human rights organizations—as an effort to promote immorality,” wrote Massimino. “The Egyptian government is using this campaign to create an atmosphere of contrived moral panic that it will manipulate to enact further measures to attack and discredit human rights groups and activists.”
On September 22 in Cairo a small group of audience members raised a gay pride rainbow flag at concert by the Lebanese Alternative Rock Band Mashrou’ Leila. Since then, Egyptian authorities have detained people accused of waving the flag, apparently identifying them from photographs on social media, and embarked on a crackdown against members of the LGBT community, primarily gay men. Dozens have been charged with offenses like “spreading debauchery” or “promoting sexual deviancy.”
Last week Egyptian members of parliament introduced a new law criminalizing same sex relations and public support of LGBT rights. The Sisi government is using the crackdown as a pretext to introduce more instruments of repression with a wide variety of possible targets, including Egyptian human rights advocates.
In August the Trump Administration denied and withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance in an effort to persuade the Egyptian government to end its crackdown on independent civil society organizations. Last month the State Department said in a statement that it is concerned about the crackdown, and broadly commented that the United States advocates for nations “to uphold and respect their international human rights obligations and commitments.”
“This campaign should be seen for what it is—an escalation of policies to which you have rightly signaled your opposition. We welcomed your decision in August to deny and withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Egypt in consideration of the Egyptian government’s assault on independent civil society organizations,” added Massimino. “While the State Department deserves credit for expressing concern over the Egyptian government’s most recent actions, the U.S. government should now condemn these human rights violations plainly and categorically.”