Beatings, arrests at Egyptian referendum

Thursday, May 26, 2005

By Mohamed Abdellah

Plainclothes supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak beat up activists protesting against a referendum on Wednesday on a presidential election system that sets tough conditions for opposition candidates.

Police said they had arrested 46 members of opposition groups in Cairo and the provinces, 25 of them in the Suez Canal town of Ismailia, including local party leaders who took part in a march against the referendum.

In central Cairo, riot police penned in dozens of members of the Kefaya (Enough) protest movement while men in plain clothes dragged some away by force, hitting them as they went.

The men, summoned by police officers, pushed prominent journalist and Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Abdel Qaddous to the ground, then kicked and punched him, witnesses said.

Prominent journalist Mohamed Gamal Fahmi received similar treatment, apparently to keep him away from the Kefaya group.

Essam Sultan, one of the witnesses, said: "I saw and heard one of the police generals give orders to the thugs, telling them to go and surround the Kefaya kids and hit them."

Opposition groups were campaigning for a boycott of Wednesday's referendum, saying the new system is little different from the old one of referendums on a single presidential candidate chosen in advance by parliament.

Some polling station officials said between 50 and 80 percent of registered voters had voted two or three hours before the stations close at 7 p.m. (1600 GMT).

But Reuters correspondents saw no queues at the stations they visited and only a trickle of voters.

From early morning, state television covered ministers voting and interviews with government supporters saying the referendum was a landmark for democracy.

Opposition groups say the restrictions will ensure Mubarak or another ruling party candidate wins the September elections.

Mubarak, 77 and in power since 1981, proposed the constitutional change in February under local and U.S. pressure. He has not said whether he will seek a fifth six-year term.

WOMEN MANHANDLED, CLOTHES TORN

"I saw a girl of 19 or 20 being pulled by the hair and being pulled along the pavement by an Interior Ministry officer. Then the riot police hit her with batons," Sultan said.

Kefaya supporter Mohamed Shafiq told reporters: "I was in Kefaya protesting ... suddenly I found myself surrounded by police. They started beating me with their fists."

Outside the Journalists Syndicate later, Mubarak supporters manhandled three women journalists, tearing their clothes and pulling the headscarf off one, witnesses said. One woman had blood on her face.

"About 200 supporters of the (ruling) National Democratic Party came, removed the Kefaya people from the steps, and anyone who came they thought was from Kefaya, they took and beat," said a syndicate security official, who asked not to be named.

The coordinator of the Kefaya Movement, George Ishak, told a news conference: "We were taken by surprise by a vicious police attack. They arrested people and injured them. They had no respect for journalists, youngsters, women or children. They attacked everyone with extreme violence."

In Ismailia, police detained the local leaders of four parties that have called for a boycott -- the liberal Wafd, the leftist Tagammu, the Islamist Labour and the Arab nationalist Nasserists, security sources said.

A crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the influential Islamist group which the government does not recognize, continued. Six members were picked up in three Nile Delta provinces, the sources said.

The Brotherhood said on Tuesday 960 of its members had been detained -- more than at any time since the massive crackdown about a month before former President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981.

Under the proposed amendment, recognized parties can field candidates in the coming elections, but in subsequent polls they must first win five percent of the seats in both houses of parliament -- a condition none of them currently meets.

Independents would need support from 65 of the 444 members of the lower house, which is 90 percent dominated by the NDP.

The Muslim Brotherhood, widely seen as the largest and most organized opposition force, says the tough conditions on independents aim to stop it fielding a candidate.

(Additional reporting by Edmund Blair and Amil Khan)


Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

posted by Matthew Schauki at 5/26/2005 05:19:00 AM 3 comments

Where's R?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

I can see that M has been doing all the talking for the last month, so did R just vanish? Let's hope he's just busy and'll be back sometime soon. I can't deny I like their blog a lot, although Arabic is hard to read in a small font (or is that just me?).

posted by Matthew Schauki at 5/08/2005 02:25:00 PM 2 comments

Just when you thought it wouldn't get any better...

...Bassatine News surprises you! Today I just found out their Spring 2005 issue is out, and it's just perfect. The seder pictures are great, the Bassatine cemetery pictures, the Egypt Today articles (one, two, and three)..... I just feel specially goood seeing those seder pictures with the remaining Jews (or should I say, Jewesses) of Egypt still enjoying some sense of "community".

Go to Bassatine News, Spring 2005 Issue

posted by Matthew Schauki at 5/08/2005 02:07:00 PM 0 comments

Joyeuse Anniversaire, Héliopolis!

I feel bad!!!!! This should have been posted on May 5, but I didn't have access to the internet that day. Anyway, I'm from Heliopolis, and always have been. And I love Heliopolis!

HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY, HELIOPOLISSSSSSSS!

posted by Matthew Schauki at 5/08/2005 01:59:00 PM 0 comments

Homosexuality in Egypt

Legal status:
According to ILGA.org (International Lesbian and Gay Association), same-sex male sexual activities are "legal theoretically, in practice subject to prosecution as 'habitual debauchery'", and same-sex female sexual activities are legal in Egypt.

Explaining the in-practice part mentioned above, ILGA says that "homosexuality is not mentioned in the law … However, since the current campaign of persecution of gay men was started in 2001, laws against 'habitual debauchery' (Law 10 of 1961 on the Combat of Prostitution) have been used to arrest, prosecute and imprison gay men. Sharia law does not apply." The "campaign", though, is thought to have almost ceased early 2004.

Age of sexual consent in Egypt:
Same-sex male: 18
Same-sex female: 18
Heterosexual: 18

"Homosexual acts are not illegal. The minimum age for heterosexual, lesbian and gays sex is set at 18 (Art. 269 CC)" (Odysseus 98/99: Helmut Graupner). But see comments above on the offence of "habitual debauchery" used to prosecute and imprison gay men.

SodomyLaws.org also explains that "Egyptian laws do not explicitly outlaw homosexuality, but the practice is taboo in this conservative, mostly Muslim country … Charges will be made such as 'offences against public morals and sensitivities' or 'violating the teachings of religion and propagating depraved ideas and moral depravity'."

Anti-gay campaign:
Though homosexuality is theoretically, surprisingly, legal in Egypt, a discriminatory campaign against gay men had been taking place since May 2001, when police arrested 62 gay men at the Queen Boat discothèque, of which 52 were charged with "religious contempt" and "habitual debauchery", the latter being usually used only against prostitutes.

In a Human Rights Watch report on this issue, arrested gay men were quoted saying they were inhumanely tortured and sometimes raped in police stations or elsewhere.

"'Every place we were held, somebody beat us,' the twenty-five-year-old told Human Rights Watch. 'We asked, why is it us who are getting beaten? It was like they weren’t dealing with human beings at all. … Like we weren’t even animals, just mud or something they could kick around.'" (HRW Report In a Time of Torture: the Assault on Justice in Egypt’s Crackdown on Homosexual Conduct, found online at http://hrw.org/reports/2004/egypt0304/).

Gay Egyptian internet resources:
The internet witnessed an activism of the gay community in Egypt that hadn't before occurred in Egypt before the internet era. There are Egyptian websites, based in Egypt or elsewhere, that actually defend such causes as gay rights in Egypt, an issue especially raised since that state-supported anti-gay campaign that started in 2001.

An organization called the EIPR (Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights) was probably the first human rights organization in Egypt to stand up for gay rights. The EOHR (Egyptian Organization for Human Rights) had said they would not defend gay rights in Egypt for religious and cultural reasons.

GayEgypt.com was the first serious attempt to start an Egyptian pro-gay website on the internet. It discusses various issues including Islam and Homosexuality, along with updated gay news from Egypt and the world.

Other websites include www.GayEgypt.tk and www.GayMiddleEast.com.

Hamd:
In 1963, an Egyptian lesbian by the name of Farduz Hussein, who was then married, set up a "gathering" one night for lesbians in the country. That "gathering", later acquiring the name Hamd, developed by time to become an Egyptian lesbian social group that meets on a regular basis in one of the women's apartments, each time.

In an article about Hamd, the writer (Afdhere Jama) claims that "that night, for the first time in their lives those Arab women had the privilege to be in the company of other lesbians and not feel ashamed or scared."

Jama's article goes on like this: "of course, with a good thing like that, they had to repeat it. And repeat it. And repeat it. It became a monthly meeting and used to just be called 'the gathering' and one year after their first meeting, the women decided to make it more 'official.'" The "gathering" has since then been known with its "official name", Hamd.

LGBTQ Muslims:
It is commonly known that Islam has a firm stand against homosexuality. Gay Muslims, however, find support in the few organizations and websites that defend their rights and get them "out of the closet".

People can differ when it comes to homosexuality in religions. This also exists in Islam. Some writers believe that Islam does not discriminate against gays.

Faris Malik (from www.QueerJihad.org) wrote, in an article on queer sexuality in the Koran, that "the Koran does not prohibit using, as passive sex partners, the ancient category of men who by nature lacked desire for women, since such men were not considered 'male' as a result of their lack of arousal for women"

Most Muslim clerics, though, believe homosexuality is even punishable by death.

However, a foundation called Al-Fatiha (www.al-fatiha.org) was founded in 1998 to support Muslim homosexuals and their families and friends.

"Al-Fatiha Foundation is a member of an international grassroots network of organizations dedicated to Muslims who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning, those exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity, and other sexual and gender minorities" (Quoted from al-fatiha.org).

Huriyah Magazine is an online publication where LGBT Muslims write on a quarterly basis (four issues per year). You can find Huriyah Magazine at www.huriyahmag.com.

The presence of the Egyptian gay community online:
Online Egyptian gay community is a relatively vibrant one. In most of the big gay dating and befriending website there are Egyptians. Gaydar (www.GaydarGuys.com and www.GaydarGirls.com) currently has many Egyptian members (well, they call them "guests" if they're not paid members), and you can find some of them online almost all the time.

IRC: IRC is short for "Internet Relay Chat" and is an international computer network of Internet servers, using its own protocol through which individual users can hold real-time online conversations. mIRC is the program most used to access IRC servers. The IRC DALnet chat server has a chatroom under the name of #GayEgypt, where gay Egyptians (and those looking for them) get to make online friendships instantly, that could even lead to real-life dates.

posted by Matthew Schauki at 5/08/2005 11:19:00 AM 2 comments

Worms

Sunday, May 01, 2005

When religious extremist thoughts are left unnoticed, the result is Cairo's last two weeks. In less than a month, a suicide bomb in the Alazhar neighborhood, another in Tahrir Square, and shooting in the Saïda Aïcha area.

The following is an imaginary story:

Hassan is an average Egyptian citizen. He's not a religious person. Well, that was in the past; last year he decided to start keeping his five daily prayers, plus the Friday prayers. Forget about the daily prayers now. Every Friday he went to the neighborhood mosque, attended the Friday sermon followed by the short prayer. Within a period of three months he had made many friends from the mosque. Then he and his mosque fellows started attending the optional religious "course" that follows the Friday prayer. Life goes on and one day he blows himself up in the middle of a tourist-attracting part of Cairo. What caused this? No-one knows. Is it something that developed in the mosque? If yes (and it's probably a 'yes'), then, what do they learn in the religious courses? Why did Hassan always notice one more girl getting out of the other side of the mosque deciding to live completely-covered for the rest of her life? I won't answer these questions.

Extremist Islamist thoughts are like a bunch of worms eating your whole body until you end up dead, and proud of it!

posted by Matthew Schauki at 5/01/2005 04:02:00 PM 0 comments