الأحد، 19 نوفمبر، 2017

Fear and paranoia grip Egypt’s LGBT community: ‘I want to be forgotten’

Fear and paranoia grip Egypt’s LGBT community: ‘I want to be forgotten’

Nov 15, 2017, 4:21 AM ET

When the crackdown began, LGBT people across Egypt began dropping off dating apps, stopped meeting friends and charted their escape.As police in the conservative, Muslim country rounded up dozens of people over the past two months, intensifying their persecution of the country’s LGBT citizens, a wave of paranoia and fear swept over the community. In interviews with ABC News, half a dozen LGBT people in Egypt described feeling trapped and terrified that they, too, could end up imprisoned and tortured by the security services.

For one 32-year-old man from Cairo, taking refuge in the desert seemed safest.

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The man, who teaches young adults about gender studies, identifies as pansexual, where one does not prefer one specific gender or orientation over another. He moved to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and started volunteering at a guest house. Like others interviewed by ABC News, he requested anonymity, worried he could be detained for speaking out.

“I want to be forgotten for a bit,” he told ABC News. “That’s exactly how I feel right now.”

He said his boyfriend attended a Sept. 22 Cairo concert by the Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila, where several people -- including someone he knew -- held up rainbow LGBT pride flags. Images of the flags went viral on social media in Egypt, prompting anti-LGBT hysteria in Egyptian mass media and, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a human rights group, the arrests of at least 75 people.

At least 20 have have been given prison sentences ranging from six months to six years after “significantly expedited trials,” and at least five men received anal examinations that amounted to torture, Amnesty International said. Human rights groups have issued harsh condemnations.

“I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to see anyone,” the man from Cairo said. He spends his time binge watching television, avoiding exercise and friends.

“I feel like a reject,” he said. “I lost my belonging to this place.”Last week, just over an hour down the road from his desert sanctuary, Egypt hosted the World Youth Forum, an international conference in the resort city of Sharm El Sheikh that, according to its website, aimed to promote "peace, prosperity, harmony and progress.” Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah El Sisi, attended and asked the young people participating “to deliver a message of peace and tolerance from Egypt to their countries,” according to his office.
But at the guesthouse, the pansexual Egyptian felt paralyzed and persecuted -- and regretful. He had spent time in Europe and even applied for asylum there earlier this year, ultimately growing homesick and unhappy with the process, coming back to his homeland.
But his countrymen’s hatred threw him into depression, he said.
“I wake up every day asking myself, ‘What the f--- am I doing here?’” the man, who has since left Sinai for another Egyptian city, said. “The crackdown awakened the homophobia of the masses. People are cheering for the arrests of the gays.”

Dating app entrapment

Analysts told ABC News the current crackdown comes in the context of increased oppression against a variety of minority, political and religious groups in Egypt since 2013, when the military took control of the government.
LGBT people have been targeted in particular, not only during the past several years, but for decades. It’s been worse lately, though. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a local human rights group, said at least 232 people who were LGBT, or perceived to be, were arrested between 2013 and 2017.
Human rights activists have warned of police officers using gay dating apps to entrap users, luring them to meetings only to arrest them. Other methods, activists said, involve forcing detainees to reveal acquaintances’ names and rounding up people who have visited imprisoned LGBT people.
Users also tell stories of straight civilians using apps to find LGBT people, beating them and blackmailing them for money.
Several gay dating app companies and LGBT Egyptians said they did not know of an instance where police used entrapment in the current crackdown, but they did worry about the practice continuing.
The spread of smartphones and ubiquitous internet use have created new risks, according to Scott Long, a longtime human rights activist focusing on LGBT issues.
“This makes it really easy, on the one hand, for homophobic propaganda from online media to sort of show up in your face, and I think it’s helping to indoctrinate the public,” Long, who lived in Egypt from 2012 to 2016, told ABC News. “And I think, on the other hand, the apps have made gay and trans people more vulnerable.”

Apps move to protect users

A variety of gay dating apps have proliferated in Egypt in recent years, giving LGBT people a new way to make friends and chase romance.
The arrests have led several of the apps to re-examine the protections they offer their users in Egypt.
The app Hornet sends general safety recommendations to its Arabic-speaking users, which the company said number over one million, like holding video calls before meeting in person and checking in with friends before and after dates.
When users of Scruff travel to one of more than 80 countries with limits on same-sex acts, including Egypt, they receive an alert and information about restrictions. In areas with those advisories, users’ precise locations are automatically hidden, and they can flag suspicious profiles.
“At the end of the day, people -- gay people, straight people -- they’re going to want to connect, they’re going to want to meet,” Eric Silverberg, Scruff's CEO, told ABC News. “No regime, no matter how repressive, can stop that fundamental human need for companionship and for relationships.”
Grindr, another popular app, regularly shares safety tips with its users in Egypt and in other parts of the world, and like Scruff, exact locations are not provided in high-risk countries. Its director of equality, Jack Harrison-Quintana, told ABC News the company is working on giving users the ability to change the app’s icon in case their phones are confiscated by the police, and is studying behavior associated with suspicious profiles.

“Our user community is really just our first line of defense against these things,” Harrison-Quintana said. “Educating and empowering them makes a real difference.”
Sean Howell, Hornet’s president and co-founder, said he was so concerned that he flew to Cairo himself for a day last month to meet with users, activists and non-governmental organization workers -- some of whom were in hiding.
Howell told ABC News he was dismayed at how uninformed his app’s users were despite the company’s best efforts, and that generally, their behavior had not changed much in recent weeks.
But the answer, he said, was not encouraging them to give up online dating, particularly when meeting virtually may still be safer than frequenting coffee shops or bars popular with LGBT people.
“The consensus was that telling people not to use the app would be punitive to the community,” Howell said. “Meeting online has just become such an important part of a gay person’s evolution, especially for young people.”
Tinder, a dating app that does not target just LGBT people but which Egyptians said was commonly used by them, did not respond to multiple requests for information about protections for its users in Egypt.

Happiness turns to fear

While security services have picked up their persecution of LGBT people in recent years, it was not always clear that the crackdown this fall would grow into what some believe is the worst wave yet.
When Mohamed, a 30-year-old gay man from Cairo, saw the rainbow flags raised at the Mashrou’ Leila concert, he initially was happy.
Then, Egyptian media launched tirade after tirade against LGBT people. The intensity, Mohamed and other LGBT Egyptians said, was frightening.
Mohamed quickly deleted photos, text messages and gay dating apps from his phone, and started using an encrypted communications app.
“This crackdown terrified me because I saw them arresting people who had nothing to do with the concert,” he said. “They arrested people randomly because the police know gay guys’ meeting places.”
Mohamed said he wants to flee Egypt and has friends who already have.
“I am not only afraid of the police,” he said. “I am afraid of the people even more.”

Harsher penalties proposed

Meanwhile, scores of Egyptian legislators are lobbying for a law that would explicitly criminalize homosexual acts to ensure harsher penalties by replacing a 1961 anti-prostitution law that has been used against LGBT people for decades.
“Homosexuality” is not clearly defined or mentioned in Egyptian law, so authorities have been prosecuting LGBT people under charges of “habitual debauchery” that can send them to jail for up to three years.
More than 60 Egyptian members of parliament have backed a bill that for the first time would explicitly punish those who engage in “homosexual” acts or promote “homosexuality.” The act would imprison violators for up to five years for individual offenses and up to 15 years if convicted under multiple provisions, according to Amnesty International.
“If passed, this law would further entrench stigma and abuse against people based on their perceived sexual orientation,” Amnesty International’s North Africa campaigns director, Najia Bounaim, said in a statement.

‘Miserably depressed’

A gay man in Cairo who attended the Mashrou’ Leila concert told ABC News he knew three people who were arrested. He said the crackdown has overwhelmed him, making him physically ill and leading him to stay away from the internet.
“I’m trying not to be paranoid and just trying to be very cautious,” the man, in his mid-20s, said. “But yes, I’m afraid. I’m definitely afraid for my life. I haven’t been seeing anyone who I don't know.”
He said he felt like a political pawn and was not sure if he wanted to stay in Egypt.
“It’s funny that people, at some point, think that they have a say on whether I have a right to exist or not,” he said. “I know people who are miserably depressed now, after the amount of hate speech they were subjected to in the media.”
While some of the dozens arrested in recent weeks have been released, the social stigma against LGBT people means defendants and their families can continue to face harassment, according to Dalia Abdel-Hameed, the head of the gender program at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

Often, when LGBT people are arrested, they have not come out to their families, who sometimes reject them, Abdel-Hameed told ABC News.

After 26 men were detained during a round-up at a bathhouse in 2014 -- and were later acquitted -- one man tried to light himself on fire, she said, “because society doesn’t forgive.”

Seeking a way out

While not everyone is ready to give up their life in Egypt, some don’t think they have a real choice.

In 2011, Egyptian Samer Habib, who is gay, moved to Canada to attend college. He returned home once the next year, eventually deciding it was not safe for him to live in his hometown of Cairo as he increasingly opened up about his sexual orientation.

Rather than go back again and likely face discrimination during his mandatory military service -- Egypt has conscription for young men -- Habib applied for asylum in Canada.

He received refugee status in May. Now 24 years old, he lives in Winnipeg, Canada, with a Canadian boyfriend and a job at the University of Winnipeg, but he misses his family -- and the country where he grew up.

“There really isn’t a day that goes by where I don't wish I could go home and go visit everybody,” Habib told ABC News. “But of course, there’s no getting around the fact that the culture is embedded with homophobia, and there’s nothing really I can do to change that.”

‘Hate was always here’

Mohamed, a 22-year-old recent university graduate in Alexandria, is trying to escape. He hopes applying to universities in Germany -- but first learning German -- will put him on a path out of Egypt, where he said he now struggles to make friends because there is so much distrust in the LGBT community.

He still uses dating apps, he said, but exercises extreme caution. “I only chat with people who speak English, which I know sounds a bit elitist, but I’m trying to keep myself safe,” he said.

Raising the rainbow flag did not turn Egyptians against LGBT people in itself, he said, but it exposed his countrymen’s true beliefs.

“Really, the hate was always here,” Mohamed said. “That part never changed. It’s just more open now.”

Living with a disguise

LGBT Egyptians described a feeling of being trapped and paranoid.

“I started avoiding gathering in any means with any of my LGBT friends, in any of their houses,” a 33-year-old transgender man from Cairo said. “I actually went one time, and I had this feeling that, ‘OK, police are going to come any minute now.’”

Transgender people in Egypt are generally viewed through a different lens than gay or bisexual people. Egypt has in recent years allowed treatment for gender dysphoria, although the social stigma can still be strong.

The transgender man from Cairo said he started presenting as a man about 10 months ago and planned to have gender reassignment surgery abroad this month. In the meantime, he has been using his brother’s identity papers, as his show him as a woman.

“As long as you are living here in Egypt with a disguised identify,” he said, “as long as people are seeing you as a normal man, they don't know your history, they don't know your case, you don't have any problem.”

‘Queers make an easy target’

Ahmed, a gay man in his late 20s in Cairo, said that LGBT people had been living under heightened pressure ever since the military took over four years before. He said he was socially privileged and could be relatively open with his friends about his sexual orientation.

“I was always cautious,” he said in an email. “Because the danger has been there for years and it is not just restricted to the police, there is also risks of thugs, violence and hate crime.”

He said he had contemplated leaving the country because, no matter what, his life would “always be in the shadows” and that he was not sure if there was “anything left to fight for here.”

“This wave was loud and was loud for a reason,” he said, though observers can only speculate why.

“But it is vital to know that in terms of media frenzy and arrests, queers make an easy target,” he added. “Very few care about us. Very few would be moved to stop this. Even less would stand up for us.”

Shame: More than 200,000 children married in US over the last 15 years

More than 200,000 children married in US over the last 15 years

    Girls as young as 10 were among the minors who wedded under legal loopholes
    More than 200,000 children were married in the US over the past 15 years, new figures have revealed.
    Three 10-year-old girls and an 11-year-old boy were among the youngest to wed, under legal loopholes which allow minors to marry in certain circumstances.
    The minimum age for marriage across most of the US is 18, but every state has exemptions – such as parental consent or pregnancy – which allow younger children to tie the knot.
    In May, the high-profile Republican governor for New Jersey declined to sign into law a measure that would have made his state the first to ban child marriage without exception. Chris Christie claimed it would conflict with religious customs.

    At least 207,468 minors married in the US between 2000 and 2015, according to data compiled by Unchained At Last, a group campaigning to abolish child marriage, and investigative documentary series Frontline.

    The true figure is likely to be much higher because 10 states provided no or incomplete statistics.

    Fraidy Reiss, the founder of Unchained at Last, said she was "literally shaking" when she first obtained data for New Jersey, where her group is based.

    Nearly 3,500 children married in the state between 1995 and 2012.

    “That number was so much higher than I had thought it would be,” she told Frontline. “Then, the fact that the children were as young as 13 and the fact that it was mostly girls married to adult men.”

    Eight-seven per cent of the minors who married across the country between 2000 and 2015 were girls, with the majority either 16 or 17.

    The youngest wedded were three 10-year-old girls in Tennessee who married men aged 24, 25 and 31 in 2001. The youngest groom was an 11-year-old who married a 27-year-old woman in the same state in 2006.

    Children as young as 12 were granted marriage licences in Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina, while 11 other states allowed 13-year-olds to wed.

    More than 1,000 children aged 14 or under were granted marriage licences.

    Most states set the age of sexual consent between 16 and 18 and a person can be charged with statutory rape for having sex with a minor. Yet many children were granted marriage licences, approved by judges, before they could legally consent to sex.

    Only 14 per cent of the children who wedded were married to other minors. Most married a partner aged 18 to 29, with 60 per cent aged between 18 or 20.
    But in rare cases children were permitted to wed someone decades older.

    A 14-year-old girl married a 74-year-old man in Alabama, while a 17-year-old wed a 65-year-old groom in Idaho.

    Child brides usually come from poor backgrounds, said Dr Nicholas Syrett, author of American Child Bride.

    He added: "Almost all the evidence indicates that girls in cities don’t get married young, that girls from middle class or wealthy families, don’t get married young. This is a rural phenomenon and it is a phenomenon of poverty."

    The bill vetoed by Mr Christie in May had already been approved by both houses of the legislature and would have made New Jersey the first state to outlaw child marriage.

    He said it should have an exception so a judge can approve marriages for 16- and 17-year-olds, and the measure could still become law if the legislators resubmit the bill with his recommended changes.

    Last month New York banned children aged under 17 from marrying. Previously minors as young as 14 were allowed to wed under state law providing they obtained parental and court permission.

    Continuation of repression and obliterating secularism in Turkey by the moron Erdogan!

    Turkey bans all LGBT events in capital to 'protect public security'

    Ankara governor's office claims LGBT film screenings, theatre shows and exhibitions endanger 'health and morality' by inflaming 'social sensitivities'
    • @SamuelOsborne93 
    • http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/lgbt-events-banned-turkey-ankara-protect-public-security-governors-office-health-and-morality-a8063526.html
    • A person waves a rainbow flag in front of Istanbul courthouse in support of eleven LGBTI activists charged with attending last year's banned gay pride march AFP

    • Turkey has banned all events by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights groups in its capital city, Ankara.
      The ban has been imposed to protect “public security”, the Ankaragovernor’s office said. 
      The restrictions came into effect on Saturday and will last for an “indefinite” period, applying to all LGBTI film screenings, theatres, panels and exhibitions.The governor’s office claimed such events may cause animosity between different groups and endanger “health and morality”, as well as the rights and freedoms of others.
      It warned some groups may be provoked by LGBTI events and take action against participants due to “certain social sensitivities”.
      Unlike many Muslim countries, homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey and numerous LGBTI associations are legally registered with the state. But there is widespread hostility and rights activists say LGBTI people face discrimination and stigma. 
      The announcement by Ankara’s government is likely to deepen concern about civil liberties under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Authorities in Ankara had already banned a German gay film festival on Wednesday, the day before it was due to start, citing public safety and terrorism risks. Organisers of Pink Life Queerfest said the ban “deprives us of our constitutional rights in the name of ‘protection’”.
      Gay pride parades have been banned in Istanbul for the last two years running.
      In June, 25 LGBTI rights supporters were arrested after attending a banned Pride march. They were later charged with participating in an unauthorised demonstration.
      Istanbul’s local government had banned the march at the last minute on the grounds “it might lead to provocative actions and disrupt the public order”. Police in riot gear broke up the parade, firing rubber bullets at demonstrators, after organisers decided to press ahead with the event.“Our security cannot be provided by imprisoning us behind walls, asking us to hide,” organisers said. “Our security will be provided by recognising us in the constitution, by securing justice, by equality and freedom.”

      Earlier this month, Mr Erdogan accused the main opposition party of moving away from the country’s moral values after a small opposition-run district installed a quota for LGBTI candidates running for election to a neighbourhood committee.

      The Turkish leader, a pious Muslim, said the pro-secular main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, would learn “the lesson they deserve” at an election in 2019.

      “We have no business with those who have declared war on the people’s values,” he said.

    الأربعاء، 15 نوفمبر، 2017

    Australians vote to legalise same-sex marriage in historic move towards equality

    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he hopes to legalise same-sex unions 'before Christmas'
    The majority of Australians support the country becoming the 26th nation to legalise same-sex marriage, including supporters here in Melbourne EPA
    Australians have come out in favour of same-sex marriages in a historic national poll.
    The survey, while non-binding, is a significant step towards achieving marriage equality and paves the way for same-sex unions across the country.

    Some 61.6 per cent of the electorate backed gay marriage, against 38.4 per cent who opposed the move, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.
    A change in the law would make Australia the 26th nation to legalise same-sex marriage.
    Responding, Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said the result was “overwhelming” and “unequivocal” and added that he hoped to legalise same-sex unions before the end of the year.
    “Now it is up to us here in the parliament of Australia to get on with it, to get on with the job the Australian people have asked us to do and get this done,” he said. “This year, before Christmas – that must be our commitment.
    “It is our job now to get on with it, get on with it and get this done. It is fair. The people have voted yes for marriage equality. Now it is our job to deliver it.
    “They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love.”
    Australian statistician David Kalisch announced the results in the capital Canberra, with 7,817,247 of the ballots cast saying yes, compared to 4,873,987 opposed to the idea, on a turnout of 79.5 per cent. 
    Across all six states in Australia, the yes vote won – ranging from 57.8 per cent in New South Wales to 74 per cent support in the Australian Capital Territory.
    Tiernan Brady, director of Australians for Equality, said: “If this were a general election it­ would be the biggest landslide in Australian history.”
    The result marks a watershed moment for gay rights in Australia, where it was illegal in some states to engage in homosexual activity until 1997.
    Thousands of supporters who had gathered in a park in central Sydney broke into a loud cheer, hugged each other and cried as the result was delivered live over a big screen.

    الأربعاء، 8 نوفمبر، 2017

    Significant victory for the Transgender community in the US!


    Trans Woman Andrea Jenkins Elected to Minneapolis City Council

    he's the first transgender person elected to a major city's governing body and the first trans person of color elected to any office in the U.S.
    Andrea Jenkins has won election to the Minneapolis City Council, making her the first trans person elected to a major city’s governing body and one of the first out trans people of color elected to any office in the United States.

    Jenkins won in the city’s Eighth Ward, where she had been a policy aide to departing Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden. The Minneapolis Star Tribune had endorsed her, saying she was highly qualified and well prepared for the office. She bested three other candidates. Jenkins is a Democrat; the race is officially nonpartisan, but candidates can identify with a party label. She had the endorsement of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as the Democratic Party is known in Minnesota, and of Victory Fund. She won more than 70 percent of the vote in her ward, according to the Star Tribune.

    As an aide to Glidden and previous Eighth Ward council member Robert Lilligren, Jenkins worked to revitalize the neighborhood with small businesses and arts venues, and helped organize a Trans* Equity Summit. She emphasized, however, that revitalization must not come at the expense of poor people.

    During the campaign, she said her priorities include developing affordable housing, raising the minimum wage, addressing youth violence as a matter of public health, and supporting minority artists. She is a historian with the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota as well as a poet, prose author, and performance artist who has received numerous grants for her work.

    Vicroty Fund president and CEO Aisha C. Moodie-Mills released this statement: “Andrea Jenkins shattered a glass ceiling tonight – becoming the first out trans woman ever elected to the city council of a major U.S. city. Andrea ran on improving the lives of constituents in her ward, but the significance of her victory for the trans equality movement is undeniable. Americans are growing increasingly aware of trans equality and people, and this win will surely inspire other trans people to run for office and further inclusion in their communities.” 

    A trans man, Phillipe Cunningham, and a cisgender lesbian, Jillia Pessenda, are also running for council seats in Minneapolis. Results in their races are still to come.

    Virginia Elects Its First Openly Transgender State Lawmaker

    Democrat Danica Roem defeated the Republican who wrote the anti-trans bathroom bill.

    Danica Roem wins the Virginia delegate race.
    Democrat Danica Roem defeated Virginia Del. Bob Marshall (R) on Tuesday, becoming the first openly transgender state lawmaker in Virginia.

    Roem is now delegate-elect for Virginia’s 13th House of Delegates district, which includes outer suburbs of Washington.

    The voters of Virginia’s 13th District chose Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump by 14 percentage points in the 2016 election, giving Roem favorable odds going into the election.

    Roem’s historic victory, which was called about an hour after polls closed,  elated LGBTQ advocates. The outcome was that much sweeter because Marshall co-sponsored a 2006 Virginia constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that prompted LGBTQ activists to dub him “Bigot Bob.” Marshall, who once referred to himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe,” also introduced the bill that would have banned transgender public school students from using the bathrooms of their choice.
    Tonight voters chose a smart, solutions-oriented trans leader over a divisive anti-LGBTQ demagogue – sending a powerful message to anti-trans legislators all across the nation,” Aisha Moodie-Mills, president of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said in a statement. “Danica defeated ‘Bigot Bob’ Marshall not because she is transgender, but because she presented a positive vision for her constituents that will improve their lives.”
    Roem ran in one of 17 GOP-held districts where Clinton prevailed in 2016. Her early win suggested that Democrats were on their way to a good night at the polls.
    Roem ran on a platform of improving the state’s infrastructure, including State Route 28, raising teacher salaries, and championing LGBTQ and immigrant rights.
    Although many civil rights groups have hailed Roem as the country’s first openly transgender state lawmaker, Stacie Laughton, an openly transgender woman, won a seat in New Hampshire’s legislature in 2012, but Laughton resigned before taking office.
    In Massachusetts, closeted transgender woman Althea Garrison won a seat in the legislature in 1992. A conservative newspaper subsequently outed her for having been a man.

    Tyler Titus wins seat to become first transgender person elected in Pennsylvania

    Tyler Titus is the first openly transgender person to be elected in Pennsylvania. (Facebook)
    Tyler Titus, a candidate for Erie School Board, on Tuesday became the first openly transgender person elected to office in Pennsylvania. 

    The 33-year-old father of two boys successfully campaigned for one of four open seats on the board. 
    Titus is a licensed professional counselor who works in public and private schools throughout Erie. 
    Victory Fund President and CEO Aisha C. Moodie-Mills released the following statement about his win:
    "Tyler Titus shattered a lavender ceiling in Pennsylvania today - and his victory will resonate well-beyond state boundaries. Trans people remain severely underrepresented in our politics and government, and now more than ever we need trans voices like Tyler's in the halls of power. This is a historic night for trans candidates across the country - and Tyler is part of a vanguard of leaders who are determined to be part of the conversation on issues that affect their lives."
    Pennsylvania was one of at least three states with historic wins Tuesday night. 
    Danica Roem defeated an incumbent who introduced a "bathroom bill" to become the first openly transgender woman elected in Virginia. 
    And Andrea Jenkins won 73 percent of the vote against three opponents to be elected to Minneapolis city council in Ward 8. She's the first transgender person of color to be elected to any office in the U.S.