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Arab LGBT rights organizations denounce gay bathhouse raid, arrests of 33 men in Cairo

Arab LGBT rights organizations denounce gay bathhouse raid, arrests of 33 men in Cairo

Several well-known organizations in the Middle East and North Africa have issued a joint statement to condemn the raid of a gay bathhouse in Cairo on Dec 7 in which 26 or 33 men, according to various media reports, have been arrested.

The men were arrested for the alleged ‘group practice of deviance’ in exchange for money inside the bathhouse.

TV presenter Mona Iraqi is alleged to have reported the venue to the police who also filmed the raid and broadcast the incident on her TV show ‘Al-Mistakhabi’ (‘The Concealed’) on a private television channel Al Kahera Wal Nas.

Shnit, a Swiss-based International Short Film Festival which is represented by Iraqi in Egypt, has defended the actions of the journalist backing her claim that she was investigating sex trafficking and prostitution in Cairo.

Iraqi however has publicly claimed that her reporting of the raid was to expose ‘the secret behind the spreading of AIDS in Egypt.’

The signatories of the joint statement, which include the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality, Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates (ATFD) in Tunisia, the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR), Lebanese LGBT rights group Helem, and others have demanded that the Egyptian government cease persecuting people for their sexual practices.

‘Mona Iraqi took the media frenzy to a new level as she transformed the job of a presenter to that of an informant, working for the police, reporting to them what she thinks is a crime. Those who were arrested did not commit any crime punishable by law,’ the statement read highlighting the fact that male sexual relations is not explicitly outlawed in Egypt.

They groups also called into question the professional ethics of Iraqi.

‘She has dishonored the profession of journalism. We affirm that it is she who has violated the law and not the men who were arrested… We demand that Mona Iraqi be held legally responsible for abusing her profession to violate these men’s privacy, commit libel and pursue her career without considering the consequences of her actions.’

According to the statement published last week on the Beirut, Lebanon-based Arab Foundation For Freedoms And Equality’s website, activists have documented the arrest of more than 150 individuals in Egypt on the assumption that they are gay or transgender since Jun 30, 2013.

‘In some cases prison sentences of eight or nine years have been imposed, on legal grounds that are incorrect or fabricated.’

In September, seven Egyptian men were arrested of debauchery after appearing in a video that showed two men getting married on a Nile riverboat.

In 2001, 52 men were arrested and accused of offending religion and practising debauchery following the raid on a disco on the luxury Queen Boat, moored on the Nile in Cairo.

Last week the Egyptian AIDS Society (EAS) says they intent to file lawsuit against TV journalist Mona Iraqi for using their interview for ‘unethical purposes.’

The group said it was contacted by the channel where Iraqi works to take part in a special episode on the occasion of World AIDS Day.

‘We agreed and the society’s director gave an interview answering several questions related to [HIV/AIDS] awareness.’

The society later found out the interview was used for ‘unethical purposes’ and was aired together with videos of the raid and other interviews that ‘are totally against the society’s codes.’

‘We did not know about the details that were later inserted and the channel manipulated the interview,’ the group was quoted by Saudi Arabia-based Al Arabiya News as saying.

The men are expected to face trial on Sunday, Dec 21.