The following is a condensed version of our letter to the Ambassador of Egypt in Ottawa, Motaz Mounir Zahran.
Universalist Muslims is a not-for-profit federally incorporated community organization in Canada. We advocate for human rights, including LGBTQI rights, inside and outside the mosque.
On October 18, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., we shall be holding a peaceful demonstration outside the Embassy of Egypt in Ottawa at 454 Laurier Avenue E., in Ottawa, to protest Egypt's degrading and dehumanizing treatment of sexual minorities. Similar protests shall be taking place in London, Berlin and Barcelona.
Our demonstration was not conceived here in the west.
Photo provided by #StandWithEgyptLGBT.
To the contrary -- we have been invited to engage in this protest by your fellow Egyptian citizens, who have asked us to stand with them in solidarity and who have stated as follows:
"Because of all the prosecutions, discriminations, jailing, detentions, physical and verbal violence conducts, anal examinations, torture, deceptive exposing and unethical media tools, humiliation, murders, outdated cultures and believes [sic] pursued by the society and the Egyptian government against the LGBTQI community, members have been living a double life full of fear and disgrace.
We are calling on a solidarity protest, a stand for human rights, cause there is no excuse to be treated as such. To stop prosecuting LGBTQI community members and show both the society and the government that people stand for each other no matter where they are in the world. To tell both the society and the government that people with diverse sexualities and gender identities can't be punished for who they are.
To deliver a message to the government of Egypt that what they did and what they keep doing won't pass easily. The 18th of October is the day in which we will become more vocal, visible and united. Join us on the 18th of Oct." - Solidarity with Egypt LGBT.
Egypt has shown a lack of compassion and respect for the basic human rights of some of its most vulnerable citizens.
It has been reported that:
- Egyptian authorities are arresting LGBTQI individuals or those thought to be LGBTQI.
- Egypt has stepped up its prosecution of homosexuals over the last year as per orders from senior government officials.
- LGBTQI individuals are routinely charged with immorality, debauchery and contempt of religion and then jailed for their sexual orientation/gender expression/gender identity.
- As many as 80 people have been arrested in well-publicized cases in the last year.
- Egyptian police are posing as LGBTQI individuals for the purpose of entrapment.
- Six men were sentenced to two years jail and hard labour on Thursday, September 25, 2014 for advertising their accommodations on Facebook.
- Soldiers manning a military checkpoint at a gated community called 6 October City alerted the police to a number of "effeminate-seeming" men entering the development which led police to raid a private party in one of the houses, arresting 14 people; many may have been beaten or sexually assaulted and may face up to 12 years in prison.
- At least eight groups of allegedly gay men or transwomen were arrested and those arrested may have been beaten and possibly sexually abused, according to human rights activists.
- Eight men are currently standing trial and may face three years in prison for appearing in a video which went viral in Egypt showing two men exchanging rings at an alleged gay marriage ceremony.
This cannot continue. Only by protecting the most vulnerable of its citizens is a society safe for the majority.
UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon said in his landmark speech in 2010:
"When individuals are attacked, abused or imprisoned because of their sexual orientation, we must speak out... These are not merely assaults on individuals. They are attacks on all of us. They devastate families. They pit one group against another, dividing larger society. Together, we seek the repeal of laws that criminalize homosexuality, that permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, that encourage violence."
As well, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has stated Egypt and all states clearly have an obligation to protect LGBTQI citizens and said:
"Protecting LGBT people from violence and discrimination does not require the creation of a new set of LGBT-specific rights, nor does it require the establishment of new international human rights standards.
The legal obligations of States to safeguard the human rights of LGBT people are well established in international human rights law on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequently agreed international human rights treaties."
In cracking down on sexual minorities in Egypt, your government is showing the world that there is little difference between it, the extremists it ousted from power a short while ago and those who have overtaken Iraq and Syria.
As secularists, your government has no business in entering the private bedrooms of its citizens, regardless of the political pressure you may face from extremists in your country.
As Muslims, in our era, we have a duty to educate people of Islamic ideologies that promote compassion, mercy and love.
There exist interpretations of the Quran by Muslim scholars who state that our scriptures prohibit rape, not consensual relationships between adults. They advise that at no time did Muhammad persecute anyone for being gay.
And regardless of your school of thought, the Quran is clear that spying on others and breaking into their homes is prohibited, that Muhammad was "but a warner" and was told "it is better to pardon and forgive."
Accordingly we make the following requests, that Egypt immediately:
- release all LGTBQI imprisoned in Egypt at this time and quash their sentences;
- extinguish all policies that persecute sexual minorities in Egypt;
- and promote policies, including education, to permit LGBTQI citizens in Egypt to live lives of dignity and respect.