Weekend demonstrations protesting Egypt's continuing persecution of gay men began Friday in more than a dozen cities across the globe. The events marked the two-year anniversary of the Queen Boat raid, which led to the arrests and trials of 52 men for having sex on a Nile River boat. Ultimately, 29 men were convicted of committing "habitual acts of debauchery" and sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to three years. Homosexuality is not specifically against the law in Egypt, but a number of other laws are routinely used to convict those who practice it.
At an hour-long rally in front of the Egyptian embassy in New York City on Friday, Michael Heflin, director of Amnesty International's OUTfront program, and Advocate contributor Mubarak Dahir, representing Gay and Lesbian Arabs, spoke out against the convictions. Many of those attending the rally wore red in solidarity with those participating in a clandestine gay pride demonstration in Egypt. Similar protests took place in London, Geneva, Madrid, Toronto, Montreal, Paris, Berlin, Hong Kong, Manila, the Norwegian cities of Bergen and Oslo, and cities across Ireland.
Recently Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), along with Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), sent a letter to Congress imploring members of the House to refuse to support a pending free trade agreement with Egypt until it stops its persecution of gay men. Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid, at $2 billion a year.