There’s a war brewing in the Middle East – and we’re not talking about Iraq.
The Egyptian government continues to draw fire for jailing five HIV positive men earlier this year. One hundred and seventeen international human and gay rights groups have penned a collective letter to the nation’s top brass demanding an immediate release of the prisoners, who were nabbed as part of a recently launched crackdown sweeping the nation. The men were then given HIV tests and, once the tests came out positive, were told by a prosecutor, “People like you should be burnt alive. You do not deserve to live.”
The activists letter takes a firm stand not only against such illegal tactics, but Egypt’s “complicit” health officials:
We write you urgently to voice concern over the arrest and trial of men in Egypt for alleged homosexual conduct, apparently based on men’s suspected HIV serostatus. We are concerned that medical personnel may have been complicit, or actively participated, in acts violating the international norm prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. We are further concerned that the Ministry’s involvement with the detention and interrogation of suspects in these cases condones or gives credit to myths about HIV/AIDS, in a way that is incompatible with the Ministry’s public health responsibilities and can only contribute to the epidemic’s spread.
HIV may not be the only epidemic spreading through “liberal” Middle Eastern nations.
Though homosexuality isn’t technically illegal in Egypt, police have been cracking down, some say, to appease religious leaders. Journalist Hani Shukrallah tells Bloomberg’s Daniel Williams: “Meaningless crackdowns have become a regular thing. If not gays, devil worshippers. If not devil worshippers, apostates. The government needs to outbid Islamic opponents as guardian of morals.” Egypt’s not alone in its crackdowns, of course. Morocco caused a stir last year when it arrested six men at an alleged “gay wedding,” while Kuwait passed a law outlawing “imitating” the opposite gender. That law helped net over a dozen arrests.
In an effort to assert their authority, these governments, doctors and other administrative leaders are overzealously marginalizing the homos. And, quite frankly, it’s sickening. Where, we wonder, are the United States’ leaders during all of this? Oh, right – in Iraq…