Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The newest discussion about Wikimania, Egypt, and LGBT safety is (finally) shedding more light than heat. Highlights:

What I would like to see, however, are some statistics, not anecdotes, on the real risk GLBT visitors* to Egypt will face. If those aren't forthcoming, then I don't think further discussion will be particularly useful
As a gay man I must be aware of my surroundings and act accordingly; while I'm openly gay to all my friends, family, coworkers, schoolmates and neighbors (and all of you) I feel that walking down the street of a small town in Alabama or Utah while holding my partner's hand would be needlessly asking for trouble. Yep, that's not fair. But that is how things are.

Advancing GLBT rights by provoking bigots is not why I travel to places. So yeah, I compromise in certain situations in order to reduce my chances of getting harassed or bashed. Looks like the same will be true for Alexandria. I'm not going to lose sleep over that or cancel my plans to attend Wikimania 2008 with my partner. Like traveling anywhere, certain precautions will need to be followed and some knowledge (dare I say respect with a small 'r') of local social norms is needed.


The point of this discussion isn't to determine whether Egypt has a good human rights record or not. It doesn't have a good human rights record and that shouldn't stop us going there (we should not punish Egyptians for their government).

What some of us seem to be concerned about is whether non-Egyptians visiting Alexandria for the conference are in any danger. From everything I've read (imprisonment of non-Egyptian homosexuals, use of entrapment by the police, torturing homosexuals in custody and trying homosexuals using tribunals set up to combat terrorism), we cannot say with certainty that Wikimedians will be safe in Egypt.


What you express makes sense, and there is a huge difference between simply being gay and involving oneself in gay activism, and I suspect thay no small amount of activism is involved in the example prosecutions. If you believes that the citizens of a country that you are visiting do not have all the rights that they should have it is grossly irresponsible to spend a one-week visit there agitating for those rights. After the week you may fly away home without problems, and even with the blessing and the thanks of the authorities for whom you have exposed someone that they were watching. The people you wanted to help are put in greater danger. I have no basis for saying that this would in fact happen in Egypt; it's one's beliefs that it could happen that should guide one's behaviour.

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