LGBTQ+ Rights in Egypt and Chechnya
Living in a liberal city like San Francisco, where rainbow flags hang in every other storefront, it’s easy to become overly optimistic about how far the world has come in terms of LGBTQ+ rights. We feel very fortunate to live in a place where we can walk down the street holding hands, and where we don’t have to worry for our safety just because of who we love. Reading about the recent anti-gay campaigns in Egypt and Chechnya over the past few months has served as a chilling reminder of the progress that has yet to be made.
Last spring, news reached the U.S. of an anti-gay purge in Chechnya, one of 85 constituent regions of the Russian Federation. Well over one hundred (and possibly hundreds of) men were arrested, starved, tortured, and even killed for being gay.
Anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda has been a central part of Russian politics since 2012, when Putin began his third term in office. Shortly after, the Russian parliament passed sexual impropriety laws and aired anti-gay television ads not unlike Anita Bryant’s Save Our Children campaign of the 1970s. Gay people face the constant threat of violence in their daily lives, and the idea of being “out” is unimaginable to most gay Chechens.
LGBTQ+ individuals in Egypt have faced similar threats. More than 65 people—mostly gay men—have been arrested in a countrywide crackdown on LGBTQ+ Egyptians. This all began after at a recent concert by the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila, whose lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is openly gay. The concert set off a series of protests across the country and elicited severe government action.
Across the Middle East and Africa, strict regimes are accustomed to controlling their peoples’ bodies and sexualities; the recent wave of sexual freedom and expression has unsettled these norms and prompted swift action. Members of the LGBTQ+ community in these areas have found themselves further ostracized and targeted.
Some have escaped Chechnya, Egypt, and other anti-LGBTQ+ parts of the world and sought refuge abroad. Incredible organizations like Immigration Equality help LGBTQ+ asylum seekers find a new home in the United States, providing them with legal services and empowering them to represent themselves. Consider fundraising for or donating to this amazing organization.