Friday, July 25, 2003

Dunkin’ Donuts accused of discriminating against gay customers

From the Daily Star

Dunkin’ Donuts has once again come under fire from gay groups who invited people to sign an online petition to protest what they described the franchise’s “Nazi policies” in its Beirut branches.

In a statement posted at, activist Ghassan Makarem wrote that for the past two years, “Dunkin’ Donuts’ Beirut branches have been denying service to gay and ‘gay-looking’ customers under the pretext of protecting their version of ‘family values.’”

In its Achrafieh and Downtown Beirut branches, Dunkin’ Donuts posted a note which read as follows: “We ask our dear clients to conform to decent appearance and to comply with our supervisor’s directions on this matter.”

Elie Tanios, the franchise’s spokesperson in Beirut, told The Daily Star that the note was posted eight months ago. “By decent appearance we mean behavior,” he said, adding that some of their male customers in Achrafieh and Downtown Beirut caused chaos during their visits.

“They talk loudly and invade other customers’ privacy,” said Tanios, who argued that they were not trying to impose a dress code on customers. When asked whether a person who has died his or her hair red, for example, was welcome in Dunkin’’ Donuts, Tanios answered that such people “were most welcome” at their branches. “We only want some customers to behave.”

But members of Beirut’s gay community claimed that they were repeatedly asked to leave the Dunkin’ Donuts’ premises for no obvious reason, and demanded that they be treated the same as other customers.
“All humans are equal, thus gay community members ­ who have been regular customers of Dunkin’’ Donuts Beirut ­ are entitled to the same service as any other customer,” Makarem wrote in his online petition.

An employee at Dunkin’ Donuts who refused to give her name said that gay customers went far beyond local social norms. “In several instances, these customers displayed homosexual affection. They held hands, hugged and sometimes even kissed while they were on the premises,” she said.

“Personally, I’m not offended by such demeanor. But for Lebanese social norms, their behavior was not acceptable to other customers, who threatened to call the police,” she added.

The Dunkin’ Donuts employee also said that if homosexuals intend to fight the government and Lebanese society for “freedom to come out of the closet,” then the coffeehouse should not be the battleground for this fight.

She added that the probability that a gay would enter a Dunkin’ Donuts shop and get served was high “if he behaves well.” She also said that it was hard to identify homosexuals in Lebanon, but “those who insist on coming out of the closet” have to face the consequences.

But all Dunkin’ Donuts justifications did not convince the gay community, which insisted that they be treated fairly, and not discriminated against. “We demand a press release from the mother company and the Lebanese local branches clarifying the issue and stating that homosexuals are welcome on the premises of Dunkin’ Donuts worldwide, including Beirut, and will be offered the same services … just like any other customer.”

Until then, the petition added, the gay community would lead a campaign to boycott the franchise.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Egypt court acquits 11 suspected gay men Network

An Egyptian judge in Cairo acquitted 11 men on charges of debauchery -- a euphemism for homosexual activity -- but shamed them for their "sin" and said he would not have set them free had it not been for procedural issues, the Associated Press reported.

The judge, named Mo'azer El-Marsafy, condemned the men after a three-member panel cleared them of criminal charges on Saturday.

"We are so disgusted with you, we can't even look at you," the A.P. reported the judge as saying. "What you did is a major sin, but unfortunately the case has procedural errors and the court had to acquit all of you.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed the acquittals as a "step forward," while regretting that harassment and arrests of gay men continue as usual.

"Men remain imprisoned in Egypt for private acts, in a continuing crackdown which violates international law," said Scott Long, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Long recalled the 11 men were among the 16 who were charged in February 2003, when police tapped the phone of an apartment in greater Cairo after an informer reported that the owner was visited by other men.

Long, who was in Cairo until recently, said police had arrested the 11 men whose recorded phone conversations suggested that they had engaged in homosexual acts. They were charged with the "habitual practice of debauchery," punishable by up to three years of prison.

Faisal Alam, founder of Al Fatiha, a Washington, D.C.-based body for queer Muslims, regretted what he called Egyptian defiance of international pressure over gay rights. He said Egyptian men were living in virtual terror.

"Web sites and Internet activities are being monitored to nab gay men. Police spies lure and arrest men off the Internet almost on a daily basis. Common folks are routinely picked up off the cruising areas such as the street and public parks," Alam said.

Alam pointed out that just a couple of years ago Egypt was on the forefront of "gay liberation" in the Middle East. "But today, under Muslim extremists' pressure, the gay community has been held hostage."

The latest acquittals coincide with the second anniversary of the start of the infamous trial of the "Queen Boat 52," arrested on a floating nightclub in May 2001. That case became a battle cry for international human rights groups, and 29 of the accused were freed but 21 sentenced.

Under world pressure Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak (news - web sites) had ordered a retrial of all the 52, which resulted in harsher sentences for the 21 convicted earlier.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Gadhafi says: ‘straights’ need not fear HIV and AIDS

MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP)

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi told a conference of African leaders Saturday that Africans who are “straight” need not fear AIDS, which is ravaging many countries on the continent. Speaking through a translator, Gadhafi drew some laughter with his reference to AIDS only affecting gays. He told the closing session of the eight-day annual African Union conference, “All you have to do is observe the rules. If you are straight, you have nothing to fear from AIDS.” Of the 42 million people worldwide infected with HIV, 29 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS has already killed more than 17 million in sub-Saharan Africa and is the leading cause of death among South African women. More than 11 million African children have lost at least one parent to the pandemic. The devastating AIDS pandemic was one of the major themes of President Bush’s recent five-nation African trip.