Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Cairo should free gay Lebanese

From the Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon

A Lebanese group that advocates human rights urged the Egyptian government on Tuesday to free Wissam Abyad, a Lebanese citizen arrested earlier this year because of his sexual orientation.

Speaking on behalf of Hurriyat Khassa (Personal Liberties), lawyer Nizar Saghieh told The Daily Star that Abyad was sentenced to 15 months on charges of “practicing and encouraging debauchery.”

Amnesty International issued a report earlier this year calling on Egypt to “release immediately and unconditionally anyone imprisoned solely for their actual or perceived sexual orientation.”

It said that in January, Abyad went to meet a contact he had made on a website for homosexuals. The person he met in Cairo is believed to have been a security officer or a police informant. Abyad was later detained, and the electronic conversations they had over the internet in private were used against him.

The statement also said that gays, or those perceived to be gays, faced heightened risk of torture in police stations and prisons in Egypt. “Many people date through the internet. As long as they are not harming others, why should we arrest them?” Saghieh asked. “The imprisonment of Wissam makes questioning justice inevitable.”

Saghieh said that people should not be judged on the basis of their private lives and called on Egypt to “end Abyad’s misery” and the Lebanese government to intervene.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Saudi clinic 'dumps' Aids patient

From BBC News

An inquiry has begun in Saudi Arabia into allegations that a clinic ejected a terminally-ill Aids patient and left him in the street barely conscious. Abulraheem Mahmood, 57, was taken in a pick-up truck and left on the pavement by his employer's office in Jeddah, the Saudi newspaper, Arab News, reported. He was then taken to another hospital where he died three weeks later.

The New Jeddah Clinic said it had to dismiss the patient because it did not specialise in treating Aids patients.

But the clinic said it had given sufficient notice for Mr Abulraheem's employers, Rajab and Sisilah, to collect the patient, the newspaper reported.

The clinic also said that Mr Abdulraheem had been handed over to personnel at Rajab and Sisilah and that it was they who threw him out onto the street. But the patient's employers said they had earlier sent a letter asking the clinic to wait while proper transportation arrangements were being made.

Someone... said there was a very sick man bruised and bleeding at the back door. When I went to check, there he was lying unresponsive in the heat
Security guard at Rajab and Sisilah

They said the Red Crescent Society had also refused to help move the man to another hospital because it did not transport Aids patients.

The BBC's Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says the incident is a painful illustration of the widespread stigma attached to Aids in Arab societies.

He says ignorance among the public as to how the infection is transmitted is fuelling an irrational fear of Aids patients, and taboos surrounding sex and sexually transmitted diseases are also partly to blame.

Mr Abdulraheem was literally dumped on the street in broad daylight in the port city of Jeddah, the newspaper said.

It said that during his violent ejection from the clinic's pick-up truck, he suffered scratches and bruising.

A security guard at Rajab and Sisilah told the newspaper that Mr Abdulraheem had been found bleeding.

"I was sitting at my station when I was approached by someone who said there was a very sick man bruised and bleeding at the back door," the guard said.

"When I went to check, there he was lying unresponsive in the heat. Someone brought him a mattress and some water, but he was unable to even drink it unassisted."

The patient was later transferred to King Saud Hospital, where he died.

According to the United Nations, 83,000 thousand people were infected with HIV last year in the Arab countries, bringing the total number of people living with Aids there to nearly half a million.

The figures are still very low by comparison to sub-Saharan Africa or Asia.

But experts have warned that an inclination to exaggerate the protective effects of social and cultural conservatism in Arab societies continue to hamper an adequate response to the disease.