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Egyptian gay blogger: "This revolution is people's revolution and doesn't follow any political party or religious party"

Editor's note: With the world's attention focusing on Egypt and its people's revolt, SDGLN continues to search for stories of interest to the LGBT community. The following is a Q&A with "IceQueer" (IQ), an Egyptian gay blogger whose identity is being kept secret to protect his safety in a country with a poor track record of mistreating its gay and lesbian citizens. This story was written and originally published by gaymiddleeast.com (GME).

GME: Tell us a little about yourself ...

IQ: I'm 22 years old, Egyptian-Moroccan guy, I'm a medical intern and interested in activism, politics, religions, music and lots of different things.

GME: What is your blog all about?

IQ: It's about my thoughts and my perception of reality. Sometimes I feel it's like a non-stop documentary of some parts of my life and my personality.

GME: When did you start the blog and why?

IQ: I started in July 2008. It was a coincidence and a funny story actually; electricity was off at home so I thought of playing around with my laptop's pen and there it was my first post! Also the blog name in the beginning was "My thoughts & confessions," then I changed it to its current name after the first post.

GME: Do have a lot of gay readers following your blog? What kind of responses are you getting?

IQ: Well I can never be 100% sure of the number of readers/followers because how can you count readers who don't leave comments or follow the blog through blogger, but according to the blog's stats, number of comments and number of followers, I guess I've a lot of gay and straight readers following my blog.

I get all kinds of responses and I approve and answer them all; actually comments are some of the things that keep me going and keep writing.

GME: You were in Tahrir Square on Tuesday; describe what was it like.

IQ: I guess I was lucky because the day I went to Tahrir's, demo was a very peaceful day after police's violence was over and before the attack of Mubarak's thugs (Thursday). It felt amazingly peaceful and cheerful. I loved how diverse yet finally united Egypt is! I was holding a sign saying "Secular" in Arabic, English and French, and also my friends (straight, gay, girls, Christian and Muslims) were holding similar signs and we all were chanting that this protest is for the people and not for any party or religion. Everything was really beautiful and looked like a European carnival!

Before Internet was shut down, I was very active on my Twitter page and Facebook raising awareness about how important #Jan25 is and that we all should participate. I never knew that Facebook and Twitter can be that powerful and that the things you tweet can actually make a change even if it's a little change like correcting someone's information.

GME: You mentioned you were helping people in hospital. Are there many people hurt? Any of your friends or family?

IQ: Yes, unfortunately many people were injured as the numbers said on news channels. My family and non-Egyptian boyfriend were safe but some of my friends had minor superficial injuries and also three guys I know were detained on the 25th of Jan. but were released the next day. It's funny that most of Egyptian homosexuals fear police arrest but I was happy that those three guys were arrested because of a great cause like Jan. 25! Very honourable.

GME: We see reports of international journalists being attacked now in Egypt, but how are local journalists and bloggers are being treated?

IQ: Actually it's not about being foreigner or local, it's always about the news agency you work for and the things you blog/tweet about. So the more you are honest and scandalous about the regime, the more chances you get detained!

GME: What kind of changes do the people want to see?

IQ: Like we all chanted: Freedom, Social Justice and Democracy. And all of this will change by removal of Mubarak and his regime, dissolution of Parliament, ending the emergency state/law and that High Court's judges should supervise the elections.

GME: Do you think there will be a transition to a democracy in Egypt now?

IQ: I'm hopeful that there will be a transition but first we've to get rid of stereotypes and medieval ideologies that unfortunately many people have in Egypt due to lack of proper education. Jan. 25 all started by the educated and well politically-aware youth of Egypt.

GME: Does this revolution have a leader or leaders?

IQ: No it doesn't have a leader or leaders; it's a revolution by Egypt's youth against a corrupted regime. This revolution is people's revolution and doesn't follow any political party or religious party.

GME: Some commentators have expressed their concern about the Muslims Brotherhood’s influence in the case of a change in Egypt; how realistic is such a concern?

IQ: I don't think MBs would have such an "influence" that would affect majority of Egyptians and Egypt.

GME: I suppose it's too risky and even counter-productive to ask directly for LGBT rights in the protests, but how do you see these issues in the context of the revolution and larger human-rights agenda?

IQ: You can't ask for lots of changes that have different effect on people. I mean already asking for "Freedom" and "Fall of regime" bedazzled the whole country and its people, so imagine what would happen if we asked for LGBT rights?

I believe that Egypt's LGBT community can only have its rights when Egypt becomes a real secular country.

GME: Can you describe the social/cultural situation for LGBT people in Egypt in the last few years?

IQ: It's diverse and it's like most of LGBT communities around the world; you've all kinds of social and culture differences from deeply conservatives to utterly liberal. But the exposure to western media via Internet and TV helped a lot of people in understanding more about their sexuality and how to accept it, etc. I already see that the new generation takes less time in accepting their sexuality than older generation used to.

GME: Can you be out and gay in Egypt?

IQ: It depends on your personality, your social class, your friends and your family. For me, I'm openly gay to my parents and all of my close straight friends.

GME: Are you out to some people in Egypt, and if yes, what kind of responses do you get?

IQ: Like I said before, I'm out to all of my close friends. You get various responses, some would say they wouldn't lose a friend just because you've different preferences in bed, some would go into long tiring debates with you whether homosexuality is sinful or not and whether it's a choice or not, etc. Again it all depends on one's personality, social environment and religious background.

GME: How do people meet each other?

IQ: Mostly through dating website on the Internet, but you can also meet guys in private house gay parties and gatherings.

GME: Tell us about the legal situation. … We understand that although there are no direct laws prohibiting same sex acts, we understand that other laws are enacted, like Public Order & Public Morals (as in the infamous case of Cairo52), and quite a few cases of people arrested through speaking with agents on chat rooms and gay dating websites … Can you elaborate on that?

IQ: Exactly, there is no direct laws prohibiting same sex acts or relationship but they usually affiliate it with Debauchery, Public Morals & Order.

The thing is that most of policemen play around a lot with words and the bugs in Egyptian law, they usually trap suspects by using words like debauchery when they ask them whether they practice same-sex sex or not, so they make suspects admit that they practice "debauchery" even though the suspect may only meant that he practice same-sex sex.

Also the emergency law gives the ability to policemen to check your apartment without a warranty if they wanted.

GME: Any specific changes, relating to these two issues mentioned above, that Egyptian lesbian, gay and transgender people hoping to see?

IQ: We're hoping that Egypt would become a real secular country one day, that's when people learn to accept their differences then they would start accept people who are sexually different than they are.

GME: It’s a little bit symbolic that Tahrir Square is also known as a meeting place for gay people, isn’t it?

IQ: Ha ha, yeah I made lots of puns about this exact thing when I met up my friends in Tahrir to protest. I was like "A week ago, if I told you let's meet in Tahrir then go walk down to Kasr El-Nil bridge, you'd have judged me as a sleazy trashy gay guy."

GME: What can the international LGBT community do to help the general situation in Egypt and in particular the LGBT communities in Egypt?

IQ: If democratic political reforms happened in Egypt, international LGBT communities can help a lot, of course, by putting pressure on Egyptian regime to apply this kind of reforms too which are under the same umbrella of democratic reforms.