The sentences for eight men charged with attending a homosexual wedding in Egypt have been reduced. Volker Beck of the German Green Party told DW that the West should do more to help persecuted homosexuals.
DW: An Egyptian appeals court reduced the sentences for eight men, who are in prison for allegedly attending a gay wedding. The court did not rescind the sentence and the men must stay in prison for another year. They had been sentenced to three years for "publishing obscene pictures." What do you make of the court decision?
Volker Beck: We have seen since the fall of the Islamist regime that the government is trying to show that it can be just as conservative and homophobic as the previous government. The court sentences are completely disproportionate. They are not based on any Egyptian law because homosexuality per se is not punishable in Egypt.
Has nothing changed for the better since the coup that removed the Muslim Brotherhood and installed al-Sissi?
I have the impression that the number of criminal proceedings, at least those reported by the press, has increased. Apparently the government wants to show citizens and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood that it is an Islamic-oriented regime that can keep up with any of the Islamist opposition groups.
Is homosexuality allowed in Egypt?
Homosexuality is taboo. Gays and lesbians are not protected but rather persecuted by the state. The situation is very bad.
How should Germany react to such sentences?
The German government should make it clear to the Egyptian government that we take a very critical view of these kinds of human rights abuses. It has to be made clear that it is not acceptable that the current regime gets a free pass for whatever human rights abuses occur in the name of Islam.
What can rights organizations do to stop the persecution of homosexuals? How can they influence the situation in Egypt?
They can only try to create publicity. Egypt needs to be reminded that it is a signatory to the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights and that it is infringing massively upon basic rights by conducting such trials.
Tourism is one of Egypt's main sources of income. Do homosexual couples have anything to fear if they go on vacation there?
In a country in which homosexuals are persecuted and arbitrariness rules, you can't say: that's a safe country where people can go on vacation and relax.
What do you expect for the coming months? Will the situation for homosexuals in Egypt get even worse perhaps?
That is difficult to say. Western countries that have some influence in Egypt, such as the US, should definitely try to make it clear that no one has any understanding for this and that such a regime cannot expect to receive any support.
Western states should consider welcoming people via their embassies who are actively persecuted. This is a precarious situation in which everyone eventually will have to fear for their lives and freedom.
How should this happen? Should the German embassy in Cairo open its doors?
In the past there have been measures implemented by embassies to get people out of dangerous situations. Homosexuals can really only receive refuge in Europe or the United States, because they are not likely to be safe in Egypt's neighboring countries either. Getting them to safety in neighboring countries, as the opposition suggests, is not the right choice.
Volker Beck has been an MP for the Greens in the German parliament since 1994. He is especially active in the areas of domestic politics and human rights. In the 1990s, he fought for the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act for homosexual couples, which became effective in Germany in 2001.