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Egyptian Hashtag Takes on Homophobia!

A recent social media call to fight homophobia stirred a lively and heated discussion. In Egypt, it's still taboo to have public debates on sexuality related topics, whether on or offline. Although homosexuality is not mentioned in Egypt's penal code, state authorities have prosecuted gays using laws on prostitution and morality.

A Facebook event was created by Ramy Youssef in response to the increasing homophobic attacks on social media. According to him, a recent social media trend is “Crushes” pages, used by students to express their feelings towards others, witnessed some expressing their feelings for people of the same sex, resulting in numerous homophobic slurs. Youssef wrote:

I invite you to an electronic campaign, including comment on homophobic posts in these pages, and tweeting, and posting on social media websites. We should say what do we think frankly about homophobia, say NO, express, oppose, get angry, this is the time for movement against homophobia.

The hashtag #ضد_رهاب_المثلية (Against homophobia) attracted many supporters and opponents as well. Nada Louis writes [ar]:

#ضد_رهاب_المثلية عشان اكيد في على الٱقل شخص واحد في حياتك قريب منك مثلي و انت ماتعرفش.

@nadalouis: Against homophobia because certainly there's at least one close person in your life who is gay and you don't know about it.

Nadim questions:

#ضد_رهاب_المثلية عارف مشكلة ال بيهاجم ايه؟مبيهاجمش بالشراسه دي متطرفين حياتهم دم وقتل واغتصاب,وبيهاجم ناس بتحب بعض بشكل مختلف,مين الشاذ هنا؟

@nadimx: You know what's the problem with the attackers? They don't vehemently attack extremists that live in blood, murder and rape as much as they attack people who love each other in a different way. Who's the pervert here?

Salma El Tarzi explains:

لان الحقيقة انت خايف على ذكورتك الهشة مش رافض المبدأ بدليل رجالة بتثيرهم فكرة ستتين مع بعض بس فكرة راجلين مع بعض بتقرفهم #ضد_رهاب_المثلية

@Salma_El_Tarzi: Because in reality, you're worried for your fragile masculinity and you're not against the concept itself. The evidence is some men are excited by the idea of two women together but disgusted by the idea of two men.

Amira Nosseir reinvents the biblical verse:

#ضد_رهاب_المثلية ما لقيصر لقيصر وما بين رجليك حرية شخصية

@Amira_Nosseir: Give what is Caesar's to Caesar and what is between your legs is a personal freedom.

Dina Magdi confirms:

المثلي/المثلية مش مريض/ة ومجرد فكرة انه راجل وبيحب الرجالة مش معناه انه هيفكر فيك بشكل جنسي لو خدته بالحضن #ضد_رهاب_المثلية #مصر

@Dodzym: A gay/lesbian is not sick and because he's a man and likes men doesn't mean that he will think of you in a sexual way if you hug him.

Mona Sadek shares:

#ضد_رهاب_المثلية عشان اللي مولَعين برفض أي حد مش شبههم وعندهم هوَّس إنهم مسئولين عن كل البشر وإختياراتهم عندهم مشكلة مع نفسهم مش مع غيرهم.

@Lemonada1: Against homophobia because those obsessed with rejecting anyone who's not like them, and obsessed that they're responsible for people and their choices have an issue with themselves not with others.

She adds:

#ضد_رهاب_المثلية عشان المثلي يقدر يعلن عن ميوله الجنسية ويعيش حياة طبيعية ميتورطش في جوازة بالغصب ويعيش بالغصب ويطلع أسرة فاشلة.

@Lemonada1: Against homophobia so that a gay person can declare their sexual orientation and lead a normal life, with getting involved in a [heterosexual] marriage against their will and create a broken family.

Amr Jamil reasons:

#ضد_رهاب_المثلية “أصل ده حرام” .. يعني إنت بتتحشر في أكتر علاقتين خاصين بالإنسان (علاقته مع ربنا) و (علاقته مع حد في السرير)..

@AmrJamil: “It's a sin”, this means you're interfering with the two most personal relationships for people; their relationship with God and their relationship in bed.

Homophobic graffiti was turned into an anti-homophobic one  in Cairo. Photo shared by Leil-Zahra Mortada

Homophobic graffiti was turned into an anti-homophobic one in Cairo. Photo shared by Leil-Zahra Mortada

Leil-Zahra Mortada shared a before and after photo of a homophobic graffiti that was remade by some activists into a anti-homophobic one. The graffiti is located at Mohamed Mahmoud street which witnessed many of the clashes between police forces and revolutionary protesters. The graffiti originally read “Cops are gays” in a way aiming to insult police officers, heavily criticized for the brutal use of force against protesters. After being retouched, the graffiti reads “homophobia is not revolutionary”. Part of the comment attached to the photo reads:

You won't believe how much the regime that we all fight against is based on patriarchal idea that hates gays like you. We all don't want to curse the regime only but also burn it down but don't use women, lesbians and gays, sex workers, belly dancers, because it's sexual discrimination and it's not revolutionary. This is an insult to your revolutionary comrades that stand with you in the face of a murderous regime. This is called chauvinistic lowness and backward thinking. The same mentality that we want to change and build a better society in its place. The same thinking that kills us.

Other tweets express more anger. Maie Panaga rants:

#ضد_رهاب_المثلية ما اسموش رهاب دول ولاد وسخة مش مؤمنين بحرية الشخص في اختياراته وجسمه تحت مسمي بقي مجتمع ولا اخلاق ولا دين . جاتكم الخري

@MAIEPANAGA: It's not a phobia, those are sons of bitches that don't believe in the freedom of a person in their choices and their body in the name of society or morality or religion. Screw you!

Others weighed in sarcastically. Gharebon says:

علشان ببساطة كل واحد من حقه يجيبهم بالطريقة اللي تريحه. #ضد_رهاب_المثلية

@Gharebon: Because simply everyone has the right to ‘cum’ the way they like to.

Abanob mocks:

قولت عليهم “خولات”؟ وحسيت انك راجل؟ و اتبسطت؟ :D #ضد_رهاب_المثلية

@ABA_NOB: You called them “faggots”? You felt like a man? You felt happy?

The hashtag continued for more than 24 hours and created an opportunity for Twitter users discuss the issue, however many homophobic slurs were thrown at proponents of equality. For example:

#ضد_رهاب_المثلية معا لتبويظ الهاشتاج معا للقضاء ع الخولات

@7amidovich: Together to ruin this hashtag, together we eliminate “faggots”.

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