The world is witnessing a frightening wave of anti-LGBTQ persecution. Since April, and accelerating through last week, there have been attacks and state-sponsored persecution of LGBTQ people in Chechnya, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Georgia, Tanzania, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Egypt.
For the past several years, the United States and its leadership would stand strong against such persecution, but Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Rex Tillerson have failed to address these horrific abuses. With each passing day they remain silent, the United States is failing in its leadership responsibility to defend human rights around the globe. Now more than ever, we desperately need that leadership.
In September, authorities in Cairo arrested seven people who had been photographed at a concert raising a rainbow flag. A widespread crackdown on LGBTQ Egyptians followed. Within a week, the Egyptian government banned the state-run media from showing any kind of support for the LGBTQ community. Subsequently, the Egyptian media have published articles encouraging hate speech and hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people. Now Egyptian lawmakers have put forward a legislative proposal that would not only criminalize same-sex activities, but would also throw community members and allies into jail just for speaking out in support of LGBTQ lives.
Egypt is just the most recent case. For nearly eight months, our community has been demanding action from officials across the globe to address terrifying reports out of Chechnya of state-sponsored arrests, detainment in secret prisons, and torture of as many as 200 LGBTQ people. Up to 20 LGBTQ Chechens have been killed and Chechen leaders have actively encouraged citizens to torture and kill family members who might be LGBTQ. Dozens were forced to flee and leave behind their family, their jobs and their lives, lest they be killed by their own relatives.
Unfortunately, the crisis is not limited to Chechnya and Egypt. In Bangladesh, authorities arrested 28 men at a private social gathering in May and publicly outed them. In Indonesia that same month, police arrested 141 allegedly gay men and, in a separate incident, two men accused of a same-sex relationship were publicly caned. Other human rights abuses have occurred across the caucasus region — from mob attacks on gay men in Georgia to mass arrests of those accused of being LGBTQ in Azerbaijan. And in September, twenty people were arrested at an education program on HIV/AIDS in Tanzania.
This outbreak of persecution across the globe — endangering lives and freedom of LGBTQ people and allies every day — is taking place at exactly the same moment that U.S. leadership on human rights has hit rock bottom. President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary Tillerson have failed to make a single statement condemning these attacks, despite our repeated requests and pleas. Just last week, HRC President Chad Griffin wrote to Secretary Tillerson, urging him once again to raise his voice.
America’s top leaders have remained shamefully — and deafeningly — silent. This must end. They must forcefully and unequivocally condemn these atrocities and take action to stop them. They must make it clear to other leaders that human rights violations are unacceptable, and that the U.S. will not turn a blind eye.
They must show leadership, now. Lives are at stake.
Ty Cobb is the Director of HRC Global. He leads a team of experts who run groundbreaking programs and campaigns that advance and protect the human right of LGBTQ people around the world, including those who are immigrants and refugees. Reach him on Twitter at @tywesleycobb.
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