Egypt and Saudi Arabia scorned for offering 'condolences' after gay club shooting

Published June 13th, 2016 - 09:15 GMT
Mourners pay tribute to the victims of the Orlando shooting during a memorial service in San Diego, California on June 12, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / Sandy Huffaker)
Mourners pay tribute to the victims of the Orlando shooting during a memorial service in San Diego, California on June 12, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / Sandy Huffaker)

Egypt and Saudi Arabia were both rebuked on social media after offering their "deepest condolences" to the victims of the Orlando attack, which occurred at a gay dance club called Pulse on Sunday. 

"Our heartfelt condolences to the families of Orlando horrific terrorist attack victims. We stand united in this moment of grief," said Egypt's Foreign Ministry in a tweet that day. 

Egypt has a poor record on gay rights--although it's not technically illegal to be gay in Egypt, the government has imprisoned dozens of members of the LGBT community in recent years for things like "debauchery" or "pornography."  

Egypt's tweet was met with swift backlash. 

Robert Ruttledge, a physics professor at McGill University in Montreal, said, "Will your government stop arresting gay men, for simply being gay?"

"Egyptian authorities regularly arrest gay men, give them anal tests and throw them in jail for having sex," said Evan Hill, a multimedia journalist who focuses on the Middle East. 

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, US ambassador Abullah Al Saud issued a statement on Monday saying, "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia condemns in the strongest terms the attack on innocent people in Orlando, Florida, and sends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims and to the people of the United States. We stand with the American people at this tragic time."

Unfortunately for the ambassador, gay sex is illegal in the Kingdom, and can be punished by death or flogging, depending on the perceived seriousness of the crime, according to the US State Department's 2014 Human Rights report. 

As a result of those policies, Saudi's statement was greeted with a fair bit of scorn online. 

"Saudi Arabia jails and executes gay people. Somehow their government's condolences for Orlando ring hollow," said author and Vice contributing editor Molly Crabapple.  

Julie Lenarz, the executive director of the Human Security Centre, a foreign policy think-tank in London, chimed in: "Saudi Arabia belongs to world's leading sponsors of lethal homophobia. They foster a climate in which #Orlando shooter finds appreciation."

Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old security guard alleged to have killed over 50 people at the gay club in Orlando, was reported to have traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah, or lesser pilgrimage, in 2011 and 2012. 

-HS  


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