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Mike Pence Won’t Say If He Challenged Egyptian Leaders About Arrest of 85 LGBTQ People

Mike Pence declined to say whether he challenged Egypt leaders on the country’s ongoing anti-LGBTQ crackdown during his recent visit to the North African nation.

“We talked about the importance of respecting diversity in communities,” the vice president said on Saturday when asked by a journalist at the Cairo International Airport if he discussed “human rights issues, press freedom issues, or LGBTQ rights issues” with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Pence added that the two men also shared a dialogue about “the importance of respecting religious diversity in communities” during a conversation held the same day.

He claimed these subjects encompass the “human rights of all the people of Egypt.”

Prior to the vice president’s sitdown with el-Sisi, LGBTQ leaders urged him to hold the country’s government accountable for its treatment of queer and trans individuals.

“Unless Pence uses the opportunity to forcefully speak out against these human rights abuses, the U.S. risks emboldening the Egyptian government’s assault on LGBTQ people and Pence willonce againreaffirm his position as one of the most anti-LGBTQ politicians in the U.S.,” said Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb in a press release.

“Without a fundamental change in the Sisi government’s policies, there will be no sustainable security,” added Human Rights First President President Elisa Massimino.

Dozens of people have been arrested since the government began rounding up sexual and gender minorities following a Sept. 22 concert by the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leilawhose frontman, Hamed Sinno, is gay.

Fans of the music group hoisted a rainbow flag at the music festival in support of the global LGBTQ community. Although homosexuality isn’t explicitly outlawed in Egypt, the government began targeting those responsible for the pro-gay display under an outdated law prohibiting “debauchery.”

Most recently, 10 men were arrested in Alexandria after being accused by police of hosting “group sex parties.”

Initial reports published by the Egypt Independent on Jan. 16 claimed nine detainees were being held in police custody, but as of yesterday, Human Rights Watch has reported that an additional suspect was arrested. The international advocacy group says that these arrests bring the total up to 85 since the crackdown began four months ago.

“Many of those targeted are gay men and transgender women, or men perceived to be effeminate,” writes HRW Senior Researcher Neela Ghoshal. “More than 40 have received prison sentences, with some subjected to forced anal exams, a form of torture.”

Despite these horrific allegations, neither Vice President Pence nor President Donald Trump have addressed Egypt’s anti-LGBTQ crisis.

Photo byKHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images