After rainbow flags waved in celebration at a Mashrou’ Leila concert in Cairo on September 27th, the Egyptian government began a renewed crackdown on LGBTQ+ Egyptians, leading to multiple arrests and, in some cases, forced anal examinations.
While the Egyptian government doesn’t explicitly criminalize homosexuality, citizens have been regularly arrested for engaging in what is prejudicially regarded as “blasphemy” or “debauchery.” Homophobia is a deeply entrenched in Egypt’s social and political fabric, with unabated instances of homosexual persecution as seen by the 80 baseless anti-LGBTQ+ arrests in the last year alone. Since the concert, 33 people (32 men and one woman) have been detained by Egyptian officials on charges based on their perceived sexual orientation with approximately 22 of those arrests occurring within the last three days.
This horrendous crackdown also includes government monitoring of social media and data from queer dating applications to track down and arrest LGBTQ+ users.
Since then, many queer Egyptians have deleted media or suspended use of such applications, with sites like Grindr also issuing pop-up warnings against logging in for those in the area. A young, 19-year-old man was arrested via police baiting on one of these dating applications almost immediately after the concert and is now facing 6 years of jail time with an additional 6 years of probation, which forebodingly warns of the kinds of sentences the rest of the detainees may face once they stand trial.
What is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the situation, is the blatant disregard for international law on the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. About five detainees have been subjected to forced anal examinations, a procedure common for this specific prosecution in Egypt, to check for “evidence of gay sex.” This vile procedure was denounced by Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa campaigns director, who pointedly stated that that such procedures “are tantamount to torture” and that “there [are] no scientific basis for such tests and they cannot be justified under any circumstances.” Amnesty International itself has called for the immediate halt of these examinations, as well the as the release of the detained citizens.
Activists have taken to appropriately taken to social to shed light on the human rights violations occurring within the country. From the #stopjailinggays (#ضد_حبس_المثليين) on Twitter to the Facebook group calling for protests to gather outside as many global Egyptian embassies as possible, Egypt’s LGBTQ+ population is fighting back.
The people of Egypt demand to be heard. It’s high time we listened.