What Prompted Egypt’s LGBT Crackdown?

After officials arrested a swathe of LGBT people in Egypt, human rights advocates have become increasingly concerned that abuses in this staunchly religious country may soon escalate.

Reports surfaced in late September that Egyptian authorities arrested a number of men for displaying a rainbow flag at a rock concert. Since that time, Amnesty International warns that dozens more arrests — of both men and women — have followed. And alarmingly, several men have allegedly been forced to undergo forced anal examinations.

The New York Times reported on the specific details that seem to have sparked this incident:

Photographs and video of Ahmed Alaa, a 22-year-old law student, and others waving the flag at the concert by Mashrou’ Leila, a Lebanese band with an openly gay singer, stoked public outrage and vituperative news coverage that described the flag-waving as an assault on Egypt and its morals.

Ahmed Moussa, an influential talk show host, suggested last week that Mr. Alaa and the others had been funded by unidentified enemies who wanted to “disgrace” Egypt by making it appear to accept homosexuality.

“I am warning you against calling this a matter of personal freedom!” he told viewers. “This is about religions! This is about morals!”

Alaa is reportedly among those who have been arrested.

Najia Bounaim, North Africa campaigns director at Amnesty International, explained:

In a matter of days the Egyptian security forces have rounded up dozens of people and carried out five anal examinations signalling a sharp escalation in the authorities’ efforts to persecute and intimidate members of the LGBTI community following the rainbow flag incident.

Details suggest that this is part of a deliberate campaign of government arrests. October 1 saw one man detained in Damietta for his supposed role in hoisting the rainbow flag. A woman has also been detained due to suspected involvement in that incident, and she has been charged with “promoting sexual deviancy” and “habitual debauchery”.

Other reports note that an additional six people have been detained in Cairo for the same “habitual debauchery” charge, apparently related to their use of social media apps. In total, news reports estimate that over 33 arrests may have been made, with more likely to surface in the next few weeks.

It’s important to note that Egypt’s government does not differentiate between trans people and gay people, so a number of those arrests may also involve members of the trans community.

While Egypt infamously raided a Cairo bathhouse in 2014 and detained 26 men, this recent swathe of arrests is by far the most concerning incident in recent years.

At least one detainee has now been sentenced, facing a six-year term for supposed “debauchery.” Others face trial on an alarmingly expedited schedule, meaning that they are unlikely to receive the legal help they deserve.

Another alarming fact is that Egyptian authorities are using social media apps — especially LGBT dating apps — to make arrests. These actions violate rights to privacy, autonomy and freedom of speech, amounting to entrapment.

While these escalating arrests are certainly troubling, Egypt has a history of detaining LGBT people. Figures suggest that, since 2014 and the rise of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, several hundred people have been imprisoned for their perceived LGBT identity.

If any good can come from this event, hopefully world governments will finally take notice of the ongoing persecution in Egypt and begin taking concrete action to protect all marginalized groups who have felt the crushing weight of the president’s regime.

Human rights groups are calling for the immediate release of all those detained in this incident, as well as the immediate end to legal action against individuals for expressing their sexuality or gender identity.

Photo Credit: Maya-Anais Yataghene/Flickr

38 comments

Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie4 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie4 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie4 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Paulo R
Paulo Reeson8 days ago

horrible, ty

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Paulo R
Paulo Reeson8 days ago

horrible, ty

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Peggy B
Peggy B11 days ago

:(

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Winn A
Winn Adams11 days ago

Shame on Egypt

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Celine Russo
Celine Russo11 days ago

Problems with LGBT? Always caused by religion. The same one that supposedly helps you to achieve "enlightment". Where will you get "enlightment" without tollerance???

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Aaron F
Aaron F11 days ago

Another Care2 recent article: Nigerian Police Arrest 42 Men in Anti-Gay Crackdown

It's a worldwide issue...

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Aaron F
Aaron F11 days ago

This is hardly a NEW issue in the Middle East. It is, however, a NEWS issue lately...

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