Human Rights Watch have released a new report outlining the ongoing persecution of LGBTQ+ people in Egypt.
The human rights watchdog have revealed how security forces in the country will take people off for questioning based solely on their gender expression, use dating apps to entrap vulnerable LGBTQ+ people, and will unlawfully search phones for private information.
This leads to Egyptian police and National Security Agency officers detaining LGBTQ+ people in inhumane conditions, and subjecting them to violence including torture, sexual abuse, and anal examinations conducted under the guise of “virginity tests”.
Egyptian authorities also denied detainees access to legal counsel and medical care, as well as extracting forced confessions from their victims.
This new report comes months after Sarah Hegazy took her own life while in exile in Canada.
Hegazy was detained and subjected to violent and sexual abuse after waving a rainbow flag at a rock concert in Egypt back in 2017.
“Egyptian authorities seem to be competing for the worst record on rights violations against LGBT people in the region, while the international silence is appalling,” said Rasha Younes, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Sarah Hegazy’s tragic death may have ignited waves of shock and solidarity worldwide, but Egypt has unabashedly continued to target and abuse LGBT people simply for who they are.”
The persecution of LGBTQ+ people at the hands of Egyptian authorities has taken place under the command of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 15 people about the recent wave of violence towards LGBTQ+ people, including victims who were prosecuted between 2017 to 2020 under the country’s vague and dangerous “debauchery” and “prostitution” laws.
Eight of these people were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the authorities, while four confirmed that they were denied medical care.
The victims were subjected to physical abuse ranging from being repeatedly water-hosed while tied up, and slapped and beaten by officers.
“They didn’t let me go to the bathroom,” said one victim, who was arrested in Ramses, Cairo in 2019. “I had to wet my clothes and even shit in them. I still had no idea why I was arrested.”
An activist also revealed the impunity in which officers carry out the abuse on these victims, knowing that it is highly unlikely they will face consequences for the violence they inflict.
“Police are individuals. Each of them has an idea of torture that he carries out with impunity,” activist said. “The only difference in torture and assault techniques are due to their personal preferences.”
One case saw a trans woman locked up in a male prison for four months with authorities giving no reason for her incarceration. During that time she was subjected to sexual harassment and abuse, and was denied a legal request to move to a separate facility that would be safer for a trans detainee.
In another case, a man was targeted on Grindr by police forces who used the app to entrap him.
“They took me to the ‘morality ward’ and kept me until 4 am in a tiny room with no food or water,” the victim said. “They took my phone and belongings. When they came back with a police report, I was surprised to see the guy I met on Grindr is one of the officers. They beat me and cursed me until I signed papers that said I was ‘practicing debauchery’ and publicly announcing it to fulfil my ‘unnatural sexual desires.'”
The victim – whose real name can’t be revealed for safety reasons – was then thrown into Giza Central Prison.
“They announced my charges as soon as I walked in, took turns beating me, and yelled heinous profanities at me,” he said. “They put me in solitary confinement. I asked why, the officer said: ‘Because you’re a bastard faggot, I will leave you here so these men can fuck you all they want.’ I had to bribe soldiers so they would stop torturing and humiliating me.”
The victim was eventually acquitted a few weeks later after a lawyer appealed the case. However, he was then disowned by his family and his own brother threatened to kill him.
This is just one of many testimonials released by the Human Rights Watch to raise awareness of the violence LGBTQ+ people are subjected to in Egypt.
These abuses by Egyptian authorities violate fundamental human rights, including rights to privacy, free movement, free expression, bodily integrity, and protection against torture and degrading treatment.
Egypt is party to a handful of international human rights laws, but their ongoing persecution, detainment and abuse of LGBTQ+ people means they have violated these protections.
Human Rights Watch also outlined how Egypt continues to reject repeated recommendations by several countries to stop this persecution of LGBTQ+ people based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. However, the country continues to refuse the existence of LGBTQ+ people in Egypt.