Egypt: Open letter to human rights ambassadors around the world regarding the targeting of LGBTQI+ community and activists

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

International Community Must Speak Out Against Government Prosecution and Harassment of LGBTQI+ Community and Activists


Ahead of the Egyptian Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, 27 Egyptian, regional and international civil society organizations have addressed a joint open letter to European, Canadian and U.S. officials calling on them to speak out in solidarity with LGBTQI+ communities and defenders in Egypt, who are subjected to serious and continual violations by the Egyptian government, and smear campaigns and incitement to hatred and violence through official media platforms. On 11 May 2021, to mark the 20th anniversary of the ‘Queen Boat / Cairo 52 case’ — in which 52 gay men were arrested and tortured, alongside a media smear campaign that slandered them and their families, NGOs will launch a campaign calling on the Egyptian government to stop targeting and arresting LGBTQI+ individuals and activists.

A letter regarding the Egyptian Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, 20 years after the Queen Boat incident in Egypt


To The human rights ambassadors of EU countries and the UK
To Representatives of EU Member States
To Mr, Antony J. Blinken, U.S. Department of State
To Mr Marc Garneau, MP – The minister of foreign affairs of Canada

Dear human rights ambassadors,

Re: Request for EU public stance on violations against and targeting of LGBTQI+ community and activists in Egypt

We write to you on behalf of ANKH and AQEO, Egypt-based LGBTQI+ rights groups and 25 international and regional human rights organizations. We would like to draw your attention to the horrific situation  facing the LGBTQI+ community in Egypt, 20 years after the infamous incident known as the ‘Queen Boat / Cairo 52 case’ that saw 52 gay men arrested, tortured, and harassed by  the Egyptian authorities, media, and the public.

To commemorate  the Queen Boat / Cairo 52 incident, May 11th  of every year is marked by the Egyptian LGBTQI+ community, allies, and human rights activists as the Egyptian Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.

In the early morning of 11 May 2001, the Egyptian police raided the Queen Boat and arrested a group of 52 gay men who met on the boat for leisure. Following this, the pro-regime media published the detainees’ full names and the whereabouts of their families and workplaces in a fierce smear campaign against homosexuality.

This year, we are commemorating the twenty year anniversary of the Queen Boat / Cairo 52 incident event by launching a campaign to urge the Egyptian authorities to stop targeting and arresting LGBTQI+ individuals and activists.

A new report to be published on May 11, entitled “Twenty years after the Queen Boat / Cairo 52 incident”, developed by ANKH and AQEO, documents more than 532 arrests in the last six years from 2013 to 2020. There has been a marked increase in a campaign of arrests by the Egyptian police directed against the LGBTQI+ community, especially under the government of the current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al- Sisi.

Last year, the death of Egyptian lesbian activist and rights defender Sarah Hegazy provoked a widespread hate speech campaign online against the LGBTQI+ community in Egypt. A report entitled “Hate Speech Spreads like Wildfire”—issued by a number of partner organizations and initiatives indicated that 77% of a monitored sample of LGBTQI+ individuals from the region had been exposed to online hate speech, death threats, and cyberbullying, which resulted in prolonged mental health issues, suicidal thoughts and self-harm attempts.

In August 2020, the Fairmont gang-rape case[1] incited another wave of online hate speech against the LGBTQI+ community in Egypt, following the arrest of four witnesses who were accused of ‘debauchery’ and ‘homosexuality’ and were subjected by the Egyptian police to physical abuse and by the pro-government media to a smear campaign against their sexualities.

More generally, Egyptian human rights and LGBTQI+ activists have been continuously subjected to discrimination and dissemination of false information by the Egyptian government authorities, as well as in the state controlled  media.  The Egyptian government has targeted LGBTQI+ human rights defenders. For example, in 2017, Sarah Hegazy and Ahmed Alaa were arrested for raising the rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo in September 2017. Sarah reported being subjected to torture and abuse in detention. Malak Al-Kashif, Eman al Helw and Hossam Ahmed were arrested on 28 February2019, the day after the Ramses Station train accident in Cairo, which caused the death of at least 25 people. Al-Kashif had called for protests in solidarity with the victims and their families; she was arrested for the exercise of her freedom of speech in defense of the victims. Al-Kashif was arbitrarily detained until her release on 15 July 2019, while Al-Helw and Ahmed were released on 17 and 22 September 2020.

In consideration of the above, we respectfully urge you to speak out to mark Egyptian Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia in solidarity with LGBTQI+ communities and defenders in Egypt.

Thank you for your continued support. Please feel free to contact us should you require any additional information regarding any of the issues we have raised.

Sincerely yours,

The signatures:

  1. ANKH (Arab Network for Knowledge about Human Rights) – Euro-Mediterranean region
  2. The Alliance of Queer Egyptian Organizations – Egypt
  3. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement- Belgium /MENA Region
  4. Women’s center for guidance and legal awareness- Egypt
  5. Intersection Association for Rights and freedoms (IARF) – MENA Region
  6. My Kali magazine – MENA Region
  7. Alwan – MENA Region
  8. Roots Lab for Gender and development – Morocco
  9. Elille Collective – Morocco
  10. LGBTI+ Gozo- Malta
  11. ATYAF collective for Sexual and Gender Diversity – Morocco
  12. Mawjoudin we exist – Tunisia
  13. LGBTArabic – Syria
  14. SAQFE-سقف COLLECTIVE – Morocco
  15. Il Grande Colibrì ODV – Italy
  16. Initiative franco-égyptienne pour les droits et les libertés – France
  17. University of Sussex – England
  18. EuroMed Rights – Belgium
  19. Last Hope Refugee Association (LAHORA) – Uganda – Sweden
  20. Nassawiyat – Morocco
  21. Solidarité internationale LGBTQI – France
  22. Proud Lebanon – Lebanon
  23. Barra Alsour – ُEgypt
  24. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  25. ARDHIS – France
  26. OutRight Action International – Global
  27. Arcigay – Italia

[1] The CEDAW Committee raised concerns over the lack of protection of witnesses in the “Fairmont” gang-rape case.

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