The undersigned human rights organizations staunchly denounce the Interior Ministry’s crackdown on gay men, trans people and individuals the Egyptian state perceives to be LGBTQ+, which began after several young men and women raised a rainbow flag at a concert on September 22. Fifty-seven people have since been arrested, most of whom are being tried by misdemeanor courts in Cairo and Giza on charges of “debauchery.” Ten of these individuals have already been handed sentences ranging from one to six years in prison. Two activists have also been interrogated by State Security Prosecution on charges of waving the flag, “joining an outlawed group that aims to promote homosexuality,” among other charges.
The signatories affirm that the methods used to arrest these individuals—whether through electronic entrapment on online dating sites or through pursuit of them in areas thought to be sites frequented by gay people or individuals with sexual orientations and gender identities not widely accepted by Egyptian society—constitute a flagrant violation of the rights of Egyptian citizens to privacy, freedom of expression and control over their own bodies. The sexual orientation of individuals, their identities and their personal practices fall firmly within the scope of their own private affairs, and in no way concern the state.
The state has no right to interfere in the private lives of people, except in cases involving violence, minors or non-consensual acts. While the police continue to hunt down dozens of gay people, or men who have sex with other men, using vague legal provisions to punish individuals who have not committed any crimes, the judicial system has failed to invest the equivalent amount of effort into investigating and prosecuting cases of female circumcision, child marriage and domestic violence, all of which are serious crimes committed against hundreds of thousands of girls and women each year. This speaks to a state of affairs that drives us to seriously question the priorities of the Interior Ministry at this time, especially concerning gender-based violence.
The organizations also strongly condemn the incendiary role of the media, which has raced to vilify LGBTQ+ individuals by portraying them as a threat to society through misinformation and hate speech. The signatories express their disbelief that this level of explicit provocation has been allowed to take place at a time of unprecedented restriction on freedom of opinion and expression, as dozens of news outlets and human rights websites that expose state violations or are critical of the government continue to be blocked. As such, we call on all media personalities and members of the press to commit to journalistic integrity and professionalism, to respect the privacy of individuals and not to be driven by incitement to deprive individuals of dignity because of personal practices.
On the other hand, the current crackdown constitutes one vicious wave within a broader ongoing campaign targeting Egypt’s LGBTQ+ community, with the number of individuals arrested in Egypt since 2013 now approaching 300 people. The signatories call on the Egyptian state, and specifically the police, to stop pursuing individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and to stop punishing personal practices that do not harm other citizens. They also call for the immediate release of those arrested during this crackdown, drawing attention to the fact that physical and psychological harm may be inflicted during interrogation, detention or prosecution. The signatories especially criticize violations disguised as medical procedures, such as so-called forced “anal examinations” performed by forensic examiners, which have been repeatedly rejected by all international conventions and are considered a grave violation of individuals’ rights to bodily integrity.
The signatories demand the following:
- The immediate release of those arrested and a halt to the police’s pursuit of gay men, trans people and individuals the Egyptian state perceives to be LGBTQ+.
- That the Forensic Authority immediately suspend forced anal examinations, which are a cruel and degrading practice that amount to torture.
- That the media end its incitement campaign on the LGBTQ+ community, including speech that provokes hatred and violence.
The signatory organizations (listed alphabetically):
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
The Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Al Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture
Hisham Mubarak Law Center
Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
Nazra for Feminist Studies
This post is also available in: العربية