Panic and fear as Egypt arrests 57 people linked to LGBT community


Human rights groups are horrified as Egypt cracks down on the LGBT community as well as those who support its right to exist.

According to some reports, more than 50 individuals have been arrested in the last few weeks, mostly on charges relating to “immorality”.

The latest onslaught began when a number of people were detained for waving rainbow flags during a music concert in Cairo on September 22.

The Egyptian police said in statement that those arrested were “homosexuals who raised the LGBT flag and encouraged the practice of immoral acts”.

According to activists, the local media supported the arrests by publishing articles and interviews encouraging hate speech against groups and individuals that have gender non-conforming identities and sexual orientations.

The persecution has intensified over the past few days with more arrests on charges including “debauchery”, “blasphemy” and being members of “an illegal group trying to promote homosexual ideas”.

On 1 October one man was detained in the Mediterranean port city of Damietta in relation to the rainbow flag incident. Six further people were also detained in Cairo for promoting “habitual debauchery” through online dating apps and four further arrests took place from a flat in Giza.

The authorities also detained one woman suspected of raising the rainbow flag at the concert. She has been charged with “promoting sexual deviancy” and “habitual debauchery”.

According to Amnesty International, at least 16 now face prosecution, with a number of those arrested subjected to invasive forensic anal examinations by the authorities.

“The scale of the latest arrests highlights how dangerously entrenched homophobia is within the country,” commented Najia Bounaim, Campaigns Director for North Africa at Amnesty International.

“Instead of stepping up arrests and carrying out anal examinations, the authorities must urgently halt this ruthless crackdown and release all those arrested immediately and unconditionally.”

Human Rights Watch said that at least one person alleged to have been involved in the flag raising incident had already been found guilty of “debauchery” on September 26. The individual was sentenced to six years in prison and a fine, as well as an additional six years of probation. No lawyer was present at the trial but an appeal has been filed.

More than 50 human rights groups in Egypt have condemned the purge, asserting that “the Egyptian state and media have exceeded all expectations in spreading fear, discrimination and encouraging hate speech inciting Egyptian citizens against each other”.

It’s believed that this is the worst crackdown against people based on their perceived sexual orientation since the mass arrests of 52 people following a raid on the Queen Boat, a floating nightclub on the Nile, in 2001

Homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Egypt but gay people are often targeted and jailed through immorality or public indecency laws. The authorities have been accused of using social media, including dating apps, to track down and arrest gay men.

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