A crackdown on gay men in Egypt heated up this week as government security forces raided cafes and clubs in downtown Cairo and courts delivered harsh prison sentences, driving that country’s LGBTQ community underground.
More than 60 people have been arrested since a concert last month by Mashrou’ Leila, a Lebanese band with an openly gay frontman. Some members of the audience waved Rainbow Flags and photographs went viral on social media that triggered outrage from the Egyptian public.
Secret police detained people at their homes in the middle of the night using apps and online chat rooms to entrap gay men. Businesses frequented by the LGBTQ community have been forced to close.
Many were beaten in their jail cells and were subjected to forced anal examinations.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission has said that the Anti-Gay raids in Egypt and similar incidents in Azerbaijan and Indonesia are in violation of international law.
This week’s crackdowns are just part of the repression of political and social freedoms under the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who became president in a 2013 coup. Killings and arrests of political opponents by government police are on the rise. Hundreds of websites, including independent news sources, have been blocked.
Targeting the Egypt’s LGBTQ community is an attempt to satisfy Muslims and Christian Conservatives who view homosexuality as a sin. The Pew Research Center found that 95 percent of Egyptians believe that homosexuality is socially unacceptable. Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt. But, the government targets LGBTQ people under a 1960s anti-prostitution law that contains a clause against “debauchery”, which Egyptian courts can now interpreted to include homosexuality.
This week’s arrests are the largest since the 2001 arrest of 52 men at the Queen Boat, a floating gay club on the Nile River. Over the next three years, an estimated 200 more people were arrested. Since late 2013, more than 550 people accused of being gay have been arrested and at least 250 men have been prosecuted for being gay.
Just this week, at least 10 men have received prison sentences of up to six years, according to U.N. Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville, who wrote:
“In some cases, individuals were reportedly arrested after being entrapped by law enforcement officials on apps and in Internet chat rooms. Charges include ‘habitual debauchery’, ‘inciting indecency and debauchery’, and ‘joining a banned group.'”
Egyptian state controlled media has called on the police to pursue LGBTQ people, or even those suspected of being gay, writing that anyone who is LGBTQ poses a threat to the values and morals of Egyptians.
Sources: The Egypt Independent newspaper and Egyptian Initiative For Personal Rights