The Egyptian authorities have arrested 22 people over the past three days alone, stepping up a campaign of persecution against LGBTI people in the country which began after a rainbow flag was displayed at a Mashrou’ Leila concert in Cairo provoking a public outcry, Amnesty International said today.
The arrests bring the total number of people who have been detained based on their perceived sexual orientation to 33 – 32 men and one woman – since the Public Prosecutor announced an investigation into the rainbow flag “incident” on 25 September. The Forensic Medical Authority has carried out anal examinations on at least five of those arrested.
“In a matter of days the Egyptian security forces have rounded up dozens of people and carried out five anal examinations signalling a sharp escalation in the authorities’ efforts to persecute and intimidate members of the LGBTI community following the rainbow flag incident,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.
“Forced anal examinations are tantamount to torture – there is no scientific basis for such tests and they cannot be justified under any circumstances.
“The scale of the latest arrests highlights how dangerously entrenched homophobia is within the country. 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.”
All 33 people detained are facing prosecutor interrogations and significantly expedited trial proceedings.
According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, at least 10 people were arrested between 28 and 30 September and put on trial yesterday, alongside another six who were arrested earlier in the week. The verdict in the trial of all 16 men has been scheduled for 29 October.
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 in the last 48 hours for promoting “habitual debauchery” through online dating applications and four further arrests took place from a flat in Giza, also in the last 48 hours.
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” in the first such incident involving a woman in years.
“The Egyptian authorities’ announcement that they are investigating the rainbow flag incident as a criminal act is utterly absurd. No one should be punished for expressing solidarity with LGBTI individuals or based on their perceived sexual orientation,” said Najia Bounaim.
“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.”
Amnesty International is calling on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the 33 who have been detained and halt all plans to carry out further anal examinations. Such tests violate the prohibition against torture and other ill-treatment under international law.
Background on last week’s arrests
On 23 September, a day after the Mashrou’ Leila concert in Cairo, a 19-year-old man was arrested on charges of “debauchery”. He was sentenced last week to six years in prison, followed by six years of probation.
Two other men who were arrested last week are currently detained in Agouza police station in Cairo and are due to stand trial on 11 October. Another two men were arrested on 28 September and are detained in Dokki police station in Cairo.