Gay rights activists in Egypt report police are cracking down on LGBTI people, and in some cases even resorting to torture.
A report compiled by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) shows the crackdown, which particularly targets gay men and trans people, began in November 2012 when seven people were arrested in an apartment in Nasr city and taken to Nohza police station.
Since then, human rights activists have been monitoring arrests, police activity and media responses and have found a worrying increase in the arrest and mistreatment of LGBT people.
Numbers indicate around 77 LGBTI people have been arrested since November 2012.
In this month alone, 11 people have been arrested in Cairo.
A group of five people were arrested on charges of sexual depravity and several transsexuals were among the group of six arrested on a separate occasion.
Legal experts working on the issues also commented on the rapid appearance of ‘vice squads’ (morality police) on the scene of arrests, indicating gays are being targeted.
Also, heavy sentences are being issued within a few days of arrests being made.
In April 2014 four people were arrested in Cairo, two of the group were trans. Within a week of their arrest, the first defendant was given an eight-year sentence and the other three were given three-year sentences.
The harsh treatment of LGBTI people at the hands of the police is also causing great concern.
Reports indicate those arrested are often subjected to physical and verbal abuse, and denied food and family visits.
Some say they were given ‘anal probe’ tests, a way of finding out if someone has had sex which is scientifically invalid, but still common in countries criminalizing homosexuality. It is considered to be a form of torture.
Media coverage focusing on the arrests is also adding fuel to the fire.
Activists report the use of inflammatory and sensationalist language, and violations of privacy. Police reportedly allowed journalists to video detainees and in some cases their full names and photos were published in stories.
The report has details of one person’s arrest which included being unfairly detained, beaten several times and having their hair cut.
‘The officers sat there making fun of us and saying ‘‘Hey there, gorgeous’’, and other filthy things. They stripped us and made fun of us and were trying to insert batons in our rear ends. I resisted and was beaten’, details the testimony.
‘They refused to let us go to the bathroom. They would bring anyone who was there to file a police report into the room and tell them ‘‘Look at this. These are some fags we caught sleeping with each other.’’ They let out some of the jailed prisoners to come look at us, telling them, ‘‘So when they’re locked up, you’ll know who they are.’’’
Activists in Egypt urged the world to react in a specific way to avoid making it worse.
They advise against public protests against Egypt or encouraging embassies to send public messages to the Egyptian government as this could further inflame the situation.
However, they want people to read up on the situation in Egypt, encourage governments to raise the issue of these arrests privately and put pressure on the owners of websites and apps which are popular in Egypt, such as Grindr, Facebook, Whatsapp and others, to raise the issue of their users’ safety.
Military political figures are publicly taking credit for the crackdown including Major General Hamdy el-Gazzar and Major General Hisham el-Sawy.