- From police faking evidence on Grindr to anal probe torture, rape, beating and starvation – victims share their stories.
LGBT+ Egyptians have shared their horrific stories of police raping, beating and planting false evidence on them.
One man says police tied him up for three days, not letting him go to the toilet. He says: ‘I had to wet my clothes and even shit in them.’
Meanwhile a woman reveals how a female police officer sexually abused her, causing her to bleed for days.
She says the officer ‘squeezed my breasts, grabbed my vagina and looked inside it, opened my anus and inserted her hand inside so deep that I felt she pulled something out of me’.
Many of the victims say the authorities planted evidence on them. They even put fake Grindr accounts and porn images on their phones. Once under arrest, they had to sign ‘confessions’ without even getting to read them.
Human Rights Watch today accuses the Egyptian police and National Security Agency of targeting LGBT+ people, entrapping, raping and torturing them.
How a pop gig sparked a new wave of persecution
Police violence and abuse has risen since a pop concert in Cairo in 2017 saw a spontaneous outburst of support for LGBT+ rights.
Mashrou’ Leila, a popular band from Lebanon with a gay frontman, staged the concert. At it, several LGBT+ fans waved rainbow flags.
One of the victims of the witch-hunt, Sarah Hegazy, eventually fled to Canada. However she took her own life in June this year, highlighting the long term trauma victims have endured.
Moreover the fallout from the concert saw fresh media attacks and demands for even tougher anti-LGBT+ legislation.
Meanwhile the crackdown saw authorities use tactics including ‘anal probe’ exams. These ‘virginity tests’ by abusive doctors are supposed to reveal if someone has had anal sex. However, they are not only inaccurate but also officially a form of torture.
Now Human Rights Watch has revealed the stories of 15 victims of the crackdown. The youngest was just 17 at the time.
Some identifying details are disguised or changed in the following accounts to protect those involved.
In September 2019, Yasser met another man in Giza Center City after chatting with him on Grindr. Police approached them, accused them of “selling alcohol,” and arrested them. He says:
‘They took me to the “morality ward” and kept me until 4am in a tiny room with no food or water. They took my phone and belongings. When they came back, I was surprised to see the guy I met on Grindr is one of the officers.
‘They beat me and cursed me until I signed papers that said I was “practicing debauchery”.’
The next day a prosecutor told Yasser: ‘You’re the cheap faggot they caught, son of a disgusting whore, do you fuck or get fucked?’ He then renewed Yasser’s detention for four days at Dokki Police Station in Giza. Yasser says:
‘They took me to Dokki Police Station, beat me so hard I lost consciousness, then threw me in a cell with other prisoners. They told them: “He’s a faggot” and told me: “Careful not to get pregnant.” I thought I would not survive.’
After a week, they moved him to Giza Central Prison:
‘They put me in solitary confinement. I asked why, the officer said: “Because you’re a bastard faggot, I will leave you here so these men can fuck you all they want.”
‘I had to bribe soldiers so they would stop torturing and humiliating me.’
When he finally came before Dokki Misdemeanor Court in Giza on 30 September, the judge acquitted him. But the prosecution appealed the case. He eventually got a lawyer and another ‘innocent’ verdict’. But he says:
‘My family stopped talking to me, my brother threatened to kill me, I was too afraid to walk on the street. I lost everything. I didn’t even have money to leave the country.’
Police arrested Salim twice. In early 2019 he was meeting a friend at night in Ramses, Cairo. Officers approached him and said they were ‘cleaning the streets of faggots’. They then beat him ‘with all their might’ then handcuffed him and threw him in a police vehicle.
Salim says at Azbakeya Police Station, they confiscated his phone, money, and personal belongings:
‘A dozen officers started beating me from every direction. They took me to a tiny room, made me stand in the dark with my hands and feet tied with a rope.
‘They made me stand this way for three days. They didn’t let me go to the bathroom. I had to wet my clothes and even shit in them. I still had no idea why I was arrested.’
After the third day, an officer made him sign a piece of paper without reading it. The officer threated to rape him if he didn’t sign. They took him to the Azbakeya prosecutor’s office and threatened: ‘If you say anything about what happened, you will never see the sun again.’
Salim said: ‘I told the prosecutor I didn’t know my charges or why I was there. They took me back to the station and threw me in a cage for three hours and beat me there too.
‘Then they ordered me to leave the station. I asked for my phone and money, but they beat me and kicked me out.’
A month later police randomly arrested Salim again on the street and held him overnight. But in December 2019, a judge of the Abbasiya Court acquitted him of ‘debauchery’.
Malak el-Kashif, 20
Security forces arrested trans political activist Malak el-Kashif on 6 March 2019. It was six days after she participated in a protest in Cairo. They came to her home in the capital, dragged her by her clothes onto the street and beat her. Then they took her to al-Haram Police Station:
Once there, they interrogated her about her relationship with LGBT+ activists and even the Mashrou’ Leila band.
She says: ‘They made me sign a police report without allowing me to read what they had written.’
Police accused her of ‘misusing social media’ – a charge Egypt uses against peaceful dissidents. They gave her a forced ‘anal exam’ and sexualy assaulted her. She wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom for two days.
They then put her in solitary confinement in the Mazr’a Tora men’s prison for 135 days:
‘When I found out I was going to a men’s prison I felt like the world was ending. I had to strip in front of men three different times. For 120 days, I did not see the sun and was not allowed any visitors except my parents, whom I had left seven years prior and did not want to see.
‘I failed my university exams because I was not allowed access until the last minute. Solitary confinement was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I still have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social phobia, I’m not the person I was.
She had a metal rod in her left arm from previous surgery and, while in detention, it became infected.
She says: ‘I was in excruciating pain, but they refused to provide medical treatment.
‘Despite all this, I don’t want to leave Egypt. I have a role to play and I won’t stop fighting.’
Hossam Ahmed, 27
Authorities arrested transgender man Hossam Ahmed in a café in Cairo on 28 February 2019.
They held him in an undisclosed location for four days. Then they charged him with ‘joining a terrorist group and misusing social media to commit a crime punishable by law’.
A court ordered them to release Ahmen on 15 September 2020. But he remained in detention for another week until 22 September.
Despite him being a man, they held him in a women’s prison. Moreover, they stopped him from continuing his hormonal treatment and gender-affirming surgery.
In a statement in February this year, he wrote from prison:
‘Every day feels like a year. Everyone who enters here is scared of my [trans identity] and harasses me physically and emotionally.
‘The police officers enjoy harassing me. The officers beat and torture these women [fellow inmates] to make them say that I did things that never happened.
‘We sleep on a rotten and smelly mattress with no covers. The government only sends us bread. But all the food comes from visitors. If I don’t get visitors for three days, I don’t eat for three days.
‘All I’m asking for is to be treated as a human being and be called Hossam. I’m so tired of being regularly brought to the hospital so they can check my genitals.
‘My bones hurt, my knees are ruined, I have weird spots on my body, fleas and bugs and lice everywhere, and bite marks. I feel like I’ve been here for 100 years.’
Security forces arrested queer activist Aya in May 2018 while she was protesting price inflation. She says:
‘I had just arrived at the protest, and before I even held up my banner, a group of state security officers started beating me with batons, kicking and punching me. Even after I fell to the ground, they beat me until they ripped off my clothes.
They took her to six police stations for interrogation and even left her a whole day in a metal mobile warehouse under scorching heat.
Authorities charged her with ‘joining a terrorist group aimed at interfering with the constitution’. They held her in a three meter by two-meter cell with 45 other women. ‘The women had to beat and threaten each other to have space to sleep,’ she says.
They subjected her to three ‘virginity tests’:
‘A male officer made me strip in front of all the other officers. I was sobbing, but he made me spread my legs and he looked into my vagina, and then he looked into my anus. He made me shower in front of him.
‘A woman officer made me strip, grabbed and squeezed my breasts, grabbed my vagina, opened my anus and inserted her hand inside so deep that I felt she pulled something out of me.
‘I bled for three days and could not walk for weeks. I couldn’t go to the bathroom, and I developed medical conditions that I still suffer from today. She also threw my food in the bathroom.’
A court sentenced her to two years probation. However, when she checked in to meet the terms of her probation, officers beat and sexually assaulted her. She says:
‘I’m still being watched. Once you have a case against you in Egypt, it never goes away.’
In August 2018, Adham was waiting for his friend in Cairo. Two men in civilian clothing surrounded him:
‘They said they were investigative police, then grabbed my arms, took my ID, and searched my phone for same-sex dating apps. They beat and cursed me, then pressured me to show them my personal photos.’
They found a screenshot of a conversation between Adham and a friend and recorded it as an ‘inappropriate sexual conversation’. He says:
‘They took me to Abdeen Police Station. They beat me so violently that I fell to the ground and [they] humiliated me.
‘A police officer saw that I was wearing a cross, ordered me to remove it, and took a photo of me carrying a sheet with my full name and the word “debauchery” written underneath.’
Police tried to force him to sign a statement admitting to ‘immorality and incitement to debauchery,’ ‘sex trade,’ and ‘attempting to satisfy forbidden sexual desires with men in exchange for money’. When he refused, they attacked him:
‘They dragged me by my clothes to a cell with other detainees, and said “I will make them fuck you, you faggot scum.” The other detainees verbally and sexually assaulted me.’
The next day a prosecutor in Qasr El-Nil, downtown Cairo, ordered them to release him. However, the police did not comply, and took him back to Abdeen Police Station:
‘When I went back to the cell, an officer sexually assaulted me, and when I pushed him away, he threatened to put fake photos on my phone to indict me.’
He received a sentence of six months jail and six months probation for ‘debauchery’. A court dismissed the charges on appeal.
In April 2018, police approached Alaa and his friend at a bank in Cairo. They saw Alaa’s ID and realized they had arrested him in 2007.
Back then, police found no evidence against him but a judge still sentenced him to three years in prison for ‘debauchery’.
He was HIV-positive but received no treatment until the last six months. The authorities only allowed him medicine after his case gained public attention. And even then, he only got expired drugs.
Moreover other detainees at the prison hospital brutally beat and serially raped him. As a result, he is now disabled and has to use a crutch.
Police didn’t give a reason for the 2018 arrest. However they beat him senseless at Bulaq Abu al-Ala Police Station and mocked his disability.
He took out his disability card to show the officer, who told him to ‘shove it up his ass’.
‘I thought he was joking,’ Alaa says, ‘but then he actually ordered another officer to insert the card in my ass, which he did. I wanted to die.’
Alaa signed a false police report under duress. It stated he and his male friend ‘were arguing in public over money related to their engagement in sex work’.
Both men had an anal probe exam. He says: ‘The forensic doctor forcibly inserted his fingers and another object into my anus. I was humiliated beyond words.’
In court, the judge told him: ‘You are ruining Egypt. I swear I will keep you in prison… and ruin your life.’
The judge sentenced Alaa and his friend to six years in prison. But an appeals judge reduced the sentence.
Alaa says: ‘I tried to submit a complaint with the police, then I realized that we are cockroaches to them, not humans.’
Authorities detained Hamed three times in 2014, 2015, and 2017.
In 2017, he was on the street with a friend in Cairo when officers demanded their IDs and their phones. He says:
‘At the police station, the officer told me, “I will throw you to the soldiers and they will gang rape you.” I had a chain around my neck and the officer grabbed it and choked me with it until it came loose.
‘He handcuffed me and made me kneel on the ground. Then he beat me with the back end of his rifle, pointed a knife at me and a small bag filled with drugs. He said, “I will plant this on you.”
‘I opened the phone, and the officer downloaded several same-sex dating applications. Then he uploaded random pornographic pictures that he took from the internet, then forced me to sign a police report.’
Hamed also faced an anal exam by an unethical forensic doctor:
‘I was stripped. The forensic doctor inserted an object into my anus. It hurt so much that I couldn’t stop screaming.’
Hamed lied and claimed he had AIDS so the officers would not touch him.
Hamed was held in pretrial detention in a prison in Nasr City, east of Cairo, for three months. He said police officers beat him every day and sexually assaulted him.
At the trial, the court sentenced Hamed to six years in prison. However an appeals court reduced his sentence to six months in prison and six more months of probation. He says:
‘I still face security problems because police officers leaked my case to the press and posted it online. I can’t find a job, even though the charges against me were dropped.’
Ahmed Alaa, 24
Just a few days after the Mashrou’ Laila concert, police arrested Alaa in the northern city of Damietta. It was his 21st birthday.
Ten cops dressed in civilian clothing attacked him on the street and beat him. They did not identify themselves.
‘I thought it was a prank,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t understand what they were after.’
They took him to Damietta Prison where he slept on a wooden plank, handcuffed, without food or water.
He admitted waving a rainbow flag at the Mashrou’ Leila concert to support freedom of expression. But the officer responded: ‘Democracy is a sin’.
They then moved him to al-Qanater Men’s Prison in Cairo:
‘The cell was underground, no windows, no light, no bed, no ventilation, a dirty blanket, two bottles of water, and a loaf of bread. I was not allowed to leave the cell for 10 days.’
At one point the officers interrogated him alongside Sarah Hegazy, who they had also arrested for showing the rainbow flag at the Mashrou’ Leila gig. He says:
‘I felt comforted by her presence, she smiled and told me to stay strong. We sang Mashrou’ Leila songs together.’
As he was taken back to the cell, prisoners told him, ‘I will find you and rape you’. Another said: ‘I haven’t touched anyone in five years and you will suck my long dick’ he said. One of the officers forced Alaa to touch his genitals.
After three months, a judge ordered Alaa and Hegazy released. However, National Security agents detained him for 10 more days to ‘terrorize’ him:
‘I was told that if I wanted to be released, I should “act dead” and get very sick. I went on a hunger strike. I wanted to faint so they would release me.’
Murad was walking to his university in the port city of Alexandria at 10am one day in 2017 when a police officer stopped him.
The officer then ‘searched my phone and found private photos of me dressed as a woman. He said: “You’re a faggot. Your parents didn’t know how to discipline you, so I will show you what discipline looks like.”’
The officers beat him and made him confess that he had had sex with a man. They accused him of ‘imitating women’ and addressed him with female pronouns derogatorily.
The authorities put Murad in an overcrowded and unsanitary cell at Burj al-Arab Prison near Alexandria.
‘It was impossible to find space to sleep,’ he says.
Prison guards beat him and threatened to kill him, and detainees gang raped him in his cell while security guards did nothing to protect him, he said.
A court sentenced Murad to one year in prison for ‘inciting debauchery’. He says:
‘I still cannot find a job. I cannot travel. My only wish is to be like my siblings, free and living without a criminal record.’
Trans woman Hanan was just 17 when Egyptian security forces entrapped her through social media in September 2017. They lured her to a Cairo restaurant. She says:
‘I had been talking to a man on Facebook and he asked to see me. We met at a restaurant three days before the Mashrou’ Leila concert in Cairo.
‘I had a ticket to the concert in my backpack. I arrived to find four men dressed in civilian clothing waiting for me and I knew I was being arrested.’
The cops seized her phone, logged into Grindr through her Facebook account, and created a fake chat to upload pictures of her as a woman.
Officers made her strip and asked: ‘Do you shave?’ ‘How did you get breasts?’ ‘Why do you have long hair?’ ‘Why do you have a ticket to a Mashrou’ Leila concert?’
When she stopped answering them, they beat her.
She says: ‘The officers would slap me and stab me with their pens to force me to speak.’ At another time, they water hosed her.
‘I was detained in a cage under a stairway [at the prosecutor’s office]. It wasn’t even a prison cell, [but merely] a three by two-meters tiny room, with 25 gay and transgender people.
‘I cut my own hair with scissors so I could look normal when I was interrogated again.’
Prosecutors kept postponing her trial but eventually a court sentenced her for ‘inciting debauchery’. She says:
‘When I was being released, the officer asked me, “are you a top or a bottom?” I did not understand what he meant, so he kept me in detention for another night even though I was ordered released. The next day, he asked me again. I said “top”. He responded, “good boy”.’