A 21-year-old student is on the run after his boyfriend was jailed for being gay in Egypt.
The young psychology major, who we will call Karim to protect his identity, is fleeing his home due to the increased rampant anti-LGBTI crackdown by police.
Dozens have been arrested, with more than 20 receiving jail sentences ranging from six months to six years.
The charges of varied, including ‘debauchery’, ‘inciting sexual deviancy’ and ‘joining an outlawed group’.
Karim’s boyfriend Omar [not his name] of nine months was one of the many arrested following rainbow flags being raised at the Mashrou’ Leila concert in Cairo.
‘Omar is part of what police call an “outlawed” group – a student union for advocates,’ Karim explained to Gay Star News.
‘He’s working to get his law degree to tackle restrictions on freedom of speech in Egypt.’
Around two weeks ago, Karim stopped hearing from Omar.
Unsure of what happened, Karim reached out to friends. They hadn’t heard from Omar either.
And then they got word from Omar’s family he had been arrested.
Omar’s family is unaware he’s gay, and Karim is frightened he will be shunned by them if he is outed.
‘He has yet to be given a trial. This is unfair. He’s just sitting and waiting,’ Karim added.
‘In a way I wish it was me who was in prison. Omar would know what to do.’
Karim hopes with the help of human rights organizations Omar will be freed. But for him, being LGBTI in Egypt is becoming too dangerous.
New Egypt bill will jail you for gay sex, LGBTI activism and even waving a rainbow flag
Last week, MP Riyad Abdel Sattar authored a measure that would sentence LGBTI people, and allies, to jail.
‘Any person engaging in homosexuality in a public or private place should be subjected to punitive action that should be no less than one year and not exceeding three years in jail,’ it reads.
‘Individuals that incite same sex relations, either by inciting, facilitating, hosting, or calling for, even if they don’t perform the act itself, will be punished to prison…as well as shutting down the venue.’
Both publicity and advertising for LGBTI parties, bars and clubs will be banned.
‘It is strictly prohibited to carry any symbol or sign of the homosexual community, as well as it’s prohibited to produce, sell, market, or promote such products. Violators will be sentenced to prison for a period no less than one year and no more than three years.’
This means activists, journalists covering gay events, or anyone even carrying a rainbow flag could be imprisoned.
‘Egypt is not safe for people like me anymore.’
‘With the new law, just by continuing to exist I am considered illegal,’ Karim said.
‘I have to leave Egypt. It’s not safe for people like me anymore.’
Karim is no longer at university. Now at a relative’s home in northern Egypt, he plans to leave for Europe and claim asylum in a city that will accept him.
Human rights activists call on Egypt to not pass homophobic law
Abdul, a lawyer in Cairo, Egypt, has asked us to not use his last name.
‘If these politicians want to claim we have freedom of speech, freedom of association, or any form of freedom given to a civilized society, then they are liars,’ he told Gay Star News.
‘This is taking Russia’s law on propaganda of gay topics even further. It’s even more draconian. This could be one of the most homophobic laws in the world, if passed.’
Human Rights Campaign’s Global Director Ty Cobb agreed, calling the bill ‘one of the most dangerous anti-LGBTQ proposals we have seen in recent memory.’
A union of Egyptian and international organizations have also called on Egyptian media outlets to stop falsely homosexuality a ‘disease’.
Many believe local media is inciting hate speech, and violating human rights.
‘Repression will not turn gay people straight,’ said Human Rights Watch Sarah Leah Whitson. ‘It will only perpetuate fear and abuse.’