Police in Egypt are using dating apps to arrest, detain and torture LGBTIQ people to “clean the streets,” a human rights group has warned.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the officers have used fake social media profiles to target queer people. The police then entrap, arrest, detain and torture them.
The watchdog spoke to 15 people who were persecuted between 2017 and 2020 under Egypt’s vague “public debauchery” and prostitution laws.
While in detention, all victims said security forces physically and verbally abused them, “ranging from slapping to being water-hosed and tied up for days”.
The officers unlawfully search through the content of their phones to justify the arrests and charges against them, HRW said.
A 27-year-old man, known as “Yasser”, said police arrested him when he met a man after chatting on Grindr.
“They took me to the ‘morality ward’ and kept me in a tiny room with no food or water,” the victim said.
“When they came back with a police report, 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’ and publicly announcing it to fulfill my ‘unnatural sexual desires’.”
Later at the police station, Yasser said, the officers “beat me so hard I lost consciousness.”
“They threw me in a cell with other prisoners. They told them, ‘He’s a faggot,’ and told me ‘Careful not to get pregnant.’
“I stayed one week in that cell. Between the beatings by officers and assaults by other detainees, I thought I would not survive.”
The authorities later took him to Giza Central Prison, where soldiers continued to “torture and humiliate” him in solitary confinement.
Police said they were ‘cleaning the streets’ of queer people
Another 25-year-old man, Salim, said officers tied his hands and feet and forced him to stand for three days.
Salim said police told him they arrested him because they were “cleaning the streets of faggots.”
A 37-year-0ld gay man, Alaa, was so brutally raped and beaten in detention in 2007 that he was left disabled and “wanted to die”.
Police arrested him again in 2018 and beat and sexually assaulted him while in custody. In total, Alaa spent six months in prison.
“To this day, I still don’t know the basis of my detention. I lost everything,” he said.
“I knew I had to leave Egypt. All I want is to wake up and feel safe.”
Activist and trans woman Malak said police put her in “a cage-like cell” in a male prison after she attended a 2019 protest.
“I suffered the worst verbal abuse I have ever encountered by police officers,” she said.
“They forbade me from going to the bathroom for two days. They subjected me to a forced anal exam, they sexually assaulted me.”
A 28-year-old trans woman said she also bled for three days after officers conducted forced vaginal and anal “virginity” tests.
Eight of the 15 people interviewed were victims of sexual violence in detention. Police forced five of them to undergo the “cruel, degrading and inhuman” anal exams.
Human Rights Watch said even though many of those detained were eventually acquitted, their lives were irreparably damaged.
Yasser explained, “My family stopped talking to me. My brother threatened to kill me.
“I was too afraid to walk on the street. I lost everything.”
LGBTIQ people in Egypt face ‘life-altering abuse’ in arbitrary detention
Human Rights Watch said a fierce anti-LGBTIQ crackdown intensified after a 2017 rock concert in Egypt.
A photo of Sarah Hegazy raising a rainbow flag among the crowd was widely circulated.
Police detained Hegazy for months, inciting fellow detainees to beat and sexually assault her. Hegazy died by suicide in Canada earlier this year.
Rasha Younes, an LGBT rights researcher for HRW, called for Egypt to “end the cycle of abuse” of queer Egyptians.
“Egyptian authorities seem to be competing for the worst record on rights violations against LGBT people in the region,” Younes said.
“The international silence is appalling.
“Morality and public order are hijacked, not preserved, when security forces arbitrarily arrest people and subject them to life-altering abuse in detention.
“Egypt’s partners should halt support to its abusive security forces until the country [ends] this cycle of abuse, so that LGBT+ people can live freely in their country.”
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.