Homophobia is on the rise in Egypt since the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, according to the Egypt Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
The visibility of the gay men and women who took to the streets during the revolution in 2011 has caused a backlash against them, instead of clinching them the greater freedom they had hoped for.
“After the fall of Mubarak, the criticism of those [revolutionary] groups has always contained a sexual element. Whether it’s the women who are participating called prostitutes or ‘loose’ women, or men are called homosexuals,” says Adel Ramadan of the EIPR.
Gay rights organisations in Egypt are sparse, and they do not receive as much attention as in neighbouring Muslim countries. The EIPR is one group that advocates for gay rights, although it is not their priority.
Egyptian gay people themselves are not very visible either; the revolution was a rare occasion in which they took to the streets openly.
Maha, a 27-year-old lesbian, said she had gone to observe the protests at the start of the revolution, but quickly joined in when she realised the potential for replacing Egypt’s conservative rulers with a government that might give more rights to the gay population.
She adds: “There was a moment of hope but the last few years has killed it.”
Activist Kholoud Bilak says that the silver lining to the cloud is that groups like EIPR have started to take gay rights more seriously since the revolution.
“They are finally starting to acknowledge LGBTs: ‘oh, they were in the revolution since day one very, very effectively.’ I thought that is very positive,” she said.
Egypt does not have explicitly anti-gay legislation. However, gay people are can be arrested on other charges such as “debauchery”, as was the case with seven men in November last year.
Activists and LGBT citizens also fear that the new government, lead by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, may soon change the lack of anti-gay laws and crack down on LGBT Egyptians.