No-one is talking about Egypt’s shocking homophobic purge
Egypt’s authorities are deliberately fuelling a homophobic ‘moral panic’ in order to build support for a homophobic crackdown, a report has alleged.
There has recently been a dramatic surge in arrests of gay people in Egypt, fuelled in part by the country’s media.
Sources on the ground have repeatedly raised the alarm about Egypt’s so-called ‘Public Morality Investigation Unit’, which actively targets the gay community with raids and entrapment.
The situation worsened in September this year, when the waving of a rainbow flag at a music concert was extensively derided in the press – leading to a dramatic crackdown.
A report released this week by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights charts the horrific extent of the crisis.
It says: “The EIPR has observed an exponential increase in the number of individuals arrested because of their private sexual practices and/or sexual orientation.
“In what is now known as the as the Public Morality Investigation Unit’s campaign against LGBTQ individuals and men who have sex with men or those perceived as such.”
Data available up until March 2017 shows that arrests have drastically risen in the past few years.
EIPR estimates based on media monitoring that 232 people were arrested between the end of 2013 and March 2017.
The report alleges that morality police were also responsible for fuelling negative stories about LGBT people in order to stoke public fear, manufacturing “the creation of major sex scandals that receive exceptional media attention”.
It adds: “The remaining cases vary between men who dress in women’s clothes, in addition to the usual methods of reports received by the police.
“The morality police sought to dramatize various incidents to make them seem like major events.
“Naturally, the media plays an incendiary and sensationalist role, whether through inciting the police to arrest people because of their sexual orientation as in the case known in the press as the ‘deviants’ wedding’, or even by participating with the police in arrests, such as the television presenter Mona al-Iraqi in the raid on a Bab al-Bahr, a public bathhouse.”
The report includes an account from a man arrested in a gay bathhouse, who alleges that authorities actively facilitated the filming of the raid.
The victim, Rabi’, said: “The police beat and insulted us. We were wearing nothing but towels, and [news correspondent] Mona al-Iraqi was standing there filming us very proudly, instructing others to film us as well and telling us ‘You are sexual deviants’.
Many victims report violent treatment at the hands of the authorities.
The report adds: “Many defendants in debauchery cases describe violent and cruel treatment on the part of the police, such as throwing water on them, depriving them of food and water, depriving them of visitation rights or obstructing it and as well as allowing media to photograph them against their will.”
The report nalso otes that police are using gay dating apps to entrap and arrest men. Hook-up app Grindr has previously put out ‘warnings’ to users in the region about the tactic, as well as disabling location features.
The report says: “Among 232 individuals arrested 129 were arrested via dating and social networking websites, 39 through police reports received from domestic residence, 19 arrested through raiding their residence, 10 others after being put under surveillance, 6 men were arrested for wearing women’s clothes, 3 were arrested on the street, 6 from hotels and 10 through campaigns and finally 3 arrested without stating the means or conditions of arrest.”
It adds: “This security crackdown is led by the General Directorate for Protecting Public Morality.
“The case files and the media coverage point out to three main patterns in this crackdown. The first and most common is the entrapment of individuals, especially transgender women, through fake accounts on LGBTQ dating websites and applications.
“The second pattern is the deportation, by the Ministry of Interior, of foreign nationals who are or are suspected of being gay or trans even when debauchery charges are not upheld, and sometimes without even the cases going to court.
“The third is the creation of major sex scandals that receive exceptional media attention.”
Of the use of dating apps for entrapment, it adds: “The Morality Police’s entrapment strategy of LGBTQ individuals or those perceived as such, has moved away from tracking accounts of individuals who are open about practising commercial sex toward targeting and entrapping the majority of individuals on dating applications and websites, whether in exchange for money or not.
“The police do not differentiate between those who sell, those who buy and those who engage in sexual activity without monetary exchange.
“2015 represents the beginning of when the Morality Police began its systematic, electronic campaign on LGBTQ dating and social applications and websites as we have come to know it now.
“The Morality Police seeks, via this campaign, to arrest LGBTQ individuals through luring them and making arrangements to have sex and then ambushing them.
“This is the main method of entrapment and accusing individuals with practising habitual debauchery as well as advertising such practice. Through this strategy, an officer or informant creates fake accounts on LGBTQ dating websites and lures individuals in, initiating chats with individuals for a period of time that varies in length.
“Meetings are not rushed, and the individual is often encouraged to send pictures of themselves. Sometimes the police pretend to be rich visitors from the Gulf, luring their interlocutors with money. And finally when a place to meet is agreed upon, and the person goes to the agreed location, he is ambushed by a set up and arrested. He is then is taken to a police station or the morality police section in the al-Mogamma on Tahrir Square.”