Human rights group Amnesty International has called on Egyptian authorities to ensure the safety of transgender woman Malak al-Kashef.
According to the group, al-Kashef was seized during a police raid from her home in Giza in the early hours of Wednesday (March 6) and has not been heard from since, her lawyers unable to locate her and several police stations denying holding her in their custody.
Al-Kashef became first known in Egypt as a LGBT+ rights activist when she began documenting her transition on Facebook, reported Egypt-based news outlet Mada Masr. She had also publicly discussed her suicide attempt in 2018 and the continuous harassment she faced in public spaces.
Amnesty International believes al-Kashef was arrested after calling for peaceful protests following a fatal train crash in Cairo’s central train station on February 27, which killed at least 20 people.
According to Mada Masr, security forces have arrested around 70 people across Egypt in the past week suspected of involvement in the anti-gvoernment protests—only 10 of them have been released, while the whereabouts of dozens of others are unknown.
While al-Kashef was in the process of transitioning, her official documents still recognise her as male—as such, campaigners fear she may be held in men’s prison, facing high risk of torture and abuse.
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“There are real fears for the physical safety and psychological well-being of Malak al-Kashef,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director.
“Talk about Malak al-Kashef. let it be known that her arrest is unfair and violent and heartbreaking.”
— LGBT+ activist on Twitter
Mughrabi continued: “Malak al-Kashef appears to have been detained solely for peacefully exercising her rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Due to her gender identity, Malak is at increased risk of torture by the police, including rape and sexual violence, as well as assault by other detainees.”
Malak al-Kashef is latest activist arrested in LGBT+ crackdown
The human rights campaigner noted the Egyptian authorities’ “horrific track record of persecuting people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” which include forced anal examinations, a practice that is internationally recognised as an act of physical and psychological torture.
“The Egyptian authorities are responsible for her physical and psychological safety. They must immediately reveal her whereabouts, and pending her immediate and unconditional release, ensure that she is protected from torture and other abuses,” Mughrabi added.
Egyptian LGBT+ activists have also called for al-Kashef’s release on social media, with one post on Twitter reading: “Talk about malak al-kashef. let it be known that her arrest is unfair and violent and heartbreaking. bring her up, remember her, keep remembering her.”
In the past few years, the Egyptian authorities have been waging a crackdown against the LGBT+ community, reportedly using dating apps such as Hornet, Grindr and Growler to lure gay men, arrested them and blackmail them.
In January, an Egyptian TV host was jailed for a year on charges of promoting homosexuality and inciting debauchery after interviewing a gay man on his show.