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'Campaign of persecution': Egypt escalates LGBTI crackdown with fresh wave of arrests and anal examinations

Homosexuality is not expressly outlawed in Egypt, but is highly taboo in the country [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 October, 2017

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Egyptian authorities arrest 22 people over three days, stepping up a campaign of persecution against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, reports Amnesty International.
Egyptian authorities have arrested 22 people over the past three days, stepping up a campaign of persecution against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] people in the country, Amnesty International said on Monday. 

The arrests come after a rainbow flag was displayed at a Mashrou’ Leila concert in Cairo provoking a public outcry.

The arrests bring the total number of people who have been detained based on their perceived sexual orientation to 33  32 men and one woman  since the Public Prosecutor announced an investigation into the rainbow flag “incident.”

“In a matter of days Egyptian security forces have rounded up dozens of people and carried out five anal examinations signalling a sharp escalation in authorities’ efforts to persecute and intimidate members of the LGBTI community," said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International. 

“Forced anal examinations are tantamount to torture – there is no scientific basis for such tests and they cannot be justified under any circumstances."

The scale of the latest arrests highlights how dangerously entrenched homophobia is within the country

All 33 people detained are facing prosecutor interrogations and significantly expedited trial proceedings, the organisation revealed.  

“The scale of the latest arrests highlights how dangerously entrenched homophobia is within the country,” Bounaim added.

According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, at least 10 people were arrested between September 28 and 30 and put on trial on Sunday, alongside another six who were arrested earlier in the week.

The verdict in the trial of all 16 men has been scheduled for October 29, Amnesty reported.  

On October 1, one man was detained in the Mediterranean port city of Damietta in relation to the rainbow flag incident. Six further people were also detained in Cairo in the last 48 hours for promoting “habitual debauchery” through online dating applications and four further arrests took place from a flat in Giza, also in the last 48 hours.

Authorities also detained one woman suspected of raising the rainbow flag at the concert, Amnesty said.

She has been charged with “promoting sexual deviancy” and “habitual debauchery” in the first such incident involving a woman in years.

One woman has been charged with 'promoting sexual deviancy' and 'habitual debauchery' in the first such incident involving a woman in years

“The Egyptian authorities’ announcement that they are investigating the rainbow flag incident as a criminal act is utterly absurd. No one should be punished for expressing solidarity with LGBTI individuals or based on their perceived sexual orientation,” said Bounaim.

Popular Lebanese alternative rock band Mashrou' Leila spoke out on Monday against the crackdown.

The band, whose lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay, said they were "heartbroken."

"We cannot begin to explain how saddened we are to see yet another era of backwards tyranny creep over one of our most beloved countries and audiences," the band said in a statement posted on its social media accounts late on Monday.

"It is sickening to think that all this hysteria has been generated over a couple of kids raising a piece of cloth that stands for love."

Homosexuality is not expressly outlawed in Egypt, but is highly taboo in the country among Muslims and minority Christians alike.

Egypt's conservative musicians syndicate has said Mashrou' Leila would not be authorised to perform again in the country.

The group has previously been banned from performing in the Jordanian capital Amman.

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