After the recent crackdown on LGBTQ Egyptians, activists urge the international community to join global protests on the 18th of October to combat the systematic, gross and widespread human rights violations against LGBTQ people in Egypt. UHRSN had the opportunity to talk to the organizers of protests, that are taking place in Canada, Germany, UK, Mexico, Spain and the US. The activists, who are operating from inside and outside Egypt, asked that their identities are not to be revealed.
The real problem is the lack of social empathy
Despite the fact that Egyptian law does not explicitly prohibit homosexuality, LGBT Egyptians are persecuted on basis of Article 9(c) of Law 10/1961, which punishes “habitual practice of debauchery”. Heba, one of the organizers, doubts that pressing for the change of these laws is enough to protect members of the LGBT Community. “Changing the law might solve the issue on a legal level, but the real problem is the absence of social empathy. Even if we try to change the law, make it more detailed and less imprecise, to prevent this kind of casualties, prosecutors would interpret other laws to suit their agenda.”
Regarding the question what kind of protection LGBT Egyptians currently have, Heba states that “frankly speaking, there are no local NGOs, that support LGBT rights. They can’t do this. They do it underground. They try to reach out to detainees and hire them a lawyer but very often they are not able to.”
Families abandon their children not to be pushed out of society
Heba sometimes receives calls from desperate family members, seeking support, but in most cases, when families hear this kind of charges have been brought against their children, they simply turn away out of fear of being stigmatized. “There is often no support from families in such situations. It is very scandalous, very shameful and families abandon their children in order not to be pushed out of society themselves. For political activism you will find supporters because the consequences are often less severe. In LGBT cases there is no support. Activists abandon this kind of case. If they show solidarity it will point the finger at them that they might be gay too, and then they would face the same systematic discrimination.”
LGBT Egyptians may be subjected to arbitrary detentions, solitary confinement without access to toilets and just one small bottle of water per day, torture with electro shocks, beatings, anal examinations and burns from lighters that leave permanent damage. “Not everybody knows what’s going on in the prisons or the courts. The courts are giving permission for those examinations. It happens all the time. People are crippled by fear. The organizations are no different,” said Heba.
Thats why they won’t speak, why they won’t talk, why they won’t complain
Throughout the interview Heba emphasized the importance of the international community. “People are already ashamed the society is trying to convince them that they are doing something completely against morals. That’s why they won’t speak, why they won’t talk, why they won’t complain. Because they already think they are a disgrace for the society. They will never speak, unless they see solidarity. We have already seen people getting enthusiastic because of the movement and the campaigning around the world. And that’s what people lack. People lack support in form of empathy, solidarity from different people around the world.”
The Egyptian media further evokes anti-LGBTQ paranoia, incites hate-crime and doesn’t refrain from constantly producing scandals related to the sexual orientation of Egyptians. “They deny LGBT people their privacy, even when they are being attacked. Their pictures, names, age and working places are revealed. It uses those people as fodder. It’s important that they are attacked, persecuted and imprisoned, so the government can pose as the ultimate protector of people and peoples’ morals. The words they use are gross and ugly and strengthen the picture they try to reinforce.”
If he is a homosexual, it is okay to kill him
Ibrahim, another organizer of the LGBT protest, states that hate crimes against the LGBT community are one of the consequences of the media propaganda against LGBTQ people. “We wrote about those issues on facebook. It is not coincidental, it is systematic. The society justifies hate crimes, they justify it in legal, religious and moral ways. The religion plays a huge role in this, but also the sexist society is influencing the image of men and women and how they should act and look in order to fulfil social expectations. It’s not religion per se. It’s the political agendas behind it. Because those in control use religion for their own benefits…if you read in the newspaper that a guy was killed in his flat because he was soliciting homosexual acts, the wording and the language used by the newspaper implies that this person deserves death. Many people are getting killed for their sexuality. If he is a homosexual, it is okay to kill him. I remember one case very well. They caught a homosxeual couple from home, pulled them out almost naked and published the naked picture on the website. It was so horrible. They tortured them and forced them to wrong confessions just to be able to show a specific image to the media, to the public.” Heba adds to the discussion that “when they see a feminine men, they feel like it’s important to eliminate such people, because they see that it is poisoning a certain picture of the patriarchal structure. They want to eliminate the picture of a feminine man. They are seen as subhuman.”
They use the GPS of your mobile to track you
When we asked how LGBT Egyptians are organizing themselves in order to meet up, find friends, who share their worries and to find partners, Mahmoud explained that: “Places are changing all the time. It is not safe even to meet at home, not safe at all. LGBT people are trying to avoid to grab attention. The society is becoming informers to the government. As if it is a national mission to get rid of all gay people. They often find out through snitches, people from the government, or people who pretend to be affiliated to the LGBT community. There are several techniques how to identify members of the LGBT community. They use online platforms, dating websites, dating applications or even Facebook. For example dating platforms like Grindr. Grindr uses the GPS location of your mobile or network in order to search for likeminded people in the surrounding area. The police uses this to determine where LGBT people meet by creating fake accounts. That’s why Grindr recently has released an announcement not to share your location online in Egypt.”
We are looking for escalation
Finally we asked how their movement is advocating for LGBT rights and Heba replied: “We communicate with individuals and organizations all over the world. We have meetings mostly online and we talk about how to evolve the issue and draw global attention. We write publications and translate the pieces into different languages with the help of volunteers. It’s a long process. We have many tasks to keep it going fast and strong. We are spreading the word, creating events, inviting people to protest to achieve the aim of creating a safe haven for LGBT people inside Egypt. To prevent the government from practising surveillance to jail LGBT Egyptians and to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity. We ask for a clear form of solidarity by helping to highlight this discrimination and putting pressure on the Egyptian government. We are looking for escalation.”