By Diane Cooke
Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt. But in the late 1990s, the police stepped up the use of two old laws – a 1950 anti-prostitution law and a 1961 law against “debauchery” – to arrest and charge the practising LGBT community.
The highest-profile action was a raid in Cairo in 2001 on the Queen Boat, a gay-friendly club on the Nile, where 52 men were arrested.
At the end of 2013, soon after the ousting of the democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi and as the military authors of the coup intensified their grip on power, LGBT campaigners noticed a new, powerful crackdown. The police – who operated hand-in-hand with the military – began a new round of arrests. And this time they were using new techniques.
“The [police] are now more technologically advanced,” said Dalia Abdel Hameed, head of the gender programme at Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), describing their use of apps like Grindr to gather photographic “evidence,” arrange meetings, and entrap men.
The EIPR condemns the ongoing crackdown targeting LGBTQI individuals, or those perceived to be. It began on September 22 after audience members at a concert in Cairo raised the rainbow flag, known to symbolise sexual diversity and acceptance of all genders.
Since the campaign began at least 57 individuals have been arrested in Cairo and a number of other governorates (the number now stands at 54).
Egyptian authorities have carried out anal examinations on people suspected of being gay in order to determine whether they have had gay sex.
Police arrested 33 people in the crackdown on the gay community in Egypt after a rainbow flag incident, say human rights activists.
In a statement, Amnesty said at least five of those arrested were subjected to anal examinations to determine whether they were engaged in same-sex sexual relations - a practice it said amounted to torture and was scientifically unsound.
'The authorities must urgently halt this ruthless crackdown and release all those arrested immediately and unconditionally,' said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty's North Africa campaigns director.
Local media launched a highly critical campaign against those who raised the rainbow flag at a Mashrou' Leila concert, a popular Lebanese alternative rock band whose lead singer is openly gay.
Two men were arrested in relation to the flag incident but one has been released. The remaining arrests were unrelated to the flag incident but have all been over the perceived sexual orientation of them.