Homosexuality in Egypt: Men Arrested for Suspected Sexual Orientation

Mariam Asif - YLT Staff

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It’s a tragic thing to hear that they are places in the world that still do not treat its people with respect, and continue to judge and mistreat them for their sexual orientation. It is even saddening to hear that this place is one of the most beautiful in the world that is centre to rich culture and civilization. This story relates to homosexuality in Egypt, taking place specifically in Cairo.

When Seif Bedour, a 21 year student studying abroad came home to visit his family back home in Egypt he did not expect his world to turn upside down. The last thing someone expects when they are returning home to visit their family is to be detained and spend it behind bars, especially when you were so close to finishing your academics and looking forward to graduating that coming year. 

Ahmed El-Ganzoury, a 40 year old well-known figure at the party was also arrested separately in August, and for being involved in the concert planning scene of Egypts upper class. 

Both individuals were accused for being involved in the 2014 Fairmont party gang rape of an 18 year old Egyptian woman and were arrested seperately. Bedour was arrested in July, and Al-Ganzoury was arrested in August. The families of both parties were shocked to hear the news. Bedour’s parents begged the court to release him as innocent as he was only 14 when the incident took place. 

But, what shocked most individuals was the fact that Egytian police unlawfully checked both individuals phone searching for information and when they were unable to find any data related to the 2014 Fairmont party rape case, they arrested both individuals after allegedly finding pictures of them taking part in same-sex activities, calling it a crime since homosexuality in Egypt is illegal. 

Many members of the LGBTQ in Egypt are issued to face time in prison under the crime of “practising and spreading debauchery”. Many individuals in Egypt and around the world are in shock as to the rights of these two individuals being taken away. 

On October 14, Bedour, and Ganzoury were taken from the Cairo police station to Al-Nahda prison where they were reportedly detained and classified as the Fairmount rapists. Their heads were shaved in prison, and to make matters more traumatizing, they were forced to undergo drug testing and anal exams which the authorities did in a routinely manner to seek “proof” of any same sex conduct. 

The international human rights law has come forward and said the activities that took place by authorities in prison towards Bedour and El-Ganzoury is a “form of torture and sexual assault”. Protestors everywhere are raising awareness about this story because the rights of individuals that were wrongfully convicted were taken away, abused, and publicly humiliated. 

This is one of many stories that surround judgement and false accusations due to homosexuality in Egypt, but for now it was important to shed light to Seif Bedour and Ahmed El-Ganzoury’s stories. You can read about Amy’s story coming out to her Egyptian father as a bisexual woman, and look at tips if you’re thinking of coming out to your Arab/ethnic parents yourself.

‘To the world, you were cruel to a great extent, but I forgive,’ Sarah Hegazi wrote in a letter before her death (Facebook)

The truth is that this is not the first time that Egyptian authorities have dehumanized and tortured individuals that were part of the LGBTQ community. Another story that remians difficult to forgot to this day was of Sarah Hegazi who was an openly gay woman and LGBTQ rights activist. In 2017 the Lebanese band Mashrou ElLeila, whose lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay, performed at a concert in Egypt. People at the concert raised the rainbow LGBTQ flag and she did as well to express her pride and support. Sarah amongst others were arrested, put in prison and tortured. She later took refuge to Canada in 2018, but unfortunately took her own life to the PTSD she developed after the traumatizing experience in August 2020. 

The Egyptian police have now been notoriously claimed for arbitrary arrests, discrimination, judgment, entrapement and privacy violations against people from the LGBTQ community due to homosexuality in Egypt being illegal. It is said that security forces routinely trap individuals whether it be on the streets, dating apps, and various other methods like unlawfully searching their phones. Prosecutors are now bringing unjustified prosecutions against them. International Human Rights Watch has even doumented various cases of toruture, including severe beatings and enforcing individuals to take anal exams and “virgintity tests”. After Sarah Hegazi’s tragic death in 2020, waves of shock worldwide have been ignited and people have concluded that security services like the police are purposely targeting and bashing individuals that are part of the LGBTQ community simply for who they are. 

To make matters worse, Egypt has actually rejected recommendations from other countries to end arrests and discriminations based on an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity. At several meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Egypt refused to recognize the existence of the LGBTQ people in their country and failed to protect the rights of them within its jurisdiction without discrimination. The UN Human Rights committee has made it clear to Egypt several times to discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found that arrests that are made based on same sex conduct by two consenting adults is by definition, arbitrary. The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights explicitly calls on all state members including Egypt, to protect sexual and gender minorities with the African Charter. 

By continuing to shed light on stories like those of Sarah Hejazi, Seif Bedour and Ahmed El-Ganzoury, the Egyptian authorities would be under more pressure from the internal Egyptian community and external worldwide community to reconsider its approach to specifically targeting minority groups such as the LGBTQ community, and work towards improving its human rights agenda.

by Mariam Asif – YLT Staff
@marr_2000

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