Police in Egypt 'are using dating apps to find and arrest LGBT people'

Police in Egypt are using fake dating profiles to entrap, imprison, and torture LGBT people, a new report claims.

Human Rights Watch report that Egyptian police are using social media and apps such as Grindr to meet gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people before picking them up off the street and arresting them.

Their report also claims that police often unlawfully search the phones of those they have arrested to justify keeping them in detention.

Yasser, 27, told the rights group he was arrested after meeting up with a man he’d spoken to on Grindr. He said: ‘When they came back with a police report, I was surprised to see the guy I met on Grindr is one of the officers.

‘They beat me and cursed me until I signed papers that said I was “practicing debauchery” and publicly announcing it to fulfil my “unnatural sexual desires”.’

Fifteen people were interviewed by the group and each one said security forces subjected them to physical and verbal abuse, ‘ranging from slapping to being water-hosed and tied up for days’. Eight were victims of sexual violence while five were forced to undergo anal examinations, the rights watchdog said.

Transgender woman Malak el-Kashif, 20, said she was arrested and ‘put in a cage-like cell’ after attending a protest in March 2019.

She said: ‘I suffered the worst verbal abuse I have ever encountered by police officers and they forbade me from going to the bathroom for two days. They subjected me to a forced anal exam. They sexually assaulted me.’

According to the report, one 28-year-old trans activist said police officers subjected her to forced vaginal and anal examinations, after which she bled for three days. Police referred to the examinations as ‘virginity’ tests, the rights group said.

HRW said the tests ‘constitute cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that can rise to the level of torture and sexual assault under international human rights law’.

The country’s anti-LGBT crackdown began after the 2017 Mashrou’ Leila concert, when a photo of LGBT activist Sarah Hegazi waving a rainbow flag in the crowd was widely circulated. Police detained and tortured Hegazi for months, and had other detainees beat and sexually assault her. After years struggling with PTSD and depression as a result of her experience, Hegazi took her own life three months ago.

Rights groups say that since the concert authorities have routinely used vague discriminatory ‘debauchery’ and ‘prostitution’ laws to arrest and prosecute members of the LGBT+ community.  

Rasha Younes, HRW’s LGBT+ rights researcher for the Middle East and North Africa, said: ‘Egyptian authorities seem to be competing for the worst record on rights violations against LGBT+ people in the region, while the international silence is appalling.

‘Egypt’s partners should halt support to its abusive security forces until the country takes effective steps to end this cycle of abuse, so that LGBT+ people can live freely in their country.’

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