Middle East / North Africa

Seeking public approval, Egyptian police arrest 14 for gay sex

The online version of the Akhbar el-Youm newspaper used this generic photo to illustrate its story on the El-Marg arrests.

The online version of the Akhbar el-Youm newspaper used this generic photo to illustrate its story on the El-Marg arrests.

Police in Egypt arrested 14 men last week on charges of engaging in gay sex in the working class El-Marg district of Cairo at a location that’s variously described as a medical/health center and a gym/sauna.

Along with the center’s “manager and specialists and workers,” the men were ordered to be detained for four days and referred to forensic authorities.

Activist commentator Scott Long noted that the police, who are much despised by the Egyptian population, are engaged in a campaign to improve their public image by scapegoating other widely hated groups, including foreigners and LGBTI people.

As cited and translated in Long’s Paper Bird blog, the state newspaper Akhbar el-Youm reported on Oct. 12:

The niyaba [prosecutor] ordered the [continued] detention of the manager and specialists and workers at a health center that was open for perverts [shawazz] only, in El-Marg. He also ordered the detention of 14 men who were caught practicing immorality [fahesha] inside it, and the closure of the establishment.

Information had been received about the center’s illegal activity, and that it welcomed perverted men and boys to practice immorality in its rooms.  The investigation has proved the information correct; the center was raided, and 14 men were caught, in positions that are against religious precepts.

Also, the management staff were caught along with a large quantity of pills and sexual stimulants. It emerged that the center only engages in this illegal activity in return for payments of between 50 and 200 pounds [$7-$28 US] for one encounter.

The defendants confessed in front of Mohammed Sayed Ahmed, the chief El-Marg prosecutor, that they had been frequenting the center to practice immorality [fahesha]. The niyaba ordered their detention and referral to the forensic medical authority, and ordered the center closed and the evidence preserved.

The Egyptian news website Aswat Masriya reported:

Egyptian prosecutor ordered on Saturday [Oct. 12] that fourteen suspects be detained for four days pending investigations into allegations that they committed homosexual acts inside a medical centre in the neighborhood of al-Marg in Cairo. The prosecutor also ordered that they be sent to a pathologist for forensic reports and that the centre be shut down, the Arabic Ahram online portal said.

Egyptian authorities raided the centre after it was confirmed that the ‘immoral acts’ were taking place between males aged between 18 to 57 years old. The prosecutor also ordered that all evidence be confiscated as investigations take place.

In Paper Bird, Long disputed several aspects of those accounts. The location is a gym and sauna, the prices were likely exaggerated, and the “pills and sexual stimulants” were likely vitamins and steroids, he said.

He also said that the police, who are widely hated in Egypt, are likely cracking down on suspected homosexuals to improve their image:  “Since the coup, the police go after Syrians, Palestinians, and other foreigners, because the wave of State-fostered xenophobia makes them applause-inducing targets. But it never hurts to announce that you’ve picked up a few suspected homosexuals. What better paints you, corrupt and immoral though you may be, as a defender of the nation’s morals?”

Aswat Masriya used this Reuters photo of the 2001 arrests in the Queen Boat incident to illustrate its report on last week's El-Marg arrests.

Aswat Masriya used this Reuters photo from the Queen Boat homosexuality trial of 2001 to illustrate its report on last week’s El-Marg arrests.

Although Egypt does not have a law explicitly banning homosexual activity, it is intolerant of LGBTI people. In 2001, for example, 52 suspected Egyptian homosexuals were arrested on the Queen Boat nightclub and tried on charges of “sexual immorality”. Similarly, Pink News cited the case of seven suspected gay men who who were arrested last November on charges of “debauchery.”

In its coverage of the Egyptian Day Against Homophobia on May 11, 2013, the Egyptian news website Aswat Masriya stated:

For years, the Egyptian government has refused to acknowledge the existence of homosexuality in Egypt, and local human rights organizations and activists have avoided granting any public support to the LGBT community or their rights, out of fear of governmental and public backlash. Similarly, the EOHR (Egyptian Organization for Human Rights) refused to defend gay rights in Egypt for religious and cultural reasons.

Constitutionally, there are no laws criminalizing homosexuality. However, offences such as ‘violating the teachings of religion’ and ‘moral depravity’ have been commonly used to arrest, prosecute and imprison people suspected of engaging in homosexual acts.

Because of the lack of public support, gay activism is largely restricted to the online world, communicating through forums and online chat rooms.

28 thoughts on “Seeking public approval, Egyptian police arrest 14 for gay sex

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