Dispatch: Protest in Solidarity with Egyptian LGBTI Against Human Rights Abuses

Tens of Egyptian citizens are being arrested following a concert by a Lebanese band, Mashrou’ Leila, taking place on Friday, 22nd September, at one of Cairo’s biggest malls. These arrests followed a campaign by local media, which published several pieces across news and social media platforms inciting hate speech against members of the LGBT community in Egypt. As a result, there have been increased attacks against and arrests of citizens who suspected of attending the concert. People have been arrested randomly from the streets based on their perceived sexuality as well as increased entrapments of LGBT individuals by the morality police via gay dating apps and websites in addition raiding homes of LGBT individuals. The have been charged on counts of “inciting immorality” and engaging in acts of “debauchery”.

Pan Africa ILGA stands in solidarity with The Alliance Of Queer Egyptian Organizations (AQEO) and the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) and joins Human Rights Watch, ILGA Europe and the COC Netherlands in a statement condemning these unwarranted arrests and attacks as human rights violations especially the rights to freedom of expression in Egypt.

Activist Ahmed Alaa confirmed in a Buzzfeed video that he raised a rainbow flag at the concert in prior to his arrest.

Since the hate campaign began, 56 individuals and counting have been arrested in Cairo, Giza, Ismailia, South Sinai, Damietta and Beheira Governorate, facing charges of “habitual debauchery” and “promoting debauchery”, in accordance with Article 9A, Law number 10 of Egypt’s anti-prostitution and debauchery law 10/1961. Other charges faced are those of “promoting debauchery” and “aims to disrupt the provisions of the Constitution and the law through inciting ‘deviancy’” And a few others. A number of these individuals have already been prosecuted and found guilty and 15 defendants have received prison sentences, ranging from 6 months – 6 years. Police raids of homes of suspected homosexuals and their allies continue to occur, and the detainees experience ill treatment and invasive medical examinations as well as lack of easy access for lawyers to read and review reports, deprivation from food, denying family visits police officers encouraging harassment by other prisoners to the accused individuals. Political parties and community leaders have supported the media campaign and Members of Parliament and Al-Azhar religious scholars are pressuring the state to end “attempts to corrupt the youth”.

LGBT activists from Egypt and MENA region stated that these arrests follow “the escalating violent attempts to suppress and divide civil society organizations, restrict their resources, and increase security measures to silence advocates for human rights and freedom of speech and expression in Egypt, the Egyptian state and media have exceeded all expectations in spreading fear, discrimination and encouraging hate speech inciting Egyptian citizens against each other.”

In addition, a number of Egyptian human rights organizations condemned the crackdown on individuals based on their perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. In their statement, the signatories said, “The state has no right to interfere in the private lives of people, except in cases involving violence, minors or non-consensual acts. While the police continue to hunt down dozens of gay people, or men who have sex with other men, using vague legal provisions to punish individuals who have not committed any crimes, the judicial system has failed to invest the equivalent amount of effort into investigating and prosecuting cases of female circumcision, child marriage and domestic violence, all of which are serious crimes committed against hundreds of thousands of girls and women each year.”


Call to action

Pan Africa ILGA join LGBT activists from Egypt and MENA region signatories of its statement in the following call to action:

  • “We call for human rights organizations, civil society, the international community, journalists, media experts, lawyers and all individuals who are interested in protecting human rights values to join their voices to ours and sign this statement.
  • We remind the Egyptian state of its important responsibility of protecting the security of Egyptian citizens and guaranteeing the freedom of speech and expression as stated by the Egyptian Constitution and International Conventions.
  • We call for media organizations to respect the values of professionalism during their coverage and defend human rights and avoid hate speech and demeaning terminology against Egyptian citizens, and refrain from giving a space to sources who intentionally spread fear and hate.” (Press release issued by the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality “AFE” )


PAI, in collaboration with other South African and African human rights groups, is in the process of planning protests in a show of solidarity with the Egyptian LGBT community and their allies who will be protesting in different cities worldwide on October 19, 2017. Join the online protest in solidarity with the Egyptian LGBTI community. For now, should you wish to show your solidarity, send your organisation/group’s logo to germaine.delarch@archive1.panafricailga.org to be added as a signatory to this dispatch.

#ColorsRNotShame #RainbowIsNotCrime #ThisIsEgypt  الألوان_مش_عار#

You can also make your voice heard by signing this petition drawn up by activists from Egypt and MENA region.

 (See Egyptian law and history of LGBT sentiment at the bottom of this page for the Egyptian context)

For more information, contact:

Alliance of Queer Egyptian Organisations (AQEO)                         Pan Africa ILGA
egypt@afemena.org                                                                                germaine.delarch@panafricailga.com






Egyptian law and history of anti-LGBTI sentiment

Egypt has no law against or ban on homosexuality or cross-dressing in its criminal code. Nevertheless, the law of debauchery directly criminalizes sexual relations between men, whether in monetary terms or not.

An anti-LGBT sentiment has been present since the 1980s under Hosni Mubarak’s regime. The Mubarak-led administration did not support LGBT rights legislation in Egypt and objected to the attempts beginning in the 1990s to have the United Nations include LGBT rights as part of its human rights mission.

Criminal sanctions against gay and bisexual men arise from a supplemental law combatting prostitution and “debauchery”. Since 2000, these laws have formed the basis of a systematic crackdown on gay or bisexual men and anyone deemed to support LGBT rights, with the “Public Order and Public Morals” code increasingly used to criminalise homosexuality.

The most notorious enactment of this crackdown was the “Cairo 52” where 52 gay men attending a Cairo boat party were arrested and charged with violating these public morality laws. These arrests elicited international outcry from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, amongst others.

Egypt has ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Moreover, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (African Commission) adopted Resolution #275, which holds each member state accountable to protect people from violence on the grounds of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Egypt is also signatory to the core international human rights treaties such as the UDHR, ICCPR and CAT, which oblige states to protect, fulfil and promote all fundamental rights for all, without discrimination on any basis whatsoever. In particular, these treaties enjoin states to protect all individuals from violations of their rights to life, liberty including the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment; and to be allowed a fair trial and freedom of expression. The Egyptian Constitution also protects these same rights under Articles 51, 52, 54, 56, 58 and 59.

As such, Egypt is in contravention of its own Constitution as well as the various international human rights instruments which it has undertaken to uphold through ratification. In its statement, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) “expresses its deep concern at the rapid referral of these cases to court, without enabling defendants to exercise their constitutional rights to contact their families and choose their lawyers.”