Egypt

Berliners are taking a stand against the anti-gay crackdown in Egypt

Leil Zahra, who is co-organizing a protest Oct. 11 at the Federal Criminal Police Office, explains how Germany is indirectly supporting the arrests and human rights violations of Egyptian LGBTIQ

Photo of Sara Hegazy and Ahmed Alaa, two of the detainees in the recent crackdown against LGBTIQ people and their allies

Oct. 10, 2017 – Last month in Egypt, after a fan waved a rainbow flag at a concert by Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila (whose singer is gay), the police began making mass arrests. Although homosexuality per se isn't illegal in Egypt, the woman is facing a life sentence for “promoting sexual deviancy”. Over 50 further similar arrests have been reported, with men undergoing forced anal inspections and the prospect of years in jail. Activists in Berlin such as Leil Zahra are organizing a protest in the early evening tomorrow, October 11, at the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office) near Treptower Park. He explains how Germany is implicit in the crackdown on queers in Egypt.

Leil, you were born in Lebanon and are based in Berlin. What is your connection to Egypt? Why were you passionate enough to co-organize this demo? 

Mostly because we live in a country where the government supports the very regime that is committing those crimes. We also live in countries of certain political power on the international front, so we do have a certain ethical obligation, in my opinion, to take a stand and demand action to stop this attack on our fellow LGBTIQ communities in Egypt. I have also lived in Egypt during the January 25 revolution of 2011 and was part of many internationals who were there to support. But I don't believe I have to be from a certain place to be concerned by the injustices committed there. 

What is Germany's interest in supporting an oppressive, authoritarian government like Egypt under el-Sisi, anyway? 

El-Sisi is like Mubarak before him, given a carte blanche in exchange for keeping an alleged extremist and terrorist threat under control, and for curbing migration and the refugee influx from North Africa. In return for doing the dirty work, such dictatorships are given the liberty to do whatever they want. El-Sisi has been cracking down on human rights organizations, activists and lawyers since day one. The LGBTIQ community should take a stand today. The rights of our communities in Egypt, our queer lives, should not be a currency between governments or for political gains. Our lives and rights, human rights in general, should never be a trade-off. 

Furthermore, most LGBTIQ Egyptians living in Berlin and most Egyptian activists are concerned about the intelligence of the Egyptian embassy here. It is common for them to attend such protests, take notes and report to the Egyptian regimes. There has been many cases of activists getting stopped at airports entering or leaving Egypt. 

Was the location of the demo symbolically, or strategically? In other words, if the Bundeskriminalamt listens and immediately stops cooperation with authorities in Egypt, what do you anticipate will be the practical effects, if any?

Even before the January 25 revolution, the BKA was training Egyptian security authorities on Internet surveillance. Collaboration continued after the military coup, despite the military's outrageous human rights records. It is enough to look at organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, or local ones like the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights to see the countless crimes committed.

Just this weekend, a 22-year-old was arrested for allegedly running a pro-LGBTIQ rights Facebook page. The Egyptian government is known for using internet entrapment on gay dating apps to arrest people. Having the BKA provide more knowledge and resources on internet surveillance to the Egyptian police is extremely concerning. There should be an investigation to guarantee that those resources are not being used to crack down on LGBTIQ people and on human rights in general, and until then, all cooperation should be stopped. Germany is basically teaching a dystopian regime how to get better at being violent. Human rights internationally should be held to equal grounds to how they are held in Germany. 

Is there any logical reason for the anal inspections that suspects are subjected to? Are they only targeting bottoms? Is total top less likely to get into legal trouble? 

The forced anal probes are of no medical or scientific importance. Various medical bodies have spoken against them. For example, both the Lebanese Doctors’ Syndicate and the The National Council of the Medical Order in Tunisia have rejected them as inhumane and with no medical grounds to be used as an evidence. Various human rights organizations have also denounced this type of violence, including the UN Committee against Torture. 

Since this forced probe has no medical grounds, it is just another layer of state-sponsored violence against the LGBTIQ communities meant to break up, humiliate us and cause the highest damage possible. Those forced probes are usually done at police stations, in the presence of homophobic and transphobic police that have impunity to use any level of force they like. What usually happens under detention in Egypt is an extreme level of violence towards detainees. I am a witness to that. I quote two journalists and activists in a recent Slate article: "an Egyptian trans woman raped in prison told one of us in 2014: 'I always thought if a human being were humiliated that way, the heavens would cry out in protest.'” The heavens in Berlin will not remain silent. We need everyone – the Egyptian LGBTIQ are under massive danger, even here in Berlin. We owe them this much.

Demo: Stop Homophobia! End German police cooperation with Egypt!
Oct. 11, 17:00-19:00, Bundeskriminalamt (Elsenstraße/Beermannstraße)




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