This section starts with discussing the role of the police. More specifically the activity of the internal and external units for protecting public morality and their role in tracking and spying on the lives of LGBTQ individuals or those perceived as such. Starting with documenting the key patterns that the police adopt in arresting them, along with documenting the kinds of violations that these individuals are subjected to in police stations and while they are being arrested.
This security crackdown is led by the General Directorate for Protecting Public Morality. The cases files and the media coverage point out to three main patterns in this crackdown. The first and most common is the entrapment of individuals, especially transgender women, through fake accounts on LGBTQ dating websites and applications. The second pattern is the deportation, by the Ministry of Interior, of foreign nationals who are or are suspected of being gay or trans even when debauchery charges are not upheld, and sometimes without even the cases going to court. The third is the creation of major sex scandals that receive exceptional media attention, such as the raid of Bab al-Bahr bathhouse in 2014, the case known in the media as the “gay wedding” case, or the arrest of a famous businessman. Or the late incident of waving a rainbow flag during a music concert and the subsequent launching of a vicious campaign on LGBTQ individuals in its aftermath. The remaining cases vary between men who dress in women’s clothes, in addition to the usual methods of reports received by the police. For example those incidents which are reported by neighbours, or hotel staff if they notice the presence of LGBTQ individuals or when sexual practices, deemed unacceptable, take place. In those coming few pages we will examine these patterns in details.
First: The War on Dating Websites and Applications
The Morality Police’s entrapment strategy of LGBTQ individuals or those perceived as such, has moved away from tracking accounts of individuals who are open about practising commercial sex toward targeting and entrapping the majority of individuals on dating applications and websites, whether in exchange for money or not. In contrast to the anti-prostitution law which incriminates the provider of sex not the client, applying the articles of habitual practice of debauchery -at least on the level of the law enforcement- the police do not differentiate between those who sell, those who buy and those who engage in sexual activity without monetary exchange. This development can be observed in the police reports.
During the first year of the security crackdown, the police reports indicate that the arrests were the result either of reports by citizens or the online advertisement of homosexual sex in exchange of payment.
The following is an excerpt from a 2014 police report in the first year of the crackdown:
“In compliance with the warrant from the Public Prosecution to arrest those investigated as soon as they carry out their sinful activity and to search the apartment in building [ ] in the jurisdiction of [ ] police station, and apprehending those present in the residence while committing the crime of practising debauchery and to confiscate the tools of the crime as well as any thing that might present itself accidentally during the search and whose possession is deemed punishable by law. This warrant was issued based on what undercover investigations conducted on escort.com website, and the pages existing there, where these girls are advertised.”1
Another police report from the same year reads:
“The General Directorate has received complaints by phone regarding a page on Facebook and on www.tsdating.com website of a person called [ ] who is advertising himself for practising debauchery with men in exchange of monetary sums, amounting to LE1000 an hour, and that he uses the phone number [ ] to arrange these sinful meetings with men seeking forbidden pleasure, in violation of Law 10/1961. Undercover investigations and field monitoring have confirmed the allegations and that tsdating website is a pornographic website where sexual deviants advertise their services to practice debauchery in exchange for monetary sums that they receive.”2
2015 represents the beginning of when the Morality Police began its systematic, electronic campaign on LGBTQ dating and social applications and websites as we have come to know it now. The Morality Police seeks, via this campaign, to arrest LGBTQ individuals through luring them and making arrangements to have sex and then ambushing them. This is the main method of entrapment and accusing individuals with practising habitual debauchery as well as advertising such practice. Through this strategy, an officer or informant creates fake accounts on LGBTQ dating websites and lures individuals in, initiating chats with individuals for a period of time that varies in length. Meetings are not rushed, and the individual is often encouraged to send pictures of themselves. Sometimes the police pretend to be rich visitors from the Gulf, luring their interlocutors with money. And finally when a place to meet is agreed upon, and the person goes to the agreed location, he is ambushed by a set up and arrested. He is then is taken to a police station or the morality police section in the al-Mogamma on Tahrir Square3.
Since the beginning of 2015, EIPR has observed an almost fixed permeable, in most of the police reports, that goes as follows:
“Based on the directions of the Deputy Minister for Social Security and the Head of the General Directorate to Protect Public Morality to intensify efforts to combat all crimes that affect the values and morals of Egyptian society, and to combat the sinful activities of international prostitution rings that target the nation’s youth, particularly the recent emergence of pornographic websites and social media platforms.”4
Although the lead-up to the entrapment may last days or weeks, and sometimes months, yet in many cases the prosecution does not issue an arrest warrant for the tracked person, because eventually he is arrested on the street when no crime has been committed.
In one such case, Firas, a refugee, arranged a meeting at Mesaha Square in Dokki with someone via one of the websites, in June 2015. In an interview with an EIPR researcher, Firas recounted, “He had asked me to buy condoms and some supplies for the evening. I went there with these things — which were later confiscated [as evidence] for the case — and I waited. He was late, so I sent him a message saying that he’s late and that I have the right to leave, and he replied apologizing and blaming the traffic.”
Firas’ police report states that: “there had not been enough time to write an investigation report and submit it to the prosecution for an arrest warrant and for fear that the duration of the crime committed will run out”. This was despite the fact that they had been conversing on dating websites for a significant period of time.
After the permeable quoted above, the police report mentions the dating website and continues as follows:
“We have noticed one account on the website by the name [ ] where a person offers to practice debauchery in exchange for payment. We used our undercover sources to initiate a conversation with him on the website “Manjam” and then on Whatsapp and agreed to meet him to practice debauchery in exchange for a payment of LE500 an hour. Our source agreed to meet him in front of [ ] store in Sudan street in the jurisdiction of Agouza police station and he has sent a picture so that he is recognized when he meets our source.”
The systematic nature of the tracking and entrapment can also be seen in the media coverage of habitual practice of debauchery cases in 2015, as detailed in the section concerning the media.
The Morality Police builds its cases against gay men and transgender women, or individuals perceived as such, through electronic tapping, which is a clear violation of the law. It is legally established that practising deceit to uncover a crime does not affect the legitimacy of the arrest but this is only in cases where a crime actually occurs, such as a vendor selling a counterfeit product to an undercover police officer. However, when the crime — practising debauchery in this case — does not occur, and the only evidence is electronic conversations, this constitutes a crime of incitement of debauchery according to section (a) of Article (2) of Law 10/1961 which states that it is punishable by the penalty stated in section (b) of the previous article to “anyone who employs, persuades or induces a person, be they male or female, with the intention of committing debauchery or prostitution and this is by means of deception, force, threats, abuse of authority or other means of coercion.”5
Even if we hypothetically concede that consensual relations between men is criminalized, Morality Police in these cases (as police reports show and testimonies gathered by the report researchers) are keen to take specific steps, in addition to printing electronic chats, to use them as evidence against the person being tracked. These are:
1. Trying to assert that it is commercial sex being discussed, even resorting to framing it as such.
2. Focusing on evidence such as women’s clothing, wigs, and especially condoms. This usually happens through the undercover officer asking the person they are communicating with to bring condoms, only to be used against them as evidence, or planted as evidence, even if the individual does not have them in their possession at the time of arrest.
3. Making sure to construct a specific scenario where the person arrested is pressured to confess that he was subject to sexual assault as a child and therefore became a “sexual deviant”. And that he has been involved in a number of sexual relations since then, so that the aspect of “habituality” can be established in the crime.
Below is an excerpt from an interrogation report in 2014:
In the interrogation of the aforementioned, he said that his name is [ ] and that he was born on [ ] and that he has been practising debauchery since a young age. He said that he took up this sinful activity professionally, setting up a page on the aforementioned website to advertise himself and his practice of debauchery. He said he has photographed himself wearing female underwear and has a habit of adopting female looks, growing his hair and putting on make-up. He used the mobile number on the aforementioned page to pursue clients who desire to practice debauchery in exchange for payment. He also uses his mobile phone to put nude pictures of himself on the same website. An inspection of his phone revealed several pictures of him in women’s underwear and showing his private parts from behind.”6
The interviews conducted by EIPR of previously arrested individuals confirm the police’s strong interest in physical evidence.
In one of the habitual practice of debauchery cases in 2014 case, defendants were given prison sentences of between three and eight years on charges of habitual practice of debauchery, before they were all acquitted on appeal. When EIPR researchers met two of the defendants in the case, in a coastal city, they said that that they were four young men who rented an apartment in Nasr City and at 2 pm there was banging on the door. A policeman, who was accompanied by three informants, told them that he wanted to search the apartment to check if they have hashish or weapons and asked whether there were women there. When Shahir, one of the men, asked about a search warrant, one of the informants began insulting the young men, and told him, “Shut up, do the likes of you even know what a warrant is?”
The informants searched the apartment, they told the officer that it appears these men “look like fags”. They then took the women’s clothing and beauty products found in the flat as evidence.
In a 2015 interrogation report, the arresting officer admits to using force to apprehend two targeted individuals in the street:
“I approached them, knowing that one of them was the person an officer had been interacting with electronically. I carried out a friendly conversation with him and he reiterated what was said in the Whatsapp conversations, telling me that the person with him was a “shemale” and that I could choose between them. He said that the bag in his possession contains women’s clothing, make-up and other necessities for the night. He asked me for the sum of money agreed upon before engaging in any sexual acts. Once I confirmed that here was a crime, consisting of these two people offering themselves for debauchery, I signalled the accompanying officers to arrest them. The defendants tried to escape and assault the police, so necessary force was used to apprehend them before taking them to the unit’s headquarters. Presented with the Whatsapp conversations and other information we had gathered, the man confessed to creating an account on Hornet website to offer himself to men desiring homosexual sexual pleasure and debauchery for payment agreed upon through online conversations. He said that he, as well as the friend arrested with him, have been in this profession for a long time and that they practised a consensual act of debauchery today with a sexual deviance seeker, and in exchange for payment.”7
Another police report in 2016 reads:
“In the interrogation of the first defendant, he said that his name is [ ] and he is known as [ ] and is unemployed and resides at [ ]. He said that he created an account on the application MatchUp on his phone with the number [ ]. This is the same number that we contacted him on, which he uses to communicate with men who desire practising debauchery and to lure them in. This application is more secure than other homosexual websites. He said that he has been practising debauchery, passively, since he was young and that he has made it into a means to earn money. He revealed that the person arrested with him is also a sexual deviant and that they have been in a homosexual relationship for a period of time. The defendant handed over a white phone of the brand [ ] with the number [ ] which he uses to arrange deviant sexual encounters with men who desire debauchery. A search of the phone’s contents revealed several sinful conversations. He also handed us LE1,100 that he had in a small brown handbag which he said was payment for his sinful activity. A search of his bag revealed a condom of the brand [ ], in addition to creams and Vaseline which he confessed to using to facilitate the practice of debauchery.”8
The testimonies collected by EIPR show the steps taken after arrest to build cases for the charge of habitual debauchery. After electronic entrapment, officers seek to extract detailed confessions about the arrested individual’s sexual history. This takes place through several methods, singly or altogether, chief among them is suggestion. The officers suggest to those arrested -that they of course were sexually assaulted as children- and try to extract their sexual history through intimidation and incentives.
In this regard, Firas says: “That before taking me to the prosecution, an officer from the Morality Police came and asked me to tell the prosecution a story in which I confess to being gay and to having been assaulted when I was younger — the incident that supposedly turned me gay — and that I regret what I have done. He convinced me that this was in my best interest, and believing him I agreed.”
In an interview EIPR conducted in August 2016, with Sameh, detained in Cairo in July 2016, he was arrested in Tahrir Square and taken to the morality police unit in the Mogamma where, he recounts:
“The officer insisted that I confess that something happened to me when I was younger — a sexual assault — that made me regularly practice debauchery. I rejected all that. [...] They took me to an officer of a higher rank who said to me, ‘We are doctors and we will treat you,’ while pointing at certificates hung on the wall, that said he had experience in curing homosexuality. He was talking in a very condescending way. There was a man with him who kept yelling at me to confess. I continued to insist on what I had already said.”
Although some LGBTQ dating applications and websites issued warnings to users in Egypt at the start of the crackdown, however, due to the number of websites and applications and the large number of users, many people remain unaware of the crackdown. In the light of the fact that these websites and applications are the only means available for a significant number of people to meet others with similar interests and orientations, in a way that preservers the privacy of these relationships, forgoing these websites and applications is not a possibility.
The case files reveal that the following applications and websites are used to entrap people:
· Planet Romeo
In most cases, the conversation between the undercover officer and the targeted person is used as evidence, and is printed and included in the police report.
The lawyers that EIPR met, including Ahmed Hishmat, Rami Ibrahim and Alaa Farouk, asserted that the Interior Ministry uses a snowball method to find targets, creating a database with names and ID numbers of those who visit the homes of individuals previously arrested on debauchery charges.
Second: Deporting Gay Foreign Nationals
EIPR began to note and document cases in which the Interior Ministry deports foreign nationals on account of their sexual orientation, following the late and exceptional coverage of the Supreme Administrative Court verdict, which was issued in favour of the Ministry of Interior in the case no. 8084/Y67 (First Circuit). The case filed by a Libyan citizen to overturn the decision barring him from entering the country. He was surprised by the decision, having been denied entry as he was trying to return to Egypt.
This ruling in favour of the Interior Ministry gave the ministry the power to deport individuals based on their sexual orientation and practices without being required to prove their guilt in court first. The verdict, issued by the Supreme Administrative Court, went against the recommendation issued by the court’s Commissioners’ Authority.
The Commissioners’ Authority said in its report:
“From what the presented texts and what the decisions of the administrative courts established, the legislator left significant discerning power for the administrative authority concerning allowing foreigners to stay in Egypt, renewing their stay, refusing renewal, deporting them or banning them from entering Egyptian soil.
The legislator gave the Minister of Interior the jurisdiction to deport foreigners regardless of the nature of their residence if their presence threatens the internal or external security of the country, its national economy, general health or general morals and public order. However, expanding the scope of discretion given to the Interior Ministry in the matter of issuing residency permits for foreigners in the country does not mean that this authority is free from judicial oversight, to scrutinize its legitimacy, or to expound its scope, or judge its appropriateness in the decisions it takes to maintain security in the country and to take into consideration, at the same time, the rights of individuals as reinforced by constitutions and the universal declarations of human rights. The State Council has always upheld constitutional principles, especially the rights of individuals to move and to enter countries. However, there should be taken into consideration the sacred duty entrusted in the administrative authority to protect national security and preserve public order, which may require barring foreigners from entry. But the practising of this power by the administrative authority is conditional upon its decision being premised on a correct reason justifying it. It does not suffice to judge the validity and soundness of such decision by resorting to unverified investigations that have no base in the documents presented for the case.”
The Commissioners’ Authority noted that the prosecution released the person in question, did not refer him to court and that there was no court verdict against him, and hence it recommended that that the decision to ban him from the country be reversed. However, the Supreme Administrative Court judge ruled that the plaintiff’s sexual orientation and the information about him contained in the police report were sufficient grounds to reject his request to reverse the decision to put his name on the list of people banned from entering Egypt.
The judge said in his verdict,
“And as it was established in the case file that the plaintiff was known to be a deviant during his presence in Egypt where he resided in [ ] and that he habitually practised debauchery in his residence for payment as noted in report no [ ], for the year 2008, Misdemeanours, reported on the day of [ ], and hence it was decided to deport him from the country in coordination with the Libyan procedures office in Cairo. And hence, the decision under appeal was issued by those legally empowered to make it, using the power vested in them to protect public good as well as religious and social values and to prevent the spread of vice in society. The decision is legitimate, corresponds to the law, and is free from grounds of appeal, which necessitates that the request to reverse it be denied.”
Although the verdict was issued in December 2014, the story did not appear in the media until April 2015. Most of the coverage was sensationalist with headlines such as, “The Supreme Administrative Court’s decision regarding the right of the Interior Ministry to kick out gay foreigners.”9
There were concerns that the verdict would be used to punish foreign activists who are critical of the government or as a way to settle personal scores. This concern was heightened by the precedent set in granting the Interior Ministry the power to make decisions regarding deporting or restricting the freedom of movement of foreign nationals without a court verdict or a previous conviction.
However, the cases that were documented throughout the past few years confirm that the Interior Ministry used the precedent primarily to target gay foreigners, keeping them out of the country on the pretext of protecting public morality. The dangerous legal precedent set by this verdict was supported by another Supreme Administrative Court ruling in March 2017 upholding the rejection of an appeal by a British citizen against the Interior Ministry’s decision to deport him in 2015 based on police investigations which resulted in charges of habitual practice of debauchery, unsupported by any verdicts against him.10
EIPR has found that deported foreign nationals are arrested through online entrapment in the manner described above or in house raids. Nationality does not appear to make a difference in the decision to deport, as there are cases of Arab refugees as well as Europeans and even Egyptian dual nationals faced deportation.
There are 12 documented cases of deportations resulting from habitual practice debauchery cases since the start of the crackdown. Five of these were Arab nationals, while the remainder were nationals of European countries. Six of these were deported in 2015, while there were four cases in in 2016 and two in 2017. As demonstrated in the testimonies in the appendix, the Interior Ministry deports gay individuals or those perceived as such, whether charges are upheld or not, and in some cases individuals were deported without being referred to the Public Prosecution.
The treatment of foreign nationals differs according to nationality, the intervention of their embassies in Cairo, as well as their social class. In all cases, the police delay allowing those arrested contact with their respective embassies.
In one such case, Roberto, an Italian citizen in his forties, recounted to EIPR through Skype that one day during the month of Ramadan in 2015, shortly after the Maghreb call for prayers, between 6 and 7 pm, he was trying to hail a taxi in Mesaha Square in Dokki to go home when:
“Two people in civilian clothes approached me and asked to see my passport [...] I told them that I didn't have my passport on me because it was at the embassy and that I only had my Italian ID card. But still they insisted on seeing the passport, and said I had to go with them. [...] They started to get hostile...they grabbed me by the shoulders and bundled me into a microbus. We then went to the Mogamma and then to Dokki Police Station and I asked them to contact the embassy. And I was able to contact the embassy through my cellmates in custody. The next day, the consul and an embassy lawyer came to the police station and were trying to get me out as fast as possible although they were not told what charges I was facing. After several hours, the police told them that I had been arrested because I organized group sex parties for gay people and that they had arrested me in a hotel room. [...] I heard the cries of people being beaten and tortured, although no one physically harmed me. I spent 27 days in Dokki Police station, during which they stalled and stalled and when I was presented before a judge, he said, ‘’You are free to go’. I expected to be released, but they told me I had to go back to my country and they would not allow me to go back to my house in Cairo to pack my things, I had been living here for years.”
In fact Roberto’s experience can be considered positive to some extent if compared to Firas’s experience, a refugee arrested in June 2015, through electronic entrapment, and was held in the same police station as Roberto, but he received a completely different treatment.
Firas described being detained for three weeks during which he was regularly beaten and subjected to a flood of insults and abuse. He recounted,
“After three weeks, there was a primary court verdict against me and a one year sentence. The lawyer appealed and, about six weeks after my arrest, the Court of Appeals acquitted me. I spent two weeks after that at the police station where they denied me visitation rights and denied having me in their custody. I didn’t know that then, and I didn’t see any of my friends and I was running out of money. I was taken to National Security (situated on Mehwar road in 6th of October City) about five times in these two weeks. I wasn’t beaten or insulted in National Security. On the last visit, I learned that there was a decision from National Security to deport me.
At the department of passports and immigration, they told me that I had two options: Either wait in Qanater Prison until the International Organization for Migration or UNHCR get me a ticket to the country that I want to travel to, or arrange for the price of a ticket myself with the help of my family and friends. I chose the second option so that I wouldn’t be detained for a longer period, then they forced me to sign a paper stating that I forgo my refugee status in Egypt and that I am leaving for another country of my own free will, due to personal circumstances.”
Unlike Roberto that was presented before an investigation judge and Firas who was deported after being acquitted, the British citizen “John” was deported in summer 2015 without even being referred to court. This was after his arrest in a coastal city where he was then escorted to Cairo airport. National Security also deported a Dutch citizen in 2017 after they were both acquitted of habitual practice of debauchery charges in the Red Sea governorate.
Third: Creating Sexual Scandals
In these cases, EIPR noticed that the morality police sought to dramatize various incidents to make them seem like major events. Naturally, the media plays an incendiary and sensationalist role, whether through inciting the police to arrest people because of their sexual orientation as in the case known in the press as the “deviants’ wedding”, or even by participating with the police in arrests, such as the television presenter Mona al-Iraqi in the raid on a Bab al-Bahr, a public bathhouse.
The case know in the press as the “gay” or the “deviants’ wedding”, September 2014
After a segment of a video appeared on Youtube for a group of young men celebrating on a boat by the Nile, TV present Tamer Amin aired parts of the video and called on the police to arrest those who appeared in the video, because it advertises debauchery and vice. According to Amin, the video showed two young men exchanging rings and kissing each other on the cheek. In a later episode, he hosted one of the young men who exchanged the rings, over the phone and interrogated him over his sexual orientation and his relationship to the other young man who appeared with him. After the police arrested everyone who appeared in the video, Amin praised the police’s role in hunting down gays.
Although the police report states that a CD containing the video was used to acquire a warrant leading to the arrest of the young men, Osama, a friend of one of those arrested, in an interview with EIPR in November 2016 said that this is not what happened. According to his testimony,
“the police arrested a gay man from Tahrir Square and kept beating him as they asked him if he knew S (the man that appeared in the video). Do you know X? No. Do you know Y? No. Until a name he recognized came up, from the list of people they had. They told him that they would not let him go until he brought him to the police. So they arranged with him that he would call the wanted person, and tell him that he had no money and that he is in Tahrir, and so when this person arrived, the police arrested him. They started blackmailing him too, in order to release him, only if he leads them to one of the people who appeared in the video. Until he presented them with a contact number of one the people who appeared in the video. That person was also arrested, and the person that appeared in the video gave the number of one the main two people in the video, M. They went to M’s house but his parents already hid him. However, a friend of the father’s talked to the father over the phone and told him the police called, and they are saying it a national interest case and that the police only want M’s testimony and then he will be released. The father delivered M himself and of course he was not released as it was said. And they continued the same approach till they reached the remaining people. They remained a few days in the Mogamma, with no one being aware of their whereabouts, and then they were transferred to Qasr El-Nil Police Station.”
Osama describes his friend’s detention at Qasr al-Nil police station as horrific. He says that when he visited them, they complained of constant beating and insults. Osama saw policemen insult them as they were bringing them out for the visit, saying to them, “Come on you faggots, you are a disgrace.” The insults and physical harassment continued for as long as they stayed in the police station, which lasted three months. Osama says, “When we visited, they insulted us too.”
According to the police report, eight people (not just the two persons who exchanged the rings, but everyone who appeared in the video) were arrested on September 5. They were referred by the prosecution to the Forensic Medicine Authority, although their arrest is related to a video on a boat by the Nile, that does not entail any sexual acts or anything like it.
The prosecution charged all eight with habitual practice of debauchery, incitement of debauchery and publicizing materials that offend public decency and publishing a video that invites debauchery. In November, a primary court decision charged them with publicizing and advertising debauchery and acquitted them of habitual practice and incitement of debauchery. The sentence was reduced to one year upon appeal.
The Bab al-Bahr bathhouse case
In December 2014, morality police stormed a public bathhouse in the area of Ramses, accompanied by television presenter Mona Iraqi who filmed the men present, who were naturally half-naked.
According to an interview with one of the defendants, Rabi’, he had gone to the bathhouse, on 3 August 2016, with a group of friends celebrating the marriage of one of them. Twenty minutes after they changed their clothes and went into the pool room, a police force of about 15 men arrived, accompanied by television presenter Mona Iraqi and her crew. Rabi’ says,
“The police beat and insulted us. We were wearing nothing but towels, and Mona al-Iraqi was standing there filming us very proudly, instructing others to film us as well and telling us ‘You are sexual deviants’. Then they took us to Abdeen police station where they refused to let us get dressed. There, an informant would say so-and-so practices the act with so-and-so, and so-and-so practices the act with this person, and Ahmed Hashad was writing down what he said. Then they started to film us again. They beat us and insulted us again. They let four people go, one of them was not Egyptian and 26 of us remained [the five owners of the bathhouse and 21 visitors]. They made us sweep the whole police station and at 6am they gave us clothes, instructing us to wear them inside-out.”
The officer who made the arrest tells the story of the arrests in the police report:
Through an undercover entrapment, our source, who accompanied us, was able to identify several sexually passive deviants as they entered the Bab al-Bahr bathhouse. I made immediate and quick investigations and field inspections regarding those mentioned by our undercover source, confirming that they are indeed deviants who practice sexual deviance and acts of debauchery among themselves. Further field investigations led us to the realization that this an unfolding crime and an orgy was taking place between a number of deviant men in the pool room in the bathhouse. After giving the orders, I entered the bathhouse with the accompanying undercover force. I arrested Hatem who was on the left of the entrance and informed him of our identities and the nature of our task, showing him the prosecution warrant. I noticed the presence of Akmal, the person I am authorized to apprehend and inspect, sitting on a wooden bench in the bathhouse’s terrace. I apprehended him as well and asked him about the people who were seen entering the bathhouse. He pointed to the door of the pool room. I pushed the door open and as soon as I entered, I found a state of group debauchery between a number of gay men, completely naked, having group sex, whether anal or oral in a horrifying scene. I arrested those homosexual men immediately, with the accompanying force. I also arrested S.M, W.S and K.L who work in the bathhouse and who are responsible for organizing group debauchery parties in the pool and the sauna. Defendant Ahmed Hamdy was also arrested as he was practising debauchery with defendant Mohamed Khaled through anal sex. After interrogation of the two defendants, Ahmed Hamdy said that he is in a gay sexual relationship with Mohamed Khaled. They were arrested together as they were practising debauchery for money. Defendant Ahmed Hamdy said that he has been frequenting the Bab al-Bahr bathhouse for a long time and frequently practices debauchery with men, with the cooperation of defendants Hatem and Akmal. He also said that he paid LE100 to be allowed into the pool room and LE50 to defendant Mohamed Khaled in return for practising sexual debauchery with him.”
The report continues with detailed accounts of imagined sex scenes involving the 26 defendants, where each party admits that they paid money to the other party to have sex with, and as if the presence of a police force would not stop the continuous sex actions taking place. And as if every two individuals would continue to have sex until an officer reaches them and arrests them.
The defendants were sent to the prosecution the following day. According to Rabi’, the prosecutor, also insulted and humiliated them. Rabi’ related, “He asked us what happened in the bathhouse. We said nothing.” The prosecutor renewed their detention for four days pending investigations and referred them to Azbakiya police station.
Rabi’ described the days that they spent in the police station until the next prosecution visit as a nightmare:
“They took us after that to Azbakiya police station where we were beaten and insulted. They tied belts around our necks and made us bark like dogs. No one knew anything about our whereabouts, because they took our phones away. They were insulting us day and night, telling us we were faggots not men. They told us that we would be in jail for 10 years. They would wake us up at 6am, we were locked in a separate room, and they made us take off our clothes in the cold, turn on the air conditioning and beat us... Four days later, we were referred to the prosecution. The prosecutor was very sympathetic and treated us well, but the media got in and filmed us without our knowledge. There were rights lawyers attending with us, and later our families got us other lawyers. The prosecution renewed our detention for another four days and requested that we be inspected by the Forensic Medicine Authority. When we went back to the police station, there was a second round of beating and insults. Our families came to visit us that day and they were treated very badly. The police insulted them as well and told them that their sons were sexual deviants. They let thugs into our rooms to beat us and the officers would tell us that we would never get out. One of the people with us was an old man, who looked like he was in his seventies. An officer tied him up every day and ordered him to bark. They would make us stand for hours with our hands raised against the wall. Every morning they took LE15 from us to get cleaning products for the station. We saw a judge, then they wanted to transfer us to prison. We went to be checked for criminal records and were then taken to Tora Prison. The prison refused to take us, but when we went back to the police station, the treatment was better. They stopped beating and insulting us and they would give us tea and cigarettes when we asked. We went to our second court session, which was adjourned and in the next session, Mona al-Iraqi and Ahmed Hashad refused to come. Then the judge acquitted us and suddenly I found myself talking to television presenters and journalists normally, after being afraid.”
Ahmed Hossam, one of the lawyers who worked on the case told EIPR researchers, that the defence strategy in the case depended largely on the illogicality of the police report. He says,
“The officer tried to pair up the visitors of the bathhouse into sex partners. Because they were an odd number, he wrote that the last three were engaged in a threesome. Meaning that there was not a single person in the bathhouse was not having sex at the time they were arrested.”
This lack of logic in the police report was also cited in the acquittal verdict, the judge wrote:
“That the officers stormed the pool room and watched the defendants commit debauchery, and specified the role of each one of them, does not accord with reason and logic so the court is unable to assert wrongdoing with any certainty. It is not reasonable that the officer stormed the room, then the men continued practising debauchery so that he was able to determine the role of each defendant and who was with whom in a detailed manner. He specified that in a way that doesn’t fall within the logic of things, that the defendants would continue practising debauchery at the time the officers raided the place”.
Sobhy, another defendant in the Bab al-Bahr case says in an interview in August 2016,
“After the acquittal, I tried to get back to my normal life. But when I take public transportation, everywhere, I would hear people commenting on the incident, expressing surprise at the acquittal. I would enter battles all the time defending myself, even though the people I was talking to didn’t know who I was. I finally gave up and decided to kill myself. I poured gasoline over my body and set it on fire. My family took me to Qasr al-Aini Hospital where they were negligent and my condition deteriorated before I was able to transfer to another hospital and receive treatment with the financial support of people. I am now a plaintiff in a compensation case against Mona Iraqi. I haven’t been able to get my life back.”
In the Grip of the Police.. Violations by the Dozen
The testimonies collected by EIPR, included (see testimonies appendix), indicate long sessions of assault, humiliation and obscene insults from the moment of arrest and throughout the duration of detention in police stations. Threats of sexual violence are commonly used to intimidate and insult detainees. According to several of the testimonies, police would also threaten to reveal their sexual orientation to dozens of other detainees, making them easy prey for physical and sexual violence, bullying and ridicule.
Many defendants in debauchery cases describe violent and cruel treatment on the part of the police, such as throwing water on them, depriving them of food and water, depriving them of visitation rights or obstructing it and as well as allowing media to photograph them against their will.
Evidence: Criminalizing What is Not a Crime
The evidence listed in the police reports in debauchery cases typically includes wigs, women’s underwear, beauty products, condoms, lubricants, photocopies of online conversations, the phones of the arrested and any sum of money found on them. In the case of transgender individuals, hormonal medication is also included.
It is crucial here, to point out that none of these items presented as evidence are illegal to possess. Alaa Farouk, a lawyer at EIPR says, “Condoms are sold in pharmacies, alcohol is allowed in Egypt and there are places licensed to sell it, so where is the crime in being in possession of these things?”
Through these items, the police construct a fictitious case against those arrested. They say the mobile phone is used to publicize their debauchery and any money found on them is considered the return for their practising debauchery in exchange for payment. Lawyers Ahmed Heshmat and Rami Ibrahim say that this is how the police commonly frame those arrested.
One of the investigation files states:
We confiscated 11 condoms, several lubricants, a cherry flavoured massage gel, several wigs, as well as one blister pack of Amitril, containing six tablets, some clothes used in sadistic sex, a full and unopened bottle of ID alcoholic drink, a half full bottle of Chivas Regal whiskey and two laptops belonging to [ ] and [ ].11
An investigation file in 2015 states:
“On searching him, we found in his possession LE100, two condoms of the brand [ ] and a tablet of the brand [ ]. With the other individual we found LE200, one dollar, a mobile phone of the brand [ ] and a small black bag containing a wig, underwear and make-up. When we asked if he uses the tablet to facilitate his acts of debauchery he affirmed this, so we asked him to open the device and with his knowledge, we saw Whatsapp conversations, and other communications containing arrangements for deviant sexual practices, a picture of him in women’s clothing, and a picture of the second defendant [ ] wearing women’s clothing and in full make-up. He also led us to the Instagram account of the aforementioned person. He said that he made the money found on his person today by practising debauchery, along with the other person detained, with some individual.”12
Condoms as evidence in habitual debauchery cases
The prevention of HIV/AIDS was used as a pretext in some cases to justify some of the incidents in the crackdown, the case of Bab al-Bahr , for example, when the TV presenter that accompanied the police force while they raided the bathhouse, claimed that she was doing this as way to prevent the spread of the virus. Yet it is the norm in all of the police reports that the use of condoms is considered evidence against those who were arrested as well as being confirmed in the court cases.
EIPR documented the listing of condoms as evidence in more than 10 habitual debauchery cases.
Aside from individuals’ rights to chose methods of prevention and protection for themselves and that the presence of condoms in the possession of individuals can not be in any way or form be deemed as “evidence” for the practice of debauchery, this is in violation of people’s rights and their sexual and reproductive rights. This indirect incrimination of condoms is proof of the absence of coordination between different ministries in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS. The Ministry of Health and National HIV Program classifies, ‘Men who have Sex with Men’, as key group that should be targeted with awareness, education and protection, as it is the most vulnerable group to viral infection.13
Although the last few years have shown the low incidence of the spread of the virus, however, there is a localized pandemic between men who have sex with men as well as individuals who inject drugs intravenously.14 Further, Egypt is one of the few countries where incidence of new infections is increasing exponentially, contrary to many other countries around the world who succeeded in curbing new cases of infection.
The government’s protection strategy for men who have sex with men relies largely on encouraging the use of condoms and lubricants, alongside efforts to reduce the stigma and discrimination for STIs15. As such, the presentation of condoms as evidence in cases of habitual debauchery poses a threat to HIV/AIDS prevention efforts as it compels people whose sexual orientation is not accepted largely by society to give up an essential protection method for fear of arrest. It also undoes the efforts of another ministry, in the same government, trying to control the spread of STIs.16
This is reaffirmed by UNAIDS which describes, in its report on National HIV Policy Indicators, not only is there an absence of a political framework to protect men having sex with men, but also the way that laws are applied in Egypt, represents obstacles to protection and prevention efforts by the National Program to Combat AIDS. The UNAIDS report also specifically points to the police use of condoms as evidence for habitual debauchery as undermining efforts to decrease risks of infection as well as preventive strategies.17
Legal Problematics of the Morality Police’s Performance
As explained above, the technique used by the Interior Ministry — specifically the External and Internal Units of the Morality Police — in tracking LGBTQ individuals and those perceived as such, seems like a method to punish individuals for crimes yet not committed, but anticipated. This electronic entrapment has several legal problematics. The Interior Ministry’s actions constitute crimes of incitement and facilitation of prostitution, according to the first article of Law 10/1961 on combating prostitution and debauchery as interpreted by verdicts of the Court of Cassation. What undercover police officers do, constitutes proposals that are considered serious enough to influence the suspect who is then entrapped. In fact, these actions are criminalized under the law even if no sexual act takes place. While the intent to practice debauchery is not a crime, inciting debauchery is, even if no sexual act takes place, according to the Court of Cassation, which says in a verdict on the matter:
“The first section of article 1 of law no.10/1961 includes various means of incitement for prostitution and facilitating it, for a male and a female alike. ( ) The incitement to prostitution is fulfilled by any act that corrupts the morals, even if it was initiating a proposal, as long as it is serious enough in its appearance to influence the plaintiff addressed and seduce them with the intention of committing debauchery or prostitution.”18
According to several legal principles what the Interior Ministry has been doing in general is considered a crime of incitement. There is consensus among legal scholars that public servants should not incite people to commit a crime in order to entrap and arrest them19.
It has also been confirmed that the morality police also tries to convince individuals once detained to confess to a story scripted by the police that they were assaulted in their childhood after which they started to practice homosexual acts in exchange for payment. This aims to prove the “habitual” aspect of the habitual debauchery charge and it constitutes a gross violation of the rights of the detainees as they are forced to make a false confession, for what they did not commit.
The construction of fictitious cases continues by considering that everything in the possession of the arrested individual is used to practice debauchery (condoms, beauty products, women’s clothing...etc), to facilitate such practice (the mobile phone reported by the police to be allegedly used to contact customers), or is a result of the practice (any sum of money found on the arrested individual is filed in the police report as earnings from practising debauchery in exchange for payment).
1 Case no 9071, Nozha Misdemeanours 2014
2 Case no. 2 Zaharaa Madinat Nasr 2014
3Al-Mogamma is a large administrative complex in downtown Cairo containing numerous governmental agencies as well police departments (Translator’s note)
4 Case no. 2864 Omraniya Misdemeanours 2015
Case no. 9511 Dokki Misdemeanours 2015
5 Defence memorandum presented by lawyer Ahmed Hossam, to Primary North Giza Court, Misdemeanour Appeals Circuit of Dokki, 2015
6 Case no. 20248 Zahraa Madinat Nasr 2014
7 Case no. 26400 Agouza Misdemeanours 2015
8 Case no. 1412 Qasr El-Nil Misdemeanours 2016
9 Aarafa, Ahmed and al-Nady, Khaled. “The National Council for Human Rights Supports the Court's Decision in Expelling Homosexual Foreigners from Egypt”. Youm7. 15 April, 2015. Accessed 13 November 2017) http://www.youm7.com/story/2015/4/15/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D9%88%D9%85%D9%8...
al-Gohayni, Abdo. "We Publish the Reasoning of the Verdict of Banning 'Homosexuals' from Entering the Country". Vetogate. 14 April 2015. Accessed: 17 November 2016
10Al-Qaranshawy, Shaymaa. “The Supreme Administrative Court Upholds the Ministry of Interior's Banning of a British Citizen on the Grounds of Moral Reasons”. Al-Masry al-Youm. 26 March 2017. Accessed 15 November 2017
11Case no. 20248 Zahraa Madinat Nasr Misdemeanours 2014
12 Case no. 26400, Agouza Misdemeanours Court, 2015
13"Egypt Report NCPI." UNAIDS. March 31, 2014. Accessed November 15, 2017. http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/country/documents/Egypt%20NCPI...
15 "National HIV Programme Situation and Gap Analysis: Egypt." UNAIDS. April 2015. Accessed November 17, 2017. http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/country/documents/EGY_narrativ....
18Cassation, 27 Feburary 1968, A Collection of Cassation Decisions Y37/2052
19"Inciting individuals by members of public authority to commit crimes for the purpose of apprehending them, during or after committing said crimes, is considered illegal and doesn't agree with their duty in cautiously applying the law correctly. Therefore investigative procedures and investigations built on such illegal actions, are deemed void and shall establish no effects (Ahmed Fathy Sorour, Al-Wasit in the General Section, Vol 1, 1981 (ed.), no. 394, Y634). See also, Cassation 16 June 1953, Collection of Cassation Decisions Y4 (988-352) and Cassation 14 February 1967, Collection of Cassation Decisions Y81 (209-41)