March 11, 2019 at 12:20 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Transgender political activist in Egypt arrested for ‘misusing social media’
Authorities in Egypt last week arrested Malak al-Kashif, a transgender political activist, on charges that she was “misusing social media.”

A transgender political activist in Egypt remains in police custody after authorities arrested her last week on charges that she was “misusing social media.”

Human Rights Watch in a press release cited a pro-government newspaper that said authorities on March 6 arrested Malak al-Kashif. She had been held at an undisclosed location, but a source told the Washington Blade on Monday that her lawyers have learned she is at a Cairo police station.

Al-Kashif is expected to appear before a prosecutor next week.

“We are deeply concerned about the well-being of the activist Malak al-Kashif,” said Neela Ghoshal, a senior LGBTI rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, in the press release that indicates the gender marker on al-Kashif’s government-issued ID is male.

“As a transgender woman, al-Kashif faces a severe risk of mistreatment at the hands of Egyptian law enforcement and potentially by other prisoners too,” added Ghoshal. “If, as reports suggest, al-Kashif is being detained for exercising her right to call for peaceful protests, the Egyptian security forces should immediately release her and should end their harassment and arbitrary detention of activists.”

Amnesty International Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director Magdalena Mughrabi also expressed concern over al-Kashif’s well-being.

“There are real fears for the physical safety and psychological wellbeing of Malak al-Kashif,” said Mughrabi. “Egyptian authorities have a horrific track record of persecuting people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, including through carrying out forced anal examinations which amount to torture.”

Activists have previously criticized Egypt over its LGBTI rights record. The State Department in its 2017 human rights record notes the arrest of LGBTI people is among “the most significant human rights issues” in the country.

A group of seven “transsexuals” who the Egyptian Morality Police described as a “network of debauchery” were arrested in Cairo in 2015.

Police on Dec. 7, 2014, arrested 26 men during a raid on a Cairo bathhouse and charged them with “debauchery” after a reporter for a pro-government television station and her cameraman tried to enter.

Authorities in September 2017 arrested seven people who waived a rainbow flag during a Cairo concert that featured Mashrou’ Leila, a Lebanese rock band with an openly gay lead singer who publicly champions LGBTI rights. Reports indicate many of the dozens of LGBTI Egyptians who were subsequently detained underwent so-called anal tests to determine whether they engaged in same-sex sexual activity.

The State Department notes Egypt in fiscal year 2017 received more than $1.34 billion in aid from the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Cairo in January — which included a meeting with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — prompted renewed calls for the U.S. to cut aid to Egypt over its overall human rights record.

“One would have expected that 60,000 political prisoners, continuous attacks on the civil society and the recent witch-hunt waged against the LGBTQ community who has no where to go other than the international community, would lead to a permanent slashing down of the aid,” Ahmed el-Hady, a queer Egyptian activist who is a neuroscientist at Princeton University, told the Blade after Pompeo’s trip. “I feel frustrated that the U.S. aid still funds a military regime that has no shame in oppressing its opponents.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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