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(Beirut) – Egyptian security forces on March 6, 2019 arrested Malak al-Kashif, a political activist who is a transgender woman, Human Rights Watch said today. According to a lawyer with the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, al-Kashif is being held in an undisclosed location with no access to legal counsel.

Rainbow flags for sale are photographed on June 24, 2017.  © 2017 Reuters

The lawyer told Human Rights Watch that State Security Prosecutors ordered al-Kashif detained for 15 days pending investigations on accusations of “misusing social media,” a charge that is used widely in Egypt against peaceful dissidents. The Al-Watan pro-government newspaper reported on March 7 that al-Kashif was arrested for “calling for protests.”

The lawyer also said that although al-Kashif is a transgender woman, her government ID still identifies her as a man, which puts her at risk of being detained with men. Egyptian authorities systematically discriminate against, arrest, and prosecute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, including activists, and provide almost no avenues for changing one’s gender marker on official documents.

“We are deeply concerned about the well-being of the activist Malak al-Kashif. 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,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “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.”

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