<<previous  | index  |  next>>

IV. In the Wake of the Queen Boat: Assaults on Privacy and Community

The Queen Boat trial intensified harassment. A new wave of cases in which groups of men were arrested spurred renewed speculation over gay “organizations” and “cults.” Amid tabloid headlines and allegations of orgies, these stories recapitulated the better-known scandal on a smaller scale.

The pattern of both prosecutions and publicity suggests that law enforcement officials read a signal in the Queen Boat case—taking it as an incentive to increasing rigor, or even a route to career advancement. Indeed, one police officer in Giza presided over three group arrests in private apartments (at least two through the same informer’s services), and took in twenty-three victims, within one year.

Police and press exploited fears of homosexual “networks” to assault individual privacy—and to discredit the reality, and demolish the remnants, of gay community.

A. Introduction to an Informer: A Birthday Party in Al-Haram

Magdi, who was arrested and tortured in the al-Azbekiya police station in 1997, went to an abortive celebration in 2001. He told Human Rights Watch, “The birthday party was the worst thing. A friend of mine invited me, a gay friend. Hafez.”167

Hafez was no ordinary friend. Information Human Rights Watch has accumulated suggests that this shadowy figure—”nobody knows his full name, but his nickname was ‘Mishmisha [apricot]’”—recurrently sets men up for arrest. Hafez has worked as an informer in at least two group arrests of gay men in private homes in the Giza governorate (the section of Cairo west of the Nile); he appears to be a favored informer of officer Abdullah Ahmed, of the Giza Vice Squad.

“I knew Hafez,” Magdi relates, “through the Amon disco and the Queen Boat disco. He was a face in the crowd. He was around twenty-eight. I didn’t have any reason to be suspicious of him before this happened”:

He invited seven people in addition to himself. He said it was his birthday. This was September 2001. ... The apartment was in al-Haram [a district in Giza governorate, across the Nile from Cairo proper]. I got to the party around 10:30 p.m. I went with some other people who knew Hafez. Hafez let us in, then said he had to go buy drinks.

He locked the door behind him. About fifteen minutes later, we found someone knocking at the door. We looked through the peephole but we didn’t see anyone. So we went on with our evening. Then we found the door opening and somebody coming in. They had the key. They were police, in uniforms, about twelve of them. They said, “Everybody freeze.” I was terrified.

Human Rights Watch inspected the court file in this case.168 The investigation report, from officer Abdullah Ahmed of the Giza Vice Squad, states that “Today, while observing the status of public morality, we met one of our secret sources” who informed police that the flat’s owner, “an active pervert,” lived there with three other active perverts, opening his rooms to “passive perverts” for the practice of debauchery. It asks for a warrant to detain seven people: Hafez’s three “pervert” roommates and the four “passive perverts.”169 All are named; all eventually became defendants.170 The arrest of the apartment’s alleged owner, the “active pervert,” is not on the menu of requests.

Magdi says the police “never showed a warrant, just their weapons.”

I was so scared. They made us open our pants and checked our underwear, to see if it was colored. They called us names, insulting our families. They hit this one kid with long hair, they slammed him against the wall.

Then, although we were all fully dressed, sitting and standing around normally when they came in, they made some of us strip and made them go downstairs draped in bedsheets. I refused. They tried to force me but I told them I would throw myself out of the building. Three others stayed dressed but three took their clothes off.171

At the Giza Security Directorate,

Three officers questioned us. They filled out reports and made us sign them. That took from about midnight till 5 a.m. We were allowed to read them: it said we were prostitutes and we were having sex in the apartment. We said, “How can we have done this?” They said, “Sign,” and they beat us to make us sign, slapping and kicking us around.

Then we stayed in the cells till the morning, and then we went to the al-Haram niyaba. At the niyaba, they interrogated us one by one. The interrogation was very simple: “Khawal?” “No.” “Khawal?” “No.” They said we were used khawalat. They gave us four days’ detention. We never saw Hafez again during all this.

At the niyaba, all were charged with “habitual practice of debauchery.”172 The seven then were taken to the al-Haram Police Station. Magdi says,

All seven of us were kept together in one cell. There were lots of other prisoners in the cell, including some who had already been sentenced. The guards showed us to the other prisoners and said, “If you want to fuck these guys, go ahead. They’re khawalat and take it up the ass.” Many people tried to fuck us and we shouted and made a fuss. They got afraid we’d make a disturbance and so after a while they stopped.

Every day there was humiliation. The seven of us were singled out. We got “special treatment.” The guards would use their shoes, and also beatings with a stick. Guards would pull us out [of the cell] one by one, all the seven, and beat each one. They would get us on the floor, and stand on our back with their boots, and kick us. They made a hobby out of calling out one of us each day to beat that way.

We had no food there—the other prisoners would sometimes give us food. Most of us seven had given the police false names and destroyed our IDs while we were in the police transport vehicle, so they couldn’t trace us back and tell our families—and we were ashamed to contact our families.

After more than three weeks in the al-Haram police station, the seven prisoners were moved to the general prison at Mazra’at Tora. Magdi remembers:

At Tora we could get information out for the first time. People would come to visit other prisoners, and we could give them our families’ numbers. We stayed in Tora for another twenty-two days. We were kept in a separate cell from the other prisoners. They were afraid the others might catch the khawal disease. We still had no blankets, we slept on the floor. My mother came to visit me at Tora. It was terribly depressing for her, because of the shame.

The prisoners were freed after over six weeks in detention. “I have no idea why they released us: they didn’t say,” Magdi told us. A trial was held in late 2001. The defendants received six months’ imprisonment.173 Magdi remembers,

Most of us had torn up our IDs and given wrong addresses, so we never got the summons. I never found out when the hearings were. No one from the case went. They were all sentenced without being there. … And I don’t know anything about the other six anymore.

Magdi remains in hiding: if he is caught and recognized, the sentence could still be imposed.174

B. “Of Course the Police Would Trump Something Up”: A Party in Boulaq Al-Dakrour

The morning after the first Queen Boat verdict, the story in the state daily Al-Akhbar contained an inset box:

The Giza Vice Squad today apprehended a den of perverts run by an unemployed man. … The Giza Vice Squad had received numerous complaints from the inhabitants of an apartment house, concerning suspicious people repeatedly visiting a certain apartment, and of a cassette player playing loudly, creating noise and disturbances out of which came sounds of strange and effeminate music. 175

The story signaled that the state's vigilance was still unstinting.

Egyptian activists immediately went to the western districts of Cairo, where they learned the four men were being questioned at the Boulaq al-Dakrour Public Prosecutor's office.176 They were able to speak to one of the men through the bars of a police transport vehicle. In tears, the defendant told of having been stripped and splashed with cold water; beaten with batons; and left hanging by the bars of their jail cell.

Officer Abdullah Ahmed of the Giza Vice Squad was again responsible for the raid. Eighteen months later, Human Rights Watch spoke to one of the now-freed men. Samir, twenty-two at the time of his arrest, explained:

I had a friend, Reda.177 “Fairouz” was his nickname. It was an ill-fated greeting when I ran into Reda on the street. He told me there was an apartment, and two other guys who wanted to meet people would be waiting there.

So we went, the two of us. And these two others were there. I knew Reda. I didn’t know the other two. We had some drinks. Then we found somebody breaking the door in. It was the government. We were dressed. We were just drinking a little and listening to music. It was around 11 or 12 p.m. There was one officer and five others, all in plainclothes. Did they have a warrant? No, they didn’t speak, they acted. We understood there was nothing we could do. … They addressed us in the feminine. They punched and kicked us till most of us fell down. Then they dragged us on the floor out of the apartment.

They beat us and insulted us and took our things and used them as evidence—and the underwear and towels from the apartment. … But of course police would trump something up: they would never say the light was on, that there was a normal evening going on, with men sitting there simply, in their own clothes.

They took us off to Giza Police, the Security Directorate.178

The court file shows officer Ahmed developing a familiar if confused story: told by a “trusted secret source” that homosexual acts were being performed on the premises, officers moved quickly and caught offenders in the act.179

At the Security Directorate, Samir says, they were taken to a room where “there was ‘Morality’ written over the door. Four or five officers came in and beat us. They punched us, slapped us in the face.”

It happened again and again over the next week, they would decide to beat us. Maybe three or four times it happened over seven days. Real beatings, not play. The officers would come in the cell and beat us.

Sometimes they hung us up and splashed us with cold water. They didn’t question us, the officers. They didn’t ask us any questions beyond our names. There was a point after our arrest when they made us sign something. Maybe that was even a day or so after. I signed a false name. I didn’t read before I signed. How could I? Was I signing a land deed or something? The pressure and the fear made us sign. Reda refused to sign. He was beaten very severely in front of us, in the chest and back. Finally he signed.

Their trial began in January; at one hearing, Judge Medhat Fahwakih opened the proceedings by demanding, “Where are the khawalat? Bring in the khawalat!”180 On February 3 all were convicted and sentenced to three years of imprisonment followed by three years of police supervision.

An appeal followed. Only at this point did the court refer the two presumed “passive” defendants to the forensic medical authority. In April, almost six months after the arrest, the examination saw “no signs or traces indicating they were taken in sodomy with penetration from a recent or long time.”

In September, the four were found innocent on appeal. Judge Ahmed Omar al-Ahwal threw out the confessions before the police, noting their “style of answering the questions was [too] similar. … It was obvious that it was one person who answered all the questions in a story where incidents did not represent truth in any form.”181

After ten months, the four were free. Samir says,

If a dog does something wrong, you punish the dog but you can’t make it stop being a dog. I am a human being and I did something they said was wrong and they made me stop being a human being. 182

C. Torture in Damanhour: The “Beheira Perverts’ Organization”

In late January 2002, as memories of the Queen Boat case subsided, a flurry of articles announced a new scandal in the Delta province of Beheira. Under the headline, “Major network of perverts arrested,” Al-Wafd proclaimed that a

civil servant had turned his house into a lair for debauchery, perversion, orgies and drugs. A group of investigators stormed the apartment, and the eight defendants were caught in debauched positions during a party for group perversions. They were wearing nightgowns and makeup.183

Days later, Al-Osboa headlined the “Beheira Perverts Organization Ringleader’s Confession.” It said the case “caused much popular anger in Beheira; some people tried to kill the suspects while they were being arrested.”184 One co-worker of the “ringleader” in the “strangest case Beheira has ever seen” declared,

“It is a crime for this civil servant to be a civil servant. He is mentally ill. Society should be purged of him and his like.”185

A defense attorney in the case told Human Rights Watch, “It was a festival of humiliation. The newspaper reports created a huge mass of public opinion against the defendants in Damanhour.” 186

Police reports in the case differed from the press accounts, naming five, not eight, defendants, and not alleging an orgy. And in two interviews, the alleged “ringleader” in the case told Human Rights Watch another story: an account of arbitrary arrest and torture.

Gamal (not his real name) is in his forties. He says roundups of homosexuals in Damanhour began in December 2001, after a police bailiff was found murdered. The crime scene yielded evidence of the victim’s homosexuality.187 Gamal told Human Rights Watch, “the police were shocked that someone who worked with them was gay. They found names and numbers of so many gays in Damanhour on his premises, and they wanted to make a case to scare the other gays.”188

Gamal says,

The arrests started in December. Someone came to my place and said an officer wanted to talk to me. They said, “Five minutes and you’ll be back.” I went to the police station and they showed me other [arrested] men and asked me if I knew them. All of those whom I could recognize were taken aside, along with me, and given sheets of paper and pens and asked to write down all the names and phone numbers and addresses of gay men we knew in Damanhour. … I wrote first names only—I claimed that I didn’t know full names or home numbers or addresses, since it was others who came to my place. 189

“I kept getting summoned to the police station every day and sometimes twice a day to get more information out of me,” Gamal says.190 As the arrests continued, he saw “dozens, maybe hundreds” of men in the station—until “I myself could never have imagined there were so many gay people in Damanhour.”191

Some of the men were beaten severely—”I can’t tell you how terrible it was,” says Gamal.192 On January 1, he attempted suicide, swallowing an overdose of pills, but was revived at the hospital. “I was so worn out by the torture I was seeing that I couldn’t take it anymore.”193

To avoid the daily summons, Gamal began leaving for Alexandria each day after work, returning in the middle of the night. An informer told police, and one night “I found them at the door to my apartment: they said, ‘The officer wants you.’”194

Gamal was taken to the Beheira Security Directorate.195 There, he met the other four defendants in what became his case: they had been arrested separately.

They had caught the killers. Then they said, let’s kill two birds with one stone: we’ll keep these five and charge them. The head officer told me this. … He said, “You cunt, I’ll make a case for you. All those nights I stayed up late, me and my detectives, should we spend all those nights for nothing? No, you’ll go to jail and I will get a medal.”196

Two officers singled out the five for renewed and intensified torture.

They wanted me to confess to being gay and to name other gay people. Cigarettes on my arms. I still have the marks. Electricity: telephone wire around my arms and my penis. At the police station we were tortured every third day, with two days in between. There was fifteen minutes with the electricity. They took telephone wire and wrapped it around my fingers, my toes, my ear, my penis. It was connected to a kind of telephone they cranked up by hand to produce the shocks and it was like death.

There were beatings, sometimes before, sometimes after that. They kept your hands cuffed behind your back and your legs tied, or in shackles. They would pull down your pants and strip your upper body and beat you with plastic sticks.

It happened individually, so that they would torture the others on days when they were not torturing me. At first they would slap me a lot, when I didn’t give names. Then after the slappings they moved on to electrocuting me with the telephone wire. Then to the cell, for half an hour or so. Then they would come get me again. They would say, “So, you still haven’t decided to give names or addresses?” Then would come the cigarettes. That was the routine.197

On the day of his arrest, an officer took Gamal back to his own apartment:

They robbed me blind. I can’t describe the pillage enough. They took my video, mobile, satellite receiver, VCR, walkman. My entire library of music cassettes. … They took soap bars. My former wife’s clothes! Everything they could steal. And when I asked, “Why are you taking them?” The officer said, “So we can have a bit of fun. You’re going to jail: who will these things be for? So that what’s left will be safer, I’ll seal it with red wax.” And when I was acquitted I couldn’t get in the apartment for three months because of the seal.198

Gamal says he saw the niyaba only “fifteen days or so” after his arrest.199

While we were in the niyaba another prosecutor took us to a room and gathered all the prosecutors in one room. He put his feet on the desk and asked the five of us to say in one voice, “We’re khawalat, we’re whores, we like to get fucked.” The other prosecutors were watching and laughing. I refused to say it; so the prosecutor stood up and slapped us all. 200

On January 17 all five defendants were ordered to receive a forensic anal examination. Gamal says, “At the Forensic Medical Authority, they showed no interest when I told them about torture. I showed the doctor my wounds, the cigarette burns; you could still see burns from the electricity. He said he was only empowered to look for a specific thing.”201

At successive niyaba hearings, the defendants’ detention was renewed. Ultimately they were transferred to the Damanhour Prison. “We were harshly beaten on arrival by about eight guards. They stripped us fully naked and beat us with their bare hands until we almost fainted. They ran after us with batons.”

“One guard in prison was the most evil among them,” Gamal says:202

He hit us with plastic sticks. He filled tubs with frozen water and dumped us in it or splashed us with it. He made us sweep the prison stairs, and mop them. And there were insults all the time. Did he treat us worse than the other prisoners? Oh, yes. There were others who were the scum of the prison, who were beaten and insulted, but he treated us like the servants of the scum of the prison. We were the lowest of the low. Such misery you cannot imagine. He would open our cell at night as we were sleeping, and come in and slap us. I had religious booklets to console me. He told me I was too filthy to deserve them, and took them and tore them up. The beatings happened every day. The baths in ice water happened almost every day for weeks. The burns on my arm happened in the police station, but in the prison, he made these cigarette burns on my leg.203

Gamal allowed Human Rights Watch to photograph his leg: a year later, it was still covered with scars from cigarette burns.

Gamal’s leg, showing scars of torture inflicted by a Damanhour Prison guard.

Gamal’s leg, showing scars of torture inflicted by a Damanhour Prison guard.
© 2004, Human Rights Watch.

Gamal also says that the guard “took me several times to Cell Seven. There the worst criminals were kept with the longest sentences. He told them: ‘Here’s a khawal. Take him for entertainment.’ Something like twenty-five prisoners raped me. They would fuck me three or four times each, sometimes, while they beat and slapped me.”204

I stopped eating and drinking. It was not a hunger strike. I simply wanted to kill myself. There was no glass in the cell, nothing to cut my wrists or throat with. I had no other way. … In a few days I fainted and they couldn’t revive me. So they took me to the hospital. When I returned to the prison the administration had intervened, and they began to treat us a bit better. The beatings were less, the [freezing cold] baths stopped.205

The men’s trial was held on March 11, with the defendants still in detention. Judge Mohammed Mokhtar sentenced all five to three years of imprisonment to be followed by three years of police supervision, as well as a fine. Gamal says, “I fainted in court when I heard the verdict.”206

The men were finally released a month later after enduring three months or more of imprisonment. Appeals judge Hany Kamal Gabriel overturned the guilty verdicts in a ruling highly critical of police and prosecutorial practice: “There is no crime or offence that could be pressed against the defendants,” he stated, and admonished that “The protection of freedoms should be placed above the quest for celebrity.” 207

Gamal told Human Rights Watch,

I lost my apartment—the landlords kicked me out. My family refused to speak to me. My relationship with my parents is better now, though they don’t like to be seen with me. But my two sisters don’t talk to me. They have said that they consider me dead. I left the town and went elsewhere. I wish I could have left the country. 208

D. “I am Broken By This”: An Apartment in Tanta

On May 5, 2002, a West Delta newspaper reported a new group of homosexuals had been found and foiled in the city of Tanta:

A male teacher puts aside all principles and follows his perverted instincts, putting on women’s clothes and makeup on his face to seduce men who seek forbidden pleasures, who are perverts like him, and who practice sex in his flat. Information was received by Lieutenant Ahmed Abdel Wahab, head of the Vice Squad of al-Gharbeya …209

The article gave the initials, ages, and workplaces of three arrested men—enough to make identifying them easy.

The arrests had in fact taken place six weeks before. The police report in the case accuses the ringleader of “forming a group of Satan-worshippers.”210 Lieutenant Abdel Wahab had obtained a warrant for the arrest of five persons supposedly from the “group”; yet only one of those it named, the apartment owner, was actually arrested or charged. In fact, police used an informer to draw a random collection of men to the apartment—and then tortured them to confess to sexual relations.211

Human Rights Watch spoke to two defendants in the case. Sabir (not his real name), a worker in his thirties, hesitantly told his story.

I had known Karim [not his real name], who owned the apartment, for about thirteen years. … I met this guy at Karim’s house. He was small and nobody quite liked or trusted him. Then I didn’t go to Karim’s for three months. Then my mother said, “A man called Tawfiq called, he wants to see you.” Tawfiq, the guy, he’d said, “I’m waiting for you,” and I knew he meant at Karim’s apartment. So I went over there. … Tawfiq was an informer that was what I didn’t know. He thought I could be made to have sex with Karim.212

Sabir found Karim and another friend, Ashraf (not his real name), in the apartment. “They had some bango on the table so I assumed we were all there to smoke.” 213

Tawfiq kept coming and going in and out on different excuses. … We should have suspected. We were on the floor on Karim’s big cushions, watching TV. Tawfiq kept pouring more drinks. …I found out later, when I was in prison with Karim and Ashraf, that they remembered a phone on Tawfiq ringing while we sat there. He didn’t have a mobile usually, so they thought that was strange. And he’d jump up and walk in the kitchen and then come back. … There was some arrangement where an officer was giving him a missed call. And Tawfiq would go send them a “no” to say things weren’t ready yet.

Abruptly, Tawfiq left again, for the last time.

We sat around for a few minutes watching TV … Then we heard something scratching at the door. Karim got up to put his eye to the peephole. Suddenly the door burst open in his face, flew off its hinges. And Karim went flying with it across the room.

There were a lot of detectives and policemen, maybe fifteen in all. …They were saying, khawalat. I was terrified. … Karim was divorced. Some of his wife’s old clothes were still in the bedroom. The officer went in the bedroom and started going through the drawers and things and pulled out nightgowns, some of her underwear, some makeup. …

I wish it had been drugs, that would have better for us in the world’s eyes. … They didn’t charge us with any drug offence. The officer, Ahmed Abdel Wahab, said, “Nightgowns in the closet.” He zeroed in straight on them, that was the kind of thing he wanted.

The apartment owner, Karim, a teacher in his forties, told us,

The neighbors brought it on—they had told the police I had people coming and going in and out of the apartment… [The police] tied our hands with rope. They tied me up like a thief. What had I done, I didn’t know. … They searched the whole apartment. They kept beating me, slapping me on the nape of the neck, inside the apartment and while going downstairs. Oh, I was treated like a dog, worse than a dog. I was put on display. They knocked on the neighbors’ doors and made the whole building look at us, going downstairs. They told the neighbors, “We’ve relieved you of the khawal.”214

Sabir says,

We went to the Security Directorate. The head of the Vice Squad himself, Ahmed Abdel Wahab, took me to the upper floor. He and officer Mohammed Goma beat me till I signed what they wrote for me. … They were taking turns on us while writing down reports. My hands were shaking so badly when I signed that my signature was shaky.

I didn’t see what I signed. Not all of it. Some of it said that I was with Karim inside the room, and Ashraf was sitting outside waiting his turn.215 But even if it was a marriage contract and I was marrying my own mother, I would have signed, I was beaten so bad. I was beaten with a strap, a belt from a bicycle. They beat me on my shoulders through my shirt so it wouldn’t leave such traces in the niyaba. They didn’t hit me in the face. When I came out the other two said, “Why did you sign?” I said, “It’s nothing, a signature.”

Later they beat Karim till they nearly killed him. When he staggered out we asked him, “All right, why did you sign?”216

Karim, seen as the “bottom” among the three, may have received the worst treatment. He told us, “At the Directorate they started beating me and torturing me. They used sticks; they slapped the nape of my neck, and kicked me”:

They made me take my clothes off. This was Ahmed Abdel Wahab who ordered his men to do this, and watched. Officer Mohammed Goma of the Tanta Police was there and he hit me with sticks. I can’t tell you what they did to me. I can’t tell it.

They stripped me, even of my underwear. They told me they’d show I was a khawal, and they made me bend over on the carpet, hitting me, and they spread my ass cheeks. And they — they opened my ass with their hands. I can’t think about this. They said they were checking to see whether I was a khawal or not. And they brought people in to see me bending there. They told people to come and look at the khawal.217

Weeping uncontrollably, Karim said, “I can’t talk about this. Why do I have to remember this? Why can’t I forget it? It was such a terrible, terrible time. I am so unhappy. They were terrible. Terrible.”

At about 8:30 a.m. the prisoners were taken to Tanta’s second police station. 218 Karim remembers, “I got a hemorrhage there, from the beatings I had received. I was vomiting blood. They said, ‘We don’t care, we hope you die here.’”

On the following evening, they were taken to the niyaba and interrogated separately. Sabir says, “the niyaba started pulling out this underwear—he had it in a box—and showing it to me, asking me, ‘Does Karim wear these things for you?’”

Before we left, the head of the niyaba walked in. He asked the deputy prosecutor, “What’s going on—who’s this guy? The nayyeek [top] or the bottom?” The prosecutor said, “This is the nayyeek.” The head prosecutor said, “I’m so tired of these cases. If you examine Tanta you’ll find that three-quarters of the men are khawalat.”

The niyaba never asked me any questions about drugs. I asked why did the officer ignore the drugs and whiskey and only talk to me about the sex we never had? He just nodded. … I said, I had eight detectives beating me till I signed. I took off my shirt and showed my back. … The prosecutor didn’t write it down. Ashraf showed his bruises also and the prosecutor didn’t write it down.219

The prosecution report, dated March 25, shows that all three prisoners were charged under article 9(c) of Law 10/1961. Karim did not have a lawyer; he says, “My friends tried to bring one and he refused to go upstairs to join me, because the detectives downstairs shouted, ‘Look at the lawyer who’s come to defend the khawal.’”220

The prisoners were taken from the niyaba to Tanta Prison. Of their days there, Sabir says, “All the prisoners knew about us. The guards when they let us in and out of the cell said, ‘Come here, khawal, go in, khawal, you person who takes it up the ass.’”221 Karim, in tears, told Human Rights Watch, “They shoved food in to us like dogs. It’s very hard for me to tell what goes on there. I can’t. I can’t. People wanting to rape me inside. Khawal. Khawal.222

At a court hearing on April 11, the prisoners were freed on bail. The trial dragged on for over a year. On May 26, 2003, all were convicted in their absence. Karim was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment; the other two defendants received one year each.223 All are now in hiding.

After his initial release, Karim says, “I was in a state of nervous collapse. I never imagined such a thing could happen.” Once again he began to weep:

I lost my job. My mother died of grief because of this, literally of grief. … Every day in the light of day I try to forget this, all the things that happened, just to live my life. That lasts while there is light in the sky. Then every night I remember. I cannot stand to remember. The darkness kills me. Oh, it is unbearable, unbearable. I had a life and now I have nothing. I wish I were dead.224

Sabir says simply, “I am broken by this. Broken.”225

E. Hafez Celebrates Again: Twelve Men in Agouza

On August 23, 2002, Al-Wafd announced the “Arrest of twelve youths, six university students among them.” The newspaper alleged that the “number one offender,” owner of the apartment where they met, induced them to “practice debauchery by showing them gay sex movies, and through the Internet.”226

The men had in fact been arrested in an apartment in the Agouza area of Giza, on the night of August 19. Their court file reveals police reports which restage the scenario, and repeat the language, of the al-Haram and Boulaq al-Dakrour cases. The same arresting officer of the Giza Vice Squad constructs a familiar narrative, in which a “trusted secret source” revealed that a “passive sexual pervert by the name of Hafez … manages [an apartment] for immoral acts. He recruits passive sexual perverts to that apartment and they hunt sexual pleasure-seekers who are active homosexuals, and practice sex in this apartment.”227 The “number one offender” fingered by the newspaper is also a familiar figure: the informer Hafez.

According to the court file, police descended on the apartment and caught twelve suspects, two in the act of having sex with each other and the others in suspicious circumstances, some half-dressed.228 According to the file, Hafez was not among them. The records show that one of the twelve arrested was seventeen; the rest were between nineteen and twenty-five-years old.229

Human Rights Watch was able to talk briefly to two of the men in the prison where they are serving their sentences. Speaking quickly and finishing each others' sentences, they told a different story from the police:

We were walking on the Corniche when one of us got a phone call from Hafez—”Mishmisha”—whom he knew slightly from before. We went to Hafez’s place that night to have drinks. At the end of the evening Hafez told us he was going to have a party the next night and asked us to sleep over there to help him prepare for it and so we did.

The next night we were fourteen in the apartment, including Hafez. In the middle of the party the police came in. Nobody was having sex. We were taken to the Giza Security Directorate. Hafez and a friend of his named George were freed there. Only the twelve of us stayed. A guard named Mohammed beat us all with a baton. We learned later that Hafez was the same “Mishmisha” who got people in al-Haram last year. This wasn't his first time helping police arrest gays.230

Taken to the Agouza niyaba the morning after the arrest, they were split in two groups and interrogated by two prosecutors.231 One of the two, Yasser Khalifa, followed the police model by forcing the prisoners to identify as active or passive. When several said they were both, he grew enraged.232 The prisoners Human Rights Watch interviewed said, “Yasser Khalifa slapped three of us on the face.” 233

They were referred to the Forensic Medical Authority and examined by a single doctor; all were found “taken in sodomy over a long time.” Their detention was repeatedly renewed. Meanwhile, officials leaked their “confessions” to the tabloid Rose al-Youssef, which in September headlined “a new organization of sexual perverts.”234

On October 2 all were referred to trial, charged under article 9(c) of Law 10/1961. Hafez was also referred, as a “fugitive” defendant—charged additionally with managing a house for debauchery, under article 9(b).

On November 12, 2002, all thirteen defendants were sentenced to three years' imprisonment to be followed by three years of police supervision.235 On appeal in early 2003, the sentences against twelve defendants (including Hafez, who however remained at large) were upheld.236

“Mishmisha” is still free. The eleven adults are serving their time together. Two told Human Rights Watch,

We're kept together in a separate cell. … The problem is they don't let us mix with any of the other inmates. We only get out of the cell for one hour per day to walk in the prison yard. And they evacuate the yard of other inmates before letting us out. … Inmates see us from their door-windows and call us “the women.” Our guards always refer to us as “the women” and our cell is dubbed “the women's cell.”237

One of the men wrote to an Egyptian activist:

I want you to deliver my voice to the United Nations. Tell them I want to be out of this jail. Tell them I don’t belong here … They are denying me the right to live and be free here in Egypt.238

F. “They Thought That This Was Personal Freedom”: A Wiretap in Giza

In March 2003 the press again blared the “arrest of a homosexual network.”239 Banner headlines called them “perverts who embraced the devil, lost the path of spirituality, and strayed from the straight good path to the ways of hell.” Articles told how wiretaps had stored their words and sealed their fates, and revealed the names, ages, and places of work or study of most of the men. 240

This time the Tourist Police rather than the Vice Squad brought the charges. The case appears to have reached them by accident; once involved, however, officers pursued it in competitive emulation of their Vice Squad colleagues' practices.

The lead defendant, Wael (not his real name), in his mid-thirties, owned a flat in Giza; there, according to one visitor, he'd “have a nice time, a party, some drinking, some dancing … Mainly we were together because we were gay and it seemed safe.”241 Another guest, who became a defendant, says, “I had been to the flat two times … Wael was very normal. I had a drink and left. This talk about sex parties there was not what I heard about the place.”242

Someone complained.243 An occasional guest told us that “a lot of people in the neighborhood and everyone in the building knew that [Wael] was a gay, and they didn't like us. The building man would insult as we came in: ‘Go to hell, khawalat!’“244 Tourist Police headquarters are in Manial, directly over the Nile from Giza and the apartment; apparently the informant simply crossed the bridge to the nearest police station.

The Tourist Police handed the case to their own Morality Intelligence Unit, which functions as an internal Vice Squad. On January 19, 2003, a Giza district judge authorized them to tap the telephone of Wael's flat for thirty days; this was renewed on February 16. By then, however, police had enough information. The head of the Morality Intelligence Unit later told prosecutors that the defendants “practiced debauchery … to the extent that they thought that this is personal freedom.”245 On February 17, the Tourist Police received a warrant to arrest Wael, along with any “men practicing debauchery and sexual perversion who happen to be in the apartment and those for whom there are criminal telephone conversations.” 246

Wael was arrested in the apartment. Nine others were taken from their homes. They included university students, a hotel worker, an actor, and shop employees. In the police account, all admitted to having had sexual relations with men.247 Relatives of Wael told Human Rights Watch at a March 27 trial hearing that he tried to kill himself on his arrest, an account the arrest report confirms.248

In ensuing days, police sought more men, from a full list of sixteen apparently compiled through the wiretaps. One prisoner was induced to call two friends and arrange to meet them at a café in the Mohandiseen district, where they were arrested. Bailiffs were sent to seize another implicated man in the Suez city of Ismailia. In the end, three from the sixteen remained at large, and were tried in absentia.249

Human Rights Watch was able to speak to Yehya, nineteen years old, a defendant ultimately acquitted in the trial.

I was taken to the Tourist Police office in Manial. Then I was left there for a day. I didn't know what was going on. Every time I asked, they would say, “We will ask you some questions and let you go.” I stayed standing for twenty-four hours. Every time I nodded off, they would slap me or push me to wake up again. The guard would beat me, telling me I would never see my mother again. I would cry.

I hadn't been put with the others yet so I didn't know what was happening. They never asked me any questions at the station. I had to sign a blank paper. There was nothing on it. They beat me to get me to sign it. Two officers beat me, and one held a jackknife in front of my face and threatened me with it. I was crying all the time.

And at night, they took me to the niyaba in a transport vehicle. They tied my hands and they put a bucket of water over me, so every time the car braked the water splashed me—to humiliate me and to keep me awake. At the niyaba, just before I went in, the police officers started making fun of me… They asked how long I had been a Satanist and a pervert. I was wearing an ordinary silver necklace with a pendant on it with my name inscribed, and they said this was a Satanic thing.

The deputy prosecutor told me: “If you don’t say what we want to you to say and sign what we want you to sign, we’ll give you a good lesson.” He threatened me. Again, he made me cry. He kept asking how many times I had seen Wael wearing a wig with makeup. I said, “I never saw that.” He said, “Yes, you did and you will say you did.”

The deputy prosecutor was screaming at me and shouting. He said, “I’ll give you fifteen days and you’ll never go back home if you don’t confess. You’ll never see your family. You’ll go behind the sun. If you deny that you are a khawal, we’ll send you to the forensic exam and they’ll find the proof.”250

They took me downstairs to a holding cell in the basement. The guards were hitting me all the way. It was underground and I found the other twelve in this case down there. They were handcuffed together. They had been hit. All of them were bloody and bruised. Wael’s shirt was open and he had big bruises on his chest. They were blindfolded with the dirty socks of the guards. They had all been kicked and slapped and beaten. I wasn’t blindfolded for some reason so I could see. 251

Meanwhile, at the niyaba, six of the thirteen defendants denied all charges. Others, however, were induced to confess and to implicate others in the case.

The prisoners were taken to the Giza police station and held there through their trial. Despite the publicity, authorities closely controlled access. Families as well as lawyers had no contact with them until the trial began.252 In the station, Yehya told Human Rights Watch,

There were three changes of shift every day. Every one, the guards came in and beat us. They beat one of us on the face till his nose was bloody—I think it was broken. They made us lie on our stomachs on the floor and walked on our backs. It was an officer and two guards. They always slapped us on the back of the neck, and kicked us. The thirteen of us were singled out. At first we were kept in isolation, for about fifteen days. They cleared out a cell in the women’s section and put us there, because they said were women, not men. …

They beat us also with a branch from a palm tree, and with canes. With every change of shift! When they beat us in the cell they turned our faces to the wall. They would say before coming in, “Faces to the wall, khawalat,” or “Face down on the floor,” so that when they came in we couldn’t see who was doing the beating.

Once, it’s hard to believe this, but they brought a class of maybe thirty boys from a school, six or seven years old. They made us lie face down on our stomachs, and the small boys watched the policemen walking on our backs. Then the boys walked on us. The police did this to make it clear to the boys that men who fuck each other end up like that. They told the boys, “This is how khawalat end.” It was like a school trip.

Not long after they brought the children in, they took us out of isolation and put us in a cell with other prisoners … There were threats of sexual abuse. The prisoners called me “bottom” and “bitch.” … The other prisoners would come in and curse us or try to touch us sexually while we were trying to use the toilet.253

When a verdict was handed down on April 17, only two defendants were acquitted. The rest had sentences ranging from three and one half years (for Wael) to one year, with most receiving two years.254

Yehya told us,

When I was found innocent I went to the Security Directorate in Giza to finish my papers. I was beaten there with a belt and a whip. I was told, “You are a khawal, you fuck each other, you got out because of

connections but we know you are a khawal and you will pay.” One of the officers took a gun and put it to my head. He said if this was an Islamic country he would have killed me, but since it wasn’t, he couldn’t.

On July 19, 2003, an appeals court overturned the verdicts against the eleven men who remained in prison. Judge Mo’azer al-Marsafy said: “We are so disgusted with you, we can’t even look at you. What you did is a major sin, but unfortunately the case has procedural errors and the court has to acquit all of you.”255

167 Human Rights Watch has changed the first name by which his victims knew him, and suppressed the names he bears in police reports, to protect from retaliation both the informer and those he lured to arrest.

168 Court file, al-Haram Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

169 The investigation report (written by Abdullah Ahmed of the Vice Squad) requesting an arrest warrant for persons in the flat, is dated September 6, 2001 at 8 a.m. A warrant was issued by the Giza niyaba at 8:30 a.m. the same day. A report relating the subsequent arrests (written by officer Ehab al Attar) is dated September 6 at 10:30 a.m. The times (oddly early for a midnight raid) suggest that the request, and the warrant, were written after the arrests had actually been conducted the night before.

170 Magdi told Human Rights Watch that none of the other men arrested lived in the flat, and that “I can’t tell you for sure that Hafez did. He didn’t seem at home there.”

171 Abdullah Ahmed's arrest reports in successive cases repeat the same situation and language. This one gives the basic formula, complete with seizures of “fear and panic” inducing instant confessions by the arrested men:

We went up to the apartment and knocked on the door for a not-short period of time. Someone opened the door, we revealed our identities and the nature of our mission and the public prosecutor’s warrant, went inside the hall of the apartment, and saw four men sitting on the floor. As soon as they saw us they showed signs of astonishment which then developed into a condition of fear and panic. We left them with one of the undercover policemen and continued the search, entering the corridor leading to the bedroom. We found the door leading to the bedroom closed; we opened the door and saw two people lying on the bed, one of them kissing the other. As soon as they saw us they were in a severe state of astonishment which later developed into a condition of fear and panic.

The police arrest report divides the men (the six above and a seventh whose location in the flat is unclear) into three active and four passive “perverts.” It states that all unhesitatingly confessed to having or planning to have sex in the flat, and notes that the “passive perverts” were to be reimbursed with sums of between 30LE and 50LE. (Magdi denies that any of the seven were at the apartment to engage in commercial sex, or that they confessed to it during questioning. Indeed, he says, “They didn’t ask us about money at all: they just said we were khawalat.”)

When the men were taken to the Security Directorate, the arrest report records that all admitted being “sexual perverts”: however, only the passive partners were charged under article 9(c), while the three active partners simply signed the report without notification of a charge. This indicates that the Giza police were uncertainly turning to arrests for heterosexual prostitution as a template since, in such arrests, the woman (the equivalent of the “passive” partner) would ordinarily be charged while the “active” “pleasure-seeker” would go free and simply be enlisted as a witness. When all seven were sent to the prosecution the next day, however, a clearer understanding of the different nature of fujur cases from that of prostitution cases prevailed. The prosecution report in the official file shows that the niyaba never asked the defendants about financial reward—the allegations of a 30LE to –50LE fee simply disappear from the case at this point; and all seven defendants, whether active or passive, were charged there with the habitual practice of debauchery.

This may reflect the confusion of al-Haram officers about whether fujur necessitated a financial element, a point corrected by the niyaba's more current legal understanding. By 2001, police at downtown precincts such as Qasr al-Nil or Abdin would have known through experience that homosexual conduct in itself was sufficient to impose criminal penalties.

172 “Hafez,” the alleged owner of the apartment, had vanished and was not accused in any of the police reports. However, the prosecution added him to the case as a defendant—charging him with “employing” and “inducing” other defendants to practice debauchery, and with “opening and managing” a place for debauchery, under other provisions of Law 10/1961. Charging him also meant that, though free, he would subsist under the menace of legal action— a way of putting a lien on his liberty and ensuring his future cooperation.

173 Hafez, tried in absentia with the other seven, was sentenced to an additional year when convicted of the additional charges he faced under Law 10/1961.

174 Human Rights Watch interview with Magdi, Cairo, Egypt, March 2, 2003.

175 “And a den of perverts uncovered in Haram!” Al-Akhbar, November 15, 2001. A similar article appeared in Al-Goumhoreya the same day.

176 Boulaq al-Dakrour is a district of Giza, in the western suburbs of Cairo. Since the case was tried in a Boulaq al-Dakrour court, the defendants became known in international coverage as the “Boulaq Four.”

177 Human Rights Watch has changed his first name to protect his identity.

178 Human Rights Watch interview with Samir (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, April 3, 2003.

179 As usual, these documents reward closer perusal. The investigations report, written once again by Abdullah Ahmed and dated November 12, 2001 at 7:10 p.m., states that the Giza Vice Squad “received information from one of our trusted secret sources that a number of active and passive sexual perverts frequent a furnished apartment at [address], and, on pursuing further investigations, we learned that Reda … (also known as Fairouz) who is a passive pervert, is renting an apartment … for the practice of vice. As he was in the apartment, the second passive sexual pervert [Samir] came, and a little while later, two active sexual perverts, arrived, and they arranged to practice vice for a financial reward. “He obtains an arrest warrant from Prosecutor Khaled al-Daba on the same evening at 7:30. Abdullah Ahmed's report on the arrests is dated that evening at 10 p.m. The compressed time frame is improbable: it would be difficult to stake out an apartment, seize the occupants, and interrogate all four between 7:30 and 10 p.m. The officer's description of “perverts’” arrivals in the apartment suggests the text was written after the arrests, not before. In fact, the prisoner in the police transport vehicle told activists they had been arrested on November 10, not November 12; moreover, Samir told Human Rights Watch that he signed an arrest report not hours but “maybe… even a day or so” after his arrest, and that “perhaps four days” passed after their arrest before they were taken to the niyaba. All this suggests that reports and warrant were concocted at least two days after the arrests.

The arrest report, also written by Ahmed, deploys the basic narrative and much of the language of the al-Haram arrests, with extended knocks at the door, discovery in flagrante, “astonishment,”and ashamed admissions:

We moved with a squad of undercover police, knocking on the door for a long time. Reda …(also known as Fairouz), opened the door; as soon as he saw us he looked astonished. … On entering the apartment we found one of the sexual perverts sitting on a sofa. As soon as he saw us he looked astonished. We arrested him. We entered the corridor, opened the door to the bedroom, and saw two sexual perverts sleeping while hugging each other on the bed. As soon as they saw us they looked astonished and started crying. We calmed them down and arrested them. On speaking to the first defendant, who opened the door, he said …he rented this apartment to receive active and passive sexual perverts; he also confessed that he is a passive sexual pervert. The second sexual pervert said that …he came to the apartment to practice debauchery since he is an active sexual pervert. One of those arrested in the bedroom said …that that he came to this apartment to practice debauchery, and that he is a passive sexual pervert, and the other one said that … he is an active sexual pervert and came to the apartment to practice debauchery.

The defendants allegedly expanded on their confessions. The two acknowledge that they pay 20LE [approximately US$ 4] for sexual relations and that Reda receives 10LE—the police again attempting, as in the al-Haram case, to assimilate a debauchery case to the template of prostitution cases. (Samir told Human Rights Watch that police “asked us if we had done it for money. They called it 'business.' 'Cute girl,' the police would ask us: “is it for business or for fun?' We said, for fun, for pleasure. They didn’t believe us. They didn’t think you could do it for pleasure.” However, exactly as in the al-Haram case, all questions about the alleged financial element disappear completely in the subsequent interrogation record at the niyaba.)

Here a conspicuous discrepancy intervenes. In a (heterosexual) prostitution case, the person allegedly rendering payment would escape arrest in Egypt. Debauchery convictions require no financial element, and both partners are criminalized. Here, however, the two “actives” who allegedly pay are in fact charged by police with “violating articles of Law 10/1961 by practicing active fujur with men with no distinction for money”—as if they had received compensation rather than paid! The officers seem both to be torn incoherently between their customary conduct of prostitution cases and a dim consciousness that in debauchery cases both parties are culpable.

In a further paradox, the two “actives” also confess to sexual relations with Reda, and are charged with “indecent assault” against him; Reda, however, is charged with debauchery as a result. Arrest report in court file, Boulaq al-Dakrour Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

180 See International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Action Alert, “The 'Boulak Four': Europe and the US Bankroll Brutality Abroad,” February 7, 2002, at In the end, all four defendants were charged with the habitual practice of debauchery, and Reda with running a house for the purpose of debauchery.

181 Verdict by Judge Ahmed Omar al-Ahwal, Boulaq-al-Dakrour Court of Appeals, September 23, 2002, on file at Human Rights Watch.

182 Human Rights Watch interview with Samir, Cairo, Egypt, April 3, 2003.

183 Mohammed Salah, “Major Network of Perverts Arrested in Beheira: Social Security Employee Turned His Home Into a Lair of Perversion,” Al-Wafd, January 20, 2002.

184Al-Osboa Met His Ex-Wife and his Neighbours: The Text of the Beheira Perverts Organization Ringleader’s Confession,” Al-Osboa, January 28, 2002.

185 Ibid.

186 Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Maher Naim, Alexandria, Egypt, February 28, 2003.

187 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.

188 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003. Gamal told Human Rights Watch he learned this from police but also from the killers themselves, who were eventually caught and confessed, and whom he encountered in detention.

189 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.

190 Ibid.

191 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.

192 Ibid.

193 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.

194 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.

195 He believes his arrest occurred on January 5 or 6—not January 17, as stated in the arrest report: Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.

196 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.

197 Ibid.

198 Ibid. Attorney Maher Naim told Human Rights Watch that Gamal’s ex-wife’s belongings were the “nightgowns” and “lipstick” which press and police reports claimed were used in transvestite parties. Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Maher Naim, Alexandria, Egypt, February 28, 2003.

199 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003. The case file reports that the detainees saw Prosecutor Yassin Zaghloul at 11:30 a.m. on January 17, allegedly the morning following their arrest. If Gamal is correct in asserting they were arrested on January 5 or 6, this would mean an eleven-day delay.

200 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.

201 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003. A prosecution report records the arrival of the forensic results on January 22: Dr. Gamal Abdel Raziq of the Forensic Medical Authority “found that all five defendants are habitually used in sodomy from behind for a long time that is difficult to specify scientifically. We sent the confiscated material [presumably the clothes from the apartment] to the medical laboratories of the Forensic Medical Authority in Cairo to search for semen.” A report dated February 19 shows that the forensic laboratories found no traces of semen on the clothing. Case file, Bandar Damanhour Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

202 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.

203 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.

204 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.

205 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003. Defense attorney Maher Naim told Human Rights Watch circumspectly, “The abuses of the accused during the time of detention accompanied the general atmosphere of revulsion, and was not sanctioned by the nation or by justice procedures. It violated human rights. The source of that abuse was personal motives on the part of some policemen, who felt revulsion and disgust toward these defendants.” Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Maher Naim, Alexandria, Egypt, February 28, 2003.

206 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.

207 Verdict by Judge Hany Kamal Gabriel, Damanhour Court of Appeals, April 13, 2002, on file at Human Rights Watch. The judge evaluated the evidentiary requirements of the debauchery law with unusual exactitude: “Especially since the two defendants were not arrested in flagrante, the public prosecutor should have provided evidence . . . As for the third charge [that all the defendants habitually practiced debauchery], the arresting officer did not arrest the defendants while they were practicing debauchery and sexual perversion. What the arresting officer confiscated in the apartment of the first defendant—i.e., nightgowns, lipsticks—are not items the possession of which is criminalized. … The court has no confidence in the confessions of the defendants in the arrest report, because all the defendants denied them when they were referred to the public prosecutor. The court does not rely on what the defendants said about having practiced debauchery over a long time, because the forensic medical report stated that the signs found around the anus of each defendant point to their habitual use in sodomy from behind for a long time that is difficult to specify. In addition, no traces of semen were found on the confiscated material. And even if defendants practiced debauchery at an early date with others, they cannot be punished for an act committed in the [indefinite] past, particularly in the absence of the habituality component. The public prosecutor should have registered in the papers that there is no justification for filing a criminal case, especially inasmuch as the papers contained a defamation of the defendants.”

208 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.

209 “The pervert teacher brings shame to his sex: Puts on makeup and women’s clothes to attract men,” Hawadeth al-Gharbeya, May 5, 2002.

210 Police report dated May 20, 2002, in case file, Tanta Second Misdemeanors Court, on file at Human Rights Watch.

211 The process took five days. The other two arrested men had not been listed in the warrant.

212 Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir (not his real name), Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.

213 Bango, or marijuana buds, is widely consumed though illegal in Egypt.

214 A slap to the nape of the neck is considered particularly humiliating. Human Rights Watch interview with Karim (not his real name), Tanta, Egypt, April 26, 2003.

215 The arrest report, written by Yasser Abdel Hamid, deputy head of the Morality Department, states in terms reminiscent of the al-Haram and Boulaq Dakrour arrests:

We learned today in secret information from one of our secret sources that the aforementioned person [Karim] is going to host some persons in his apartment today to practice debauchery and sodomy [luat] with them. So we formed a squad under the leadership of Ahmed Abdel Wahab, the head of the Department, and a group of undercover police. As soon as we got through the main door of the apartment we found someone sitting in the living room of the apartment. We stopped him and we headed immediately to the bedroom. We found the aforementioned person practicing sodomy with another person. They were both completely naked. …We noticed some female clothes and a small towel next to the bed. The aforementioned person broke down and asked for forgiveness. Upon asking the person with him and searching him, he said that he used to come to this place to practice debauchery and sodomy and smoke bango cigarettes and drink alcohol. … [The defendant in the living room] said he used to come to this place to practice sodomy, and that he was waiting for his turn.

216 Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir, Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.

217 Human Rights Watch interview with Karim, Tanta, Egypt, April 26, 2003.

218 Tanta has two police stations: one is in the same complex as the Gharbeya Security Directorate. The prisoners were taken to the other station, which covers the area in which they were arrested.

219 Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir, Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.

220 Human Rights Watch interview with Karim, Tanta, Egypt, April 26, 2003.

221 Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir, Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.

222 Human Rights Watch interview with Karim, Tanta, Egypt, April 26, 2003.

223 Verdict by Judge Munir Wafiq, May 26, 2003, Tanta Court of Misdemeanors.

224 Ibid.

225 Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir, Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.

226 “Arrest of twelve youths, six university students among them,” Al-Wafd, August 22, 2002.

227 Investigations report dated August 19, 2002, 11 p.m., by Captain Abdullah Ahmed, Giza Vice Squad, in court file, Agouza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch has again changed the name of the informer in the report.

228 It is worth comparing the language of the arrest report to that of the previous cases. Abdullah Ahmed writes, “We knocked on the door for a long time. A young man opened the door. He was astonished when he saw us. We revealed our identities, the nature of our mission, and the arrest warrant issued by the public prosecution. We arrested him and entered the hall of the apartment, we saw seven sexual perverts sitting on the sofa or the floor, hugging each other; some of them were bare-chested. They all looked astonished when they saw us. We calmed them down and arrested them. We opened the door of the first room, and saw one active sexual perverts on top of a naked young man in the course of a complete sexual act. They both looked astonished when they saw us. We allowed them to put their clothes on and confiscated the green bedsheet which had traces of semen. We arrested them and entered the second bedroom: we saw two sexual perverts fully dressed hugging each other, and we arrested them.” (The arrest warrant, granted at 12:30 a.m. by Agouza prosecutor Ayman ‘Adel, was “to search the apartment and arrest anyone inside the apartment committing acts that violate law 10/1961”, which even by the police account covered only two of the guests.) All the men confess. Six identify as “passive sexual perverts,” six as active, pairing them off neatly. There is no mention whatsoever of Hafez, though the convicted men Human Rights Watch interviewed reported that he was taken to the Directorate with them.

In the interrogation report, officers do not record defendants making any reference to Hafez, or to his having invited them to the apartment—curious given that the investigations report had named him as the chief recruiter. Arrest report, dated 3 a.m., August 20, 2002, by officer Abdullah Ahmed, Giza Vice Squad, in court file, Agouza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

229 At least one of men was facing his second trial. He had been caught up earlier in the Queen Boat case, though ultimately acquitted.

230 Human Rights Watch interview with two prisoners who asked not to be named, Borg al-Arab Prison, March 16, 2003.

231 According to the prosecution interrogation records, five of the defendants denied all charges and retracted their alleged confessions to police. Two allegedly told prosecutors that they took 20LE to 30LE (US$ 4 to US$6 at the time) in exchange for sex. Four confessed to non-commercial sexual relations with other men; the interrogation record of the twelfth is missing. The seventeen year-old boy is reported as saying “I was arrested because I am a khawal,” but stating that he only slept with a friend in the neighborhood, which should have made it impossible to prove the element of indiscriminacy (sexual relations with more than one person). No other defendant was charged with having sexual relations with the seventeen-year-old.

Prosecutor Yasser Khalifa misstated the boy's age as nineteen on the charge sheet, which ultimately led to his trial as an adult. The police interrogation report also alleged that the boy and another defendant confessed to sexual relations with one another, but the niyaba did not pursue these confessions and the defendants later retracted them. It is perhaps a sign of the lack of seriousness with which police themselves took these confessions and their obligation to child protection that, even at the Security Directorate, the more serious charges of inciting a juvenile to debauchery under Art. 2(b) of Law 10/1961, or of indecent assault on a juvenile under Art. 269 of the Criminal Code—carrying penalties of five and seven years respectively—were not preferred or, apparently, considered.

232 Human Rights Watch interview with Helmi al-Rawi, a defense attorney in the case, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003.

233 Human Rights Watch interview with two prisoners who asked not to be named, Borg al-Arab Prison, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt, March 16, 2003. At an October 2 hearing, a defense attorney presented this fact before the judge deciding on the renewal of their detention, but the judge did not order an investigation. Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Helmi al-Rawi, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003.

234 “They call themselves girls' names,” Rose al-Youssef, September 14-20, 2002. The tabloid drew on “social experts” to condemn the victims. One interviewee, Dr. Ahmed al-Magdoub of the National Center for Social and Criminal Research declared that “in Egypt [homosexuality] is only practiced by a few, and sadly they use high technology—computer and mobiles—to get in touch …Gay people should be outcast.”

235 Verdict by Judge Mohieddin 'Atris, November 12, 2002, Agouza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch. The judge specifically cited the Cassation Court precedent (see chapter II) that debauchery need not entail financial reward. The appeals judge later ordered the child’s verdict voided since he had been tried as an adult. Prosecutors sought a retrial for the child. On April 13, in a juvenile court, he was sentenced to two years.

236 Verdict by Judge Taher al-Sukkari, February 23, 2002, Agouza Court of Misdemeanors Appeals, on file at Human Rights Watch.

237 Human Rights Watch interview with two prisoners who asked not to be named, Borg al-Arab Prison, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt, March 16, 2003. It is unclear whether these measures were intended to protect the prisoners or to isolate them as a moral threat to others and thus magnify the stigma they face, as was apparently true of the measures directed against Queen Boat detainees in Mazra'at Tora. Placing prisoners, collectively or individually, and even for their own “protection,” in an environment of complete isolation ordinarily reserved to punish disciplinary infractions is an unacceptable solution. Under international standards, no prisoner shall be punished except for a stipulated disciplinary offense. See “United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners,” articles 8 and 30, U.N. Doc. A/CONF/611, annex I, E.S.C. res. 663C, 24 U.N. ESCOR Supp. (No. 1) at 11, U.N. Doc E/3048 (1957), amended E.S.C. res. 2076, 62 U.N. ESCOR Supp. (No. 1) at 35, U.N. Doc E/5988 (1977).

238 Letter from an anonymous prisoner at Borg al-Arab prison, June 28, 2003.

239 “Arrest of a homosexual network,” Al-Wafd, February 24, 2003.

240 “25 homosexuals—in a debauchery group,” Al-Goumhoreya, March 8, 2003.

241 Human Rights Watch interview with Tawfiq (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, April 18, 2003.

242 Human Rights Watch interview with Yehya (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, April 30, 2003.

243 The Tourist Police investigations report simply states that “we received information” that the defendant “manages an apartment for the practice of debauchery”: Investigation report, General Administration of Tourist and Antiquities Police (Tourist Police), January 19, 2003, 10 a.m., in court file, al-Giza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

244 Human Rights Watch interview with Tawfiq (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, April 18, 2003.

245 Interrogation report by Prosecutor Issam al-Doweini, February 21, 2003, 5 p.m., in court file, al-Giza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch

246 Investigations report by Captain Ahmed Kishk, head of the Morality Intelligence Unit, Tourist Police, February 17, 2003, 9 a.m., in court file, al-Giza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

247 Several, however, insisted they had only had “face to face perversion,” saying, “I have never practiced debauchery from behind.”

248 The arrest report claims that Wael refused medical attention after slashing his wrist with a shard of glass from a coffee table. Arrest report by Captain Ahmed Kishk, head of the Morality Intelligence Unit, Tourist Police, February 19, 2003, 5 p.m., in court file, al-Giza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

249 Activists from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights were able to interview one of the defendants tried in absentia while he was in hiding. He told them he had never visited Wael’s apartment, but had received the telephone number from a friend and had called occasionally to chat. Police overheard their conversations through the wiretap. He was convicted at the first trial. Interview by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights with a defendant who requested not to be identified, Cairo, Egypt, June 20, 2003.

250 The forensic reports ultimately found that none of the defendants had “signs affirming they were taken from behind in sodomy in a distant or recent time” but offered the usual qualifications, that “outside sexual contact,” or sodomy “with consent, taking the correct position, or using lubricants” could escape notice. This is the only forensic report Human Rights Watch has seen—among almost 100 inspected—in which the term “outside sexual contact” or a reference to non-penetrative sex is included. Since several defendants had confessed to “face to face” sexual contact only, it appears the forensic doctors colluded with prosecutors, adjusting their language to confirm the charges against the defendants.

251 Human Rights Watch interview with Yehya (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, April 30, 2003.

252 Human Rights Watch interview with Helmi al-Rawi, a defense attorney in the case, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003. A Human Rights Watch representative accompanied al-Rawi to the Giza police station on March 11, 2003, and witnessed him being turned away. Defense attorneys were not permitted to examine the case files until the day before the first trial hearing on March 16—giving them twenty-four hours to familiarize themselves with 200 pages of material. The wiretap transcripts, reportedly totaling another 200 pages, were never entered into the court record or made available to the defense: see court file on file at Human Rights Watch, and interview with Helmi al-Rawi, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003.

253 Human Rights Watch interview with Yehya, Cairo, Egypt, April 30, 2003.

254 When the case finally went to trial, the sixteen defendants (three tried in absentia) faced an unusual chain of charges. All were accused under article 9(c) of Law 10/1961; Wael was also charged with “managing a house” for debauchery, under article 8. However, each of the defendants was charged under article 1(a) of the law, which punishes “inciting,” “assisting,” “facilitating,” or “employing” others to commit debauchery. And all the defendants were also charged under article 1(b), which punishes inciting, assisting, facilitating, or employing a person under 21 to commit debauchery—since four were between 19 and 21. Even those four were charged with inciting, assisting, facilitating, or employing one another.

255 E-mail communication to Scott Long, Human Rights Watch, from an attorney who wished to remain anonymous, July 21, 2003; see Human Rights Watch press release, “Egypt: Homosexual Prosecutions Overturned,” July 22, 2003.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>

March 2004