it was late summer in 2014 when an irish resident of cairo sent chill through the gay community in egypt. conor sheils, who says he's happily lost in cairo, wrote that gay dating apps like 'grindr' were being used by the egyptian authorities to track down gays, and arrest them.
how is this possible?
well, these apps use your location to identify where you are. in fact, you cannot use many of them without accepting their access to your location services. that is how they help you find the nearest person, and that is how their system helps the authorities to find those very people.
according to the cairoscene, where sheils wrote his article, the individuals post their photos and approximate location is given by the app, together which allow authorities to easily identify the user (they can ask the people who live in that area, for example, if they know the user).
according to a recent survey by cisco, 72% of smartphone users in the middle east are younger than 34 years. that means, the gay apps are leading to the arrest of younger gay men. but what about the guys who are older?
that is where bath house raids come in.
earlier this month, 26 men were arrested in a night raid on a hammam (bath house) in central cairo's azbakeya district. the men were filmed, as they were led through the cold streets (it was around 50 degrees fahrenheit) naked.
according to an article by the agence france presse, the men arrested at the bath house appeared to be between 40 and 50 years old. one of the defendents claimed to have been suffering back pain and that that was the reason he was there, according to the afp article, which is one of the reasons why egyptians use hammams (aside from relief stress, or to socialize in a non-sexual way).
in other words, egypt is smartly going after the gay community with specific targets that are aimed at different age groups. despite the fact that being gay is not illegal in egypt, owning a bath house or being an employee of a bath house where gay sex takes place can end you up in jail for 9 years. since last summer, there have been over 150 arrests of "debauchery".
according to the independent in south africa, 2014 was by far the worst year for the gay community in egypt. this is due to the gay community being used by the government to win points with the islamist-minded segment in society, to say, "look, we are keeping egypt even cleaner than the muslim brotherhood," told me abu omar, a gay man who has worked with me during the time i was the editor of huriyah. what abu omar says has been discussed all over the world, and everybody knows it's the truth, including some of the articles above.
in 2011, abu omar wrote on this blog that the gay community in egypt was afraid. at the time, he got some responses from the good people in the west that perhaps those fears were unfounded. just 3 years later, those fears have been confirmed to have been valid... because between 2011 and 2014, gay egyptians saw more pressure than ever before.
what can you do?
write to your lawmakers, your heads of governments, and anyone you can think of who can pressure the governments that abuse gay people around the world. work with human rights organizations, sign their petitions, spread their news.