Grave danger

Transgender woman arrested in Egypt at risk of being placed in men’s prison

Defendants accused by Egypt''s state security of participating in "immoral acts" hide their faces as they are escorted by police to a state security court July 18, 2001 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Norbert Schiller/Getty Images))

Malak al-Kashef, a 19-year-old transgender activist, has been arrested in Egypt, sparking concerns that she will be placed in a men’s prison at great risk to her safety.

According to the Independent, al-Kashef was apprehended during a rally sparked by a recent deadly train crash in Cairo, which saw at least 25 people killed after an unmanned locomotive slammed into the city’s main railway station in late February. Protestors have criticized the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for failing to improve transit infrastructure, even after a series of lethal accidents. At least 70 people have been arrested in connection with the demonstrations, ten of whom have been released, reports Mada Masr.

State prosecutors have ordered al-Kashef to be detained for 15 days, pending an investigation, on charges of “misusing social media” and “calling for protests,” Human Rights Watch reports. Al-Kashef has not been given access to legal council and her whereabouts remain uncertain, but it is believed she is being held separately from other prisoners. Since her government ID still identifies her as male, however, she is at risk of being placed with the male prison population.

“Due to her gender identity, Malak is at increased risk of torture by the police, including rape and sexual violence, as well as assault by other detainees,” says Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International. Egyptian police, Mughrabi notes, “have a horrific track record of persecuting people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

That persecution has been particularly acute since September 2017, when seven people were arrested for unfurling a rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo, sparking an anti-LGBT crackdown. In 2018, 76 people were arrested for “debauchery.” And in January of this year, TV host Mohamed Al-Ghaity was sentenced to one year in prison simply for interviewing a gay man.

According to Egyptian Streets, al-Kashef has been trying to officially change her assigned gender for the past three years, without success. In 2018, she publicly spoke about facing harassment and violence to the point that she was afraid to ride public transportation. She also revealed that she had attempted suicide.

“[T]he Egyptian security forces should immediately release her,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, “and should end their harassment and arbitrary detention of activists.”

Read more at the Independent.

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