Egypt: Rape and sexual violence perpetrated by security forces 'surges' under el-Sisi's regime in campaign to 'eliminate public protest'

LGBT people are believed to have been targeted by police and are subjected to ‘examinations’ constituting forms of torture

The systematic use of rape, sexual violence and assault constituting torture has surged since the political coup led by President el-Sisi in Egypt, spreading beyond the confines of police stations and detention centres to officials openly assaulting people in the streets, at universities and people’s homes during raids, according to a new report.

The International Federation for Human Rights’ (known as FIDH) latest report, which focuses on sexual violence committed since the Egyptian military takeover in July 2013, claims the documented sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, rape with objects, anal and vaginal “virginity tests”, electrocution of genitalia, sex-based defamation and blackmail by police, state and military personnel is being used to “eliminate public protest”.

Human rights NGOs have stated the likelihood of being sexually assaulted when arrested is extremely high, especially if a woman is being detained, because the “police consider it their duty to discipline prisoners."

The report contains testimonies of people who have suffered sexual violence at the hands of authorities, with one woman describing how she was beaten to the point where she could no longer stand up before being repeatedly sexually assaulted and then raped while vomiting blood. She had suffered the violence after telling an officer he had "no right" to touch another woman's breasts while he was preparing to arrest her.

Reports of children being raped and seriously assaulted in detention centres have been recorded, with one former employee at the El Eqabiya detention centre, where both adults and minors are held, stating: "Anyone who hasn't been raped is the exception," referring to children.

President el-Sisi publicly ordered police to tackle the issue of sexual assault in Egypt following public outcry against these violations continually occurring, and announced a crackdown on rape and sexual violence as a priority. But the FIDH report, entitled 'Exposing state hypocrisy: sexual violence by security forces in Egypt', claims the contrary.

The report claims that authorities are increasingly considered the “guardians of moral order” and LGBT people appear to have been systematically targeted and arrested for “debauchery,” after which they are often raped and assaulted in detention.

Political prisoners are believed to suffer the most serious sexual assault during detention, particularly men who are thought to be withholding information, the report stated. The most serious cases were of rape committed on the premises of secret detention centres, where Amnesty International has documented cases including rape using a hot steel baton in the anus, electrocution of the genitals, and threats of rape to female family members, it claimed. 

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Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first freely elected leader, before being ousted by the military in July 2013 (EPA)

According to reports documented by FIDH, since the increase of the police, army and security services’ presence in public, sexual violence has spread beyond police stations and detention centres. Sexual violence is now increasingly and "indiscriminately" carried out at checkpoints, in the metro, at the entrance to universities, on campuses, in hospitals, at the entrance to courts and detention centres during security checks, in sports facilities and at private homes during targeted raids, it claimed. Online reports, testimonies and videos have supported these findings, the FIDH said.

The Egyptian Observatory for Rights and Freedoms said: “Previously, arrests in the street mainly targeted men and young people. But since 3 July 2013, it has been quite clear that they also target children, women, young girls and older people of both sexes. And that the security forces do not miss an opportunity to arrest and terrorise all sections of the population.”

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A woman protesting against sexual violence in Egypt

Threats or actual violence and sexual violence against women have become bargaining tools used by police in order to place pressure on suspects and detainees, according to the report. The FIDH said several incidents of this have been documented. One woman told of the abuse suffered at the Madinat Nasr police station in 2014 when officers were trying to make her husband confess to crimes he claimed he had not committed.

“[Police officers] beat me saying ‘you see what your husband is doing to you?’. Then they made me enter the room where he was and tried to rape me. My husband begged them to leave me alone, shouting ‘Let her go, I’m going to talk’. They said to him, ‘No, speak first and we’ll let her go after’.

“They pulled off my veil and started again; I began screaming. My husband said to them ‘For pity’s sake stop, tell me what I have to say, tell me what I am accused of, I’ll say everything you want me to.’ They made me sit with my hands tied and said: ‘Go on, we’ll hang her from the door to make him talk’. My husband continued to beg them, saying, ‘I don’t even know what you’re accusing me of!’.”

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