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"To be a gay man in Egypt is quite perplexing, tough, stressing, dangerous and thrilling at the same time," Mo (not his real name), a 27-year-old gay man who works in media and communications in Cairo, told The Advocate in an interview conducted just before a recent late-night raid on a bathhouse in the capital city.
That raid has changed everything, Mo said in a follow-up interview. Though he did not frequent the bathhouse, an LGBT advocate whom we will call "Ahmed" did.
"I am terrified," says Ahmed. "I could easily have been there."
The besieged bathhouse was by no means a new development in Cairo’s community, all three sources interviewed for this piece tell The Advocate.
"The security forces have always known about the bathhouse," Ahmed says. But, he adds, the police weren’t interested in raiding it until a reporter from a pro-government news channel "told them she would put [the raid] on TV."
That reporter, Mona Iraqi, hosts El Mostakbai (The Hidden), which airs on the pro-government network Al-Qahira wal Nas (Cairo and the People). She has since faced growing international criticism for her alleged role in orchestrating the raid and recently saw her contract with a Swiss film festival canceled after organizers condemned her professional and ethical practices surrounding the December 7 raid.
But Iraqi’s report, which she has defended as an attempt to expose sex trafficking and the spread of HIV in Cairo, is just the latest twist in the ever-tightening vise-grip of LGBT oppression being helmed by Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime.
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