“No one is safe in Egypt”: Horrific sexual abuses of detainees and their families

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Thursday, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights issued a report documenting 655 cases of sexual violence against detainees in Egyptian prisons and their families between 2015 and 2022, confirming that the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi uses sexual violence as a means of torture, punishment and subjugation of detainees in prisons and society as a whole.

The report, “No One is Safe: Sexual Violence Throughout the Life Cycle of Detention in Egypt (2015-2022)”, collected harrowing testimonies from former detainees, family members, lawyers and experts in the field of sexual violence, which raises the alarm about the crimes committed by the Sisi regime against citizens and society.

Vicious cycle

The cycle of sexual violence against detainees and their families begins when homes are stormed to arrest them. The report documented that officers from the National Security (the political security apparatus of the Sisi regime) sexually assaulted a woman whom they broke into her house to search for her father, who is wanted for political reasons. When they did not find him, the officer in charge tried to interrogate the woman about her father’s whereabouts, but she refused, so he ordered his soldiers to tear off her clothes until she became completely naked.

The matter did not stop here, but the soldiers continued to beat the woman and grabbed her breasts and genitals. When she begged them to stop because she was pregnant, the officer pushed her to the ground, trampled on her stomach, and even brought her child to witness the incident, in complete disregard for the law. The cycle of sexual violence then continues, either in police stations or in unknown and illegal National Security headquarters. Criminal detainees are usually transferred directly to police stations, while political detainees are transferred to National Security headquarters.

The report documented 57 cases of sexual violence within police stations, in which issues of sexual violence against men ranged from harassment to rape with an instrument. Among these cases were 18 men who were subjected to electric shocks to their genitals as a method of torture. Women were not spared from harassment in police stations. One detainee says that the guard asked her to take off her clothes to be searched in an open place where men could see her. When she refused, the guard tore her clothes and touched her breasts, then asked her disapprovingly, “You’re a girl? These are the breasts of a woman, not a virgin,” then forced her to squat and pee in front of her.

For LGBTQ members, police stations are a hell of a sexual assault place, and abuse often occurs amid a torrent of homophobic insults. The report documented that more than one male and female detainee from the LGBT community was subjected to rape and anal examinations! The research results indicate that sexual violence occurs most often in the headquarters of the National Security Agency, to the extent that it can be said that it is almost systematic and standard for those who are detained in these headquarters. Of the 655 cases of sexual violence documented in the report, 523 of them occurred at sites affiliated with the National Security Agency. These violations ranged from electric shocks to the genitals to rape (oral, anal, and/or vaginal) and were committed against men, women, and Trans or non-intersex individuals. Electric shocks to the genitals are used as a method of torture as punishment and/or to coerce making false confessions. The threat of electric shock to the genitals of family members is also given if they refuse to confess.

One of the former detainees in National Security facilities said that he was subjected to shocks to his genitals and threatened to rape his wife if he did not confess to belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. Another said that National Security officers stripped him completely, handcuffed him and hung him from the door, then put a stick in his anus and photographed him. The women of Egypt were not spared from these blatant violations. One woman said that while detained by the National Security Agency, she was blindfolded, beaten, stripped naked, and raped in the anus with a stick to force her to make false confessions.

The cycle of sexual violence continues in prisons, with male detainees subjected to electric shocks to their genitals and rape with a stick. Meanwhile, the female guards subjected detained women to apparent sexual violence, including sexual and physical harassment and rape, by inserting fingers into their genitals under the pretext of inspection! Sexual violence in prisons extends beyond detainees to their families, especially while visiting their relatives in prison. The report documented 7 cases in which a correctional officer raped a woman with his finger, 11 cases of forced nudity, and 12 cases of touching the genitals of family members.

A woman from the detainee’s family stated that “the guard put her hands on her genitals and breasts in a humiliating way, and the only way to escape from this is to bribe her.” In contrast, another woman said that “their searches amounted to rape. The guard used to reach my vagina under my underwear.”

Systematic attacks

This report has no room to say that these are “individual cases”, as the regime claims. Still, indeed, this is systematic violence that the Sisi regime uses as a means of torture, punishment, subjugation, and terrorizing detainees, and even society as a whole, where sexual violence is used as a means of victimization using societal codes regarding gender and sexuality to degrade prisoners and their loved ones.

These crimes constitute a flagrant violation of the constitution, local laws and international agreements signed by Egypt. Still, it passes without accountability, as those who commit these violations are entirely safe from responsibility and punishment because they are in the protection of the regime. They do so under his orders and his hearing and sight.