Monday, December 8, 2014

TV host colludes with Egyptian police in raid on visitors of bathhouse presumed to be gay

 Arrested men from the Bab el-Bahr hammam being herded into a Central Security truck, December 7, 2014. The woman with a camera to the R may be Mona Iraqi.
Almost naked men got arrested. The woman filming with her phone at the right is Mona Iraqi.

The Egyptian police carried out a massive raid on a hammam (bathhouse) in the Ramsis area of Cairo on Sunday night, not far from the main railway station, and arrested dozens of men. They were almost naked driven to the trucks. Someone living nearby who watched the assault wrote on social media that “police together with Central Security forces attacked the bath.” (Central Security, Amn el-Merkezi, is an army force mainly composed of raw recruits. it takes over many policing duties in an increasingly militarized Egypt.) “Some 40 people were arrested. Some were beaten up in the baths, and they were all arrested with no clothes.” He said “a female journalist and a cameraman” arrived “before they attacked the baths. She tried to enter and film inside, and she was kicked out by the owner. Immediately this was reported [to the police], and the baths were attacked. People say there were informers from the police inside the baths before that.”
The reporter was Mona Iraqi, presenter for the TV program El Mostakbai (The Hidden), which airs on the pro-government Al-Qahira wal Nas (Cairo and the People) news channel. Around 2:00 this morning, Mona Iraqi posted proudly about the raid on her Facebook page — along with still shots, bearing the El Mostakbai watermark. Two hours later, she took it all down. But I had saved the pictures, and a friend saved screenshots of the post. What she wrote was a promo for coming attractions.
''With pictures,'' she wrote, ''we reveal the biggest den of group perversion [shuzooz gama’ay] in the heart of Cairo. … With pictures, a filmed investigation by El Mostakbai reveals the den of perversion near the El Azbekeya police office.  El Mostakbai program, presented by the journalist Mona Iraqi … reveals the biggest den for group perversion in the Ramsis area. El Mostakbai also reveals that the den is a steam bath in the heart of Cairo, a place to have a bath and massage, for men. It’s run by a man who is 60 years old, for financial gain. It is at 35 Bab el-Bahr street, in Ramsis in the heart of Cairo.
In the bath, there are spaces for group perversion … Males of different ages and different nationalities come. The cameras of El Mostakbai managed to do a filmed investigation to prove incidents of group perversion and record the confessions of the owners of this den.
We had decided to show the episode last Wednesday [December 3]. El Mostakbai filed complaints with national institutions about what is happening in the baths. But the warrants from the prosecution were late, so the program team decided to postpone the show to give security institutions a chance to close down the baths. Police, arrested the men who were in the baths, caught in the act during a group sex party. They also arrested the head of the den and all the workers. They were immediately transported to the prosecution with no clothes. Their clothes were taken as evidence in the case.

Human rights activists and social media users took to the Internet to lambaste Iraqi’s Facebook report, decrying the journalist’s cooperation with police forces as a flagrant violation of citizens’ personal rights.
Homosexuality is not a crime according to the Egyptian Penal Code, and furthermore, Iraqi did not prove any prostitution had occurred in the bathhouse, rights activist Sherif Azer wrote in response to Iraqi’s post.
Responding to the attacks, Iraqi claimed that the investigation was part of her program’s work on social groups that are most vulnerable to AIDS, as International AIDS Awareness Day was December 3.
 US-based rights activist Scott Long blogged about the incident in his blog, the Paper Bird, and suggested the possibility of a government-sponsored campaign against gay rights. “What’s clear is that another pro-Sisi media organ is working in close collusion with security forces, to produce a sensational show about sex with appalling and terrifying images, to invade privacy and engorge the prisons and destroy innocent people’s lives,” he wrote. Long highlighted another recent incident in which eight men appearing in a video that allegedly portrayed a gay marriage ceremony were sentenced to three years in prison on charges of perversion.

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