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Eman Al-Helw and Hossam Ahmed must be released from prison

Urgent Call in partnership with ACAT France 

On February 28, 2019, Eman Al-Helw and Hossam Ahmed were arrested for expressing criticism over the Egyptian government. Since then, they have been imprisoned in an underground cell for 11 months.

Eman Al-Helw is an Egyptian actress and activist. Hossam Ahmed is an Egyptian trans man. They were both arrested, alongside 70 others, on February 28, 2019, and are investigated under the Case 1739/2018. They were first detained in an undisclosed location for four days before appearing at the State Security Prosecution on March 4, 2019, on charges of participating in a terrorist group and using an internet account (Facebook) to commit a crime punishable by law. On December 3, 2019, the Criminal Court of Cairo had granted their release under precautionary measures. However, on December 4, 2019, the Public Prosecution successfully appealed to the Criminal Court of Cairo’s decision and both have subsequently been sent back to preventive detention for an additional 45 days.


Eman Al-Helw and Hossam Ahmed are being detained and facing numerous legal proceedings stemming solely from their peaceful activism. The way they are targeted with absurd charges, in this case, is consistent with a pattern of harassment. 


On March 18, the Prisons’ Authority forced al-Helw to undergo a full external physical examination and inspection of her genitals, conducted by doctors at a general hospital, against her will and without medical grounds, which constitutes a clear assault on her bodily and psychological safety.


Ahmed is being held in a women’s holding cell in the Abdeen Police Station, and has faced harassment and bullying from other inmates and visitors. He has also been denied hormone therapy by Egyptian authorities since his arrest. The Prisons’ Authority also forced him to undergo a full physical examination and inspection of his genitals without an order from the prosecution, although he has a medical certificate issued by a general hospital describing his condition and medically qualifying him for transsexual therapy; the certificate states that he has not undergone any surgical procedures. Medically speaking, his exam, was all the more unnecessary and constitutes a physical and psychological assault on Hossam Ahmed.

Join the campaign to demand Eman and Hossam’s release to the Egyptian authorities!



Egypt’s human rights situation is at its worst since 2014, as it has become even more evident since the recent state security’s arbitrary detainment of at least 3000 people following demonstrations in late September. In this general context, the situation of LGBTIQ+ community has also worsened in the last 5 years. The number of people arrested annually and referred to trial in such cases increased five-fold in the period. After a rainbow flag was raised at the music band Mashrou' Leila’s concert in New Cairo in September 2017, police arrested 75 people. 71 cases were heard in first- and second-instance courts in 2018. Most defendants in these cases were sentenced to one to three years in prison, some had to leave the country.


Egypt law does not explicitly criminalizes consensual sexual relations between persons of the same-sex, posing as a woman, posing as a man, and consensual sexual acts between adults. But it does have several provisions that criminalize any behavior or the expression of an idea that is deemed to be immoral, scandalous or offensive to the teachings of a recognized religious leader.  Law 10/1961 on combating prostitution is largely used, particularly Article 9 (c). The existing legal framework and policies are inadequate to protect the human rights of LGBTIQ+ persons and create barriers to access redress and justice. Moreover, LGBTIQ+ persons and related activities are vulnerable to complaints, police reports, monitoring, and surveillance. 


This year only, LGBTIQ+ activists, defenders, and individuals, have been submitted to arrests and torture, as it has been the case for Malak El-Kashif (who has been released in May 2019), Eman Al-Helw and Hossam Ahmed - the latest two are still being preventively detained with no date of trial. Not only are they suffering from the wild-scale repression on activists and freedom of expression, but they are also facing discrimination and abuses by the Egyptian authorities due to their perceived “non-binarity” (i.e they don’t fit in the traditional roles, behaviors or appearances assigned to men and women in the Egyptian society).


Forced anal and physical examinations are also widely practiced by Egypt security forces, especially in ‘debauchery’ cases (LGBTIQ+, sex workers…). These practices are recognized as “a form of cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that can rise to the level of torture” according to UN experts and international Human Rights organizations. They violate the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Convention on Human and Peoples' Rights. Forced anal exams are invasive, intrusive, and profoundly humiliating. As the UN Committee against Torture has emphasized, they “have no medical justification and cannot be performed with the free and informed consent.”

On another level, the situation of people living with HIV in Egypt is also extremely worrying. According to UNAIDS there are 22’000 cases of people living with HIV in Egypt with 3’600 new cases in 2017 only, which reflects the limitation of the Egyptian state in the field of awareness, testing, counselling, prevention and treatment. Officials at state-run testing and counselling centres regularly discriminate against people living with HIV, as most of the medical staff in the country. Access to treatment can be very difficult, due to bureaucratic processes, discriminations, and shortages of medicines that can sometimes last up to a few months.

Join the campaign to demand Eman and Hossam’s release to the Egyptian authorities!

What to do?

  1. Sign the joint letters.

  2. Send them to the relevant entity (Egyptian Ministry of Interior  EN-FR-AR, General Prosecutor EN-FR-AR) as indicated in the letter.

  3. Don’t forget to send a copy of the letter to the Egyptian ambassador to your country, and the Egyptian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

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