Protesters call on government to help end LGBT persecution in Egypt

Protesters in Ottawa are calling for the Canadian government to intervene after members of the LGBT community were arrested in Egypt last month.

Amnesty International says at least 57 Egyptians were arrested because of their sexual orientation

Protesters stand outside the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Ottawa. They want the Canadian government to address the detainment of dozens of Egyptians because of their sexual orientation. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Protesters in Ottawa are calling for the Canadian government to intervene after members of the LGBT community were arrested in Egypt last month.

Around a dozen people demonstrated outside the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt on Saturday afternoon.

"Sexual minorities in Egypt, and especially the LGBTQ, is under a crackdown and this has to stop," said Nabila Kaci, an organizer of the protest.

She said the protest, and others like it across the country, was created in the hopes of putting pressure on the Egyptian government to release anyone arrested for their sexual orientation.

But closer to home. Kaci also wants the Canadian government to step up. 

"We would like them to be more involved in this file. We are a little bit disappointed. I'm personally disappointed that there is no clear message to the Egyptian government."

Reports of torture

Amnesty International has documented 57 people who have been arrested in the last few weeks.

"These [arrests] are widespread and they are state sanctioned and this is deplorable," said Jackie Hansen, a campaign manager with Amnesty International Canada. She said these arrests are only the ones Amnesty International has heard of and expects the actual number to be larger.

Nabila Kaci organized the protest outside the Egyptian Embassy on Oct. She says the persecution of LGBT Egyptians has to stop. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

There's also a fear that the detainees are being tortured, Hansen added.

"We are hearing reports of forced anal examinations, which are a form of torture, and of course, allegations of sexual assault," she said.

"This is a violation of the right of everyone to live free from discrimination and from violence, and we are very concerned that people are being criminalized for their real or their perceived sexual orientation and gender identity."

'It hits very close to home for me'

The violence against the LGBT community in his home country worries Mark Andrawis, whose family immigrated to Canada from Egypt when he was five years old.

As a gay man, the 21-year-old said he often thinks of what life would be like if he was still living in Egypt.

"I could possibly be facing the same reality that a lot of other Egyptians are facing as part of the LGBT community. So, it's very touching and very personal. It hits very close to home for me."

It hits very close to home for me.-  Mark  Andrawis , an Egyptian-Canadian

He called the situation in Egypt horrible and heartbreaking.

"I think it's more of a symptom that there's deeper issues going on in Egypt. They've been under bad rulership from a political and religious sense … and the only thing they can really agree on is hatred at this point. I think they need major change."

No one from the embassy came out to address protesters. The embassy also did not reply to CBC News' request for comment.

Mark Andrawis, 21, says the persecution of LGBT members in his birth country hits close to home. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Canadian response

The Canadian government is currently making changes to open its doors to more refugees fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation.

Earlier this year, new guidelines were put in place by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to ban "graphic questions" about sexual acts during immigration interviews.

The Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Ottawa was the scene of the protest. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)