Hooking up as a gay man in Egypt has long been a potentially dangerous proposition. But as of today, connecting through the mobile app Grindr in the Mideast's most populous Muslim country officially comes with a warning label, informing users that authorities may trying to entrap them, reports BuzzFeed.
Appearing in a pop-up window that overlays the app's familiar homescreen grid of profile pics, Grindr users in Egypt now see a bold-type headline that reads "Speak Safely." Below that is a warning that reads, "Egypt is arresting LGBT people, and police may be posing as LGBT on social media to entrap you. Please be careful about arranging meetings with people you don't know, and be careful about posting anything that might reveal your identity."
Users in Egypt must now click "OK" or "More Information" beneath the warning before continuing onto Grindr.
The warning comes amid a marked increase of arrests and abuse of gay men in Egypt. Activists and journalists have attributed the new government's effectiveness in cracking down on the LGBT community to its use of social media —especially to entrap gay men.
In addition to trawling Grindr and other social media platforms to hunt for LGBT prey, the government's crackdown has included violent raids of private homes, arrests of seven men for allegedly participating in a same-sex wedding, and subjecting men accused of homosexual "debauchery" and other crimes to degrading, unscientific rectal examinations.
Egypt has historically been considered a bellwether society for the Arab world. Ironically, during the rule of the founder of "modern Egypt," President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the nation seemed poised to lead Arab nations toward becoming more progressive and tolerant societies.
But by the early 1980s, perhaps in part as a backlash to assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's entrance into a peace treaty with Israel that is still in force today, Egyptian society took a hard right turn.
By the mid-1980s, gone was the proliferation of western attire and the promise of increased tolerance for LGBT people that had put women in miniskirts during the 1960s and which had, as recently four years ago, given gay men a modicum of security and visibility to be themselves in their homeland.
In fact, according to The Daily Beast's Bel Trew, the new regime is engaging in an effort to appear "more Islamic than the Islamists." The administration of general-turned-president, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, who helped lead the Egyptian army to overthrow democratically elected, Muslim Brotherhood-aligned President Mohamed Morsi, has executed a harsher crackdown against LGBT Egyptians than any predecessor regime.
Trew recently reported about a terrifying police raid of a party at a private villa near Cairo last November. More than 300 men and women reportedly "from the gay community" had gathered to escape the violence that was, at the time of Morsi's overthrow, getting worse by the hour throughout the country.
In an interview with one of the party guests who was arrested, the Daily Beast's source recalled, "They had so many weapons. They had clearly been some serious preparation. They hit everyone they could." That source is now on the run after skipping his sentencing hearing in court.
The Daily Beast further reported that dozens of LGBT Egyptians have been arrested in the past year, and have received prison and hard labor sentences ranging from three to 12 years. In reality, there are probably more victims than have been reported, according to Egyptian human rights activists.
"We are not even sure if we have documented all the cases," Dalia Abdel-Hamid, from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told the Daily Beast. "We know the actual number is higher."
Although homosexuality is technically not illegal in Egypt, gays are frequently prosecuted for several highly subjective charges. Those infractions include so-called sexual deviance, debauchery, "insulting public morals," and "public depravity."