Egypt’s government has conducted a series of raids on gay people in the last eight months, with the most recent one coming April 1 in Cairo. The latest one was against four men who had signed the lease to a new apartment just hours prior to police arriving at their door, according to U.K. newspaper The Guardian.
Those men, accused of dressing in women’s clothing and attending “deviant” parties, soon faced jail sentences of up to eight years. The Guardian called the sentence “unusual for both their length and the speed at which they were handed down.”
Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, and the people The Guardian interviewed said they did not necessarily feel immensely oppressed there and were shocked by the arrests. Still, some who have been suspected of being gay have been targeted for sporadic detention.
“It has struck fear within many of us,” said one man identified as Mohamed A. “I could be sitting with a couple of friends [at home], and these arrests could happen at any moment.”
The U.S.-based organization Human Rights First says Egypt is often the bellwether for the Middle East, according to the BBC.