When *Amir read about Clubhouse — an invite-only, audio-based app — he was excited to be part of the new experience. He had heard about it becoming popular among activists and minorities in autocratic countries with restrictions on free speech.
In February, Amir — a gay 35-year-old man living in Egypt — was invited by a friend to a virtual room with around 80 other members on Clubhouse. When the discussion touched on same-sex relationships, “one of the users lashed out and started a homophobic monologue,” he says.
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Amir had signed in using the initials of his first name and his full last name. Later, a screenshot of his profile photo was sent to his boss who, he says, is quite conservative. “If the supervisor hadn’t seen the whole thing as a joke, I might’ve been involved in a major scandal, or even something worse,” he says.
After that scare, Amir deleted his profile and headed, incognito, back to other apps frequented by LGBTQ+ Egyptians, like Reddit, Tumblr, and Grindr.
Societal discrimination and persistent harassment
Homosexuality is not explicitly illegal in Egypt’s legal code. However, laws against ‘debauchery’ are routinely used to arrest and charge LGBTQ+ people. The government, judges and prosecutors, as well as state-affiliated media, justify legal persecution of community members as a moral and religious obligation to ‘defend’ the Egyptian society.