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Transgender Policy in Egypt: Murder by Medical Bureaucracy

The cruelest and most obvious stories in which a transgender person are murdered are always imprinted on our minds. The stories in which two parties: the murderer and murdered—perpetrator and victim—are known. However, what about when an entire system colludes to kill a victim?

.اقرأ المقال بالعربي

Every November 20, transgender people around the world launch campaigns that disseminate information on the hate crimes against transgender victims and provide statistics on the numbers of transgender people who were murdered or died of suicide because of their transgender identities. Anti-transphobic candlelight marches are held to revive their stories and denounce their murders in an attempt to bring them the justice of which they were deprived. 

Are we only killed with bullets?

The cruelest and most obvious stories in which a transgender person is murdered are always imprinted on our minds. The stories in which two parties: the murderer and murdered—perpetrator and victim—are known. However, what about when an entire system colludes to kill a victim?

Egyptian media touts Egypt to have relatively good medical, legal, and social standards for transgender people in comparison to other countries of the region, especially pointing to the number of transgender people who have revealed their gender identities in recent years. Egypt purports to have a medical procedural system that gives transgender people the right to attain medical reports and syndicate approvals, undergo corrective surgeries, and obtain national identity cards with their new identities. 

I began gender correction procedures almost seven years ago, and I have not finished them yet. As an Egyptian transgender woman, I can make it clear that we do not have the protections that the media claims that we have. Quite to the contrary—we are exposed to community targeting and violence on daily basis. Furthermore, with a legislative vacuum regarding the civil rights of transgender people, we cannot file lawsuits against anyone who commits crimes against us. Instead, we can be detained under the counter-debauchery articles of law No. 10 of 1961, which is used to punish homosexual men and transgender women. A report issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in 2017 titledThe Trap,” details that 232 homosexual men and transgender women were arrested between the second half of 2014 and 2017. 

As for medical approvals, the syndicate committee in charge of gender reassignment surgeries, known as the Gender Correction” Committee, is composed of many doctors of various medical specialties with a religious scholar from al-Azhar among them— a necessary institution for the Medical Syndicate to use to hang onto the religious authority. During the last months of 2018, public hospitals stopped issuing referrals for transgender people to the syndicate, and with the absence of a religious scholar in the committee from 2013 to 2019, it completely ceased to function and stopped giving transgender people approvals. As a result, we were put on a waiting list for years and years, entirely stopping our lives. Meanwhile, we had to resort to private doctors and agreed to undergo gender correction surgeries in secret with no other alternatives—with no recourse in the case of medical error or malpractice.

“Ahmad Fares” known as “Ezz” died on August 28—a week after undergoing gender correction surgery performed by a private doctor Ashraf Al-Sebaie. Ezz, like any transgender person in Egypt, was aware that he could not attain a governmental medical report. He was also aware that he would not obtain approval from the Medical Syndicate, which, even after resuming its work in 2019, gave approvals to intersex people and denied them to transgenders. Consequently, Ezz decided to undergo a gender correction surgery in a private hospital so that he could start his life, work, and rent a house like any transgender person abandoned by his family. He worked odd jobs provided by his friends, but he faced social obstacles, including robbery and physical violence at his workplace. After moving between demanding jobs, Ezz finally collected enough money to undergo the operation. 

After undergoing his first gender correction surgery, Ezz was forced to leave the hospital after only one day—due to doctor’s fear that an inspection committee might pass by the hospital and find that he had performed the surgery on a transgender man without syndicate approval. Despite the risky surgery and his precarious health condition, Ezz was forced to leave the hospital. Due to his inability to work and the absence of job opportunities for transgender people in Egypt, Ezz moved between the houses of his friends. A few days after he had undergone surgery, everyone was surprised at the news of his death due to physical complications and internal hemorrhaging. 

The news of his death was shared widely on social media platforms and covered by many news websites that mentioned the name of the doctor and the private hospital in which the surgery was performed. However, the Egyptian Medical Syndicate took no action against this doctor although it, through its intransigence and bureaucratic suspension, represents a main reason that Ezz underwent this surgery at the hands of a private doctor who lacked the capability to perform this type of surgery. On top of that, the competent authorities did not investigate his indirect murder in the same way they investigate fabricated cases against transgender women accused of “debauchery.” No one lifted a finger, and the case was rapidly forgotten, and so was Ezz! Therefore, we remind you today of Ezz and his suffering and case, which is the case of all transgender people in Egypt; however, it is only him who paid the heavy price of bringing it to light. 

Direct hate crimes are chronicled, and we keep on talking about them as the years pass in order to remember the perpetrators and the victims alike to give each of them the status they deserve—so that the victim is glorified and the perpetrator is stigmatized. It is when we continued to talk about these crimes that the world knew the stories of the transgender men and women who were shot, slaughtered, and assaulted for being themselves. But we will also carefully chronicle the stories of those whom the entire system has targeted and colluded to kill with its intransigence, rejection, bureaucracy, and imposing hardships on their work, education, and legal rights—so that we can achieve justice and protect others from turning into other tragedies to be added to the history of transgender people in the region. We remember Suzy, the Lebanese transgender who was killed by a system that prevented her from working. We will also remember Ezz, who was killed by an entire system that targets transgender people on all levels. We will also remember all those who were killed by bureaucracy, and intransigence as flames that we fan in the face of all oppressive systems. 


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