Egyptian sex workers celebrate the first Egyptian Pride Day of Sex Workers

NSWP member organisation Cairo 52 last week announced the first annual Egyptian Pride Day of Sex Workers. After discussions within the Egyptian sex worker community, the date of 2 April 2023 was chosen. The 2nd of April is a significant date as it is the anniversary of the Battle of Wazzir between Egyptian sex workers and British colonial troops.

Describing this important moment in Egyptian history, Cairo 52 explained: “Stories differ about what happened during the battle, but one thing is true it is the day the Sex Workers stood up to defend their people and their livelihood from the aggression of the colonialists. 

Thus, this day symbolizes the determination and courage sex workers always show to defend their rights in Egypt.”

The Wazzir alley was one of the many alleys of the infamous Wagah El-Barakh region, where legalized sex working was common in 1915. On the 2nd of April 1915, for reasons now lost to history, soldiers began throwing furniture out of a house where sex workers lived and worked, before setting it on fire. The soldiers went on to loot and destroy many of the surrounding buildings and set more brothels on fire. Sex workers, supported by locals, started to fight back by making makeshift barricades, using sticks and rocks to fight with the soldiers.

The following investigation into the incident was ended abruptly due to the need for troops on the frontline in Gallipoli, Turkey and no one was ever held accountable for the damages that were estimated to be £100,000. 

Describing the legacy of the battle in Egypt, Cairo 52 explain:

“This battle was left forgotten in the Egyptian memory, while in Australia and New Zealand you can find letters and full archives documenting this battle. perhaps Egyptian authorities and intellectuals of the time choose to forget this battle because it is a reminder of how weak the Egyptian government was at the time and how it was characterized by being a subject to the British, not being able to keep order in its own capital. Perhaps because in this period of weakness for the Egyptian authority in the country, the only battle that happened between the British and the Egyptian at the time, Egypt was defended by a group that often looked down upon in the Egyptian society (The sex workers). All in all in the end the Sex Workers did fight bravely and in the end of the day this battle with all of its incidents must survive more in the memory of Egyptians.”

Egyptian Pride Day of Sex Workers is being celebrated online throughout this week (2-9 April) and Cairo 52 are sharing articles and essays on the history of sex working in Egypt on their social media  as well as activities on the ground.

You can learn about the Battle of Wazzir here: