A belly dancer in Egypt is wearing a beard to protest the treatment of LGBT people

Shrouk El-Attar

A belly dancing activist is challenging LGBT rights in Egypt in a spellbinding way – by wearing a beard when she performs.

Shrouk El-Attar, who is a lesbian, studies at Cardiff University and is an LGBT refugee from Egypt in the UK.

Performing as the “Dancing Queer” in France, the Netherlands and Japan, the activist is raising money to ensure that asylum seekers in the UK can afford to pursue their education, while protesting the treatment of LGBT people in Egypt – which she abruptly learned the harsh reality of at the age of nine.

“I just thought that everyone likes girls; boys like girls, girls like girls, everyone likes girls – why wouldn’t you? They smell nice, they look great!” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

It was when her teacher at the age of 9 proclaimed that homosexuality was a sin that El-Attar embarked upon a life of worry.

“I didn’t want to be that horrible person who was going to burn in hell,” she said to Reuters.

Asylum seekers in Britain are treated as international students in the UK, which means that they can pay triple the fees of other UK students.

When she was accepted as an LGBT refugee, her education was put on hold due to the skyrocketing fees.

It was with this in mind she decided to ensure that asylum seekers have the right to a fair education while protesting the treatment of gay people in the African country.

It is for that reason that El-Attar hopes to ensure that fellow refugee students have a fair access to education.

“When I was applying for universities there were no universities accepting asylum seekers,” she said to the Foundation.

“Now there’s around 60 across the country, and it’s beautiful to see real change happening because of our work.”

Although homosexuality is technically decriminalised in Egypt, LGB people can still be tried for same-sex activity under debauchery laws.