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Egypt: Seven arrested for flying LGBT flag at concert; band banned

3 October 2017
Authorities arrested seven men accused of being gay after they raised a LGBT flag at a concert by band Mashrou' Leila, who is now banned from the country.
Photo: Mashrou’ Leila on stage in Cairo/Facebook

 

Egyptian authorities arrested seven men on 25 September 2017 who have been accused of being gay and promoting homosexuality after they raised a rainbow flag symbolizing the LGBT movement at a concert on Friday 22 September by Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou’ Leila, whose lead singer is openly gay, reported Reuters.

Though there are no laws officially banning homosexuality in Egypt, the men were arrested on charges of “inciting immorality”, reported The Washington Post.

One day later, one of the men was sentenced to six years in prison, followed by six years of probation, and fined for “debauchery” and “inciting immorality” at the Dokki Misdemeanour Court in Giza, according to Human Rights Watch. The man had no legal representation at the trial, but now has a lawyer and filed for an appeal which will be heard on 11 October.

Backlash in the conservative country over the flag at the concert has led authorities to round up dozens of men due to their presumed sexual orientation. Seventeen men were put on trial for “promoting homosexuality” and “inciting debauchery” on 1 October at the Azbakia Misdemeanour Court in Cairo. The trial was adjourned until 29 October when the court is expected to hand out a verdict, according to Deutsche Welle. It is unclear if the seven men from the concert were part of the trial.

Ahead of the trial, Amnesty International reported that they would be subjected to “invasive forensic anal examinations”.

Two men were sentenced on 1 October at the Dokki Misdemenour Court on 1 October in separate cases. One of the defendants was handed a sentence of three years in prison, followed by three years of probation; the other was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by two years of probation, reported Daily News Egypt.

On 2 October, the band made a statement on its Facebook page denouncing the actions of Egyptian authorities and calling “cultural producers, musicians, and activists, inside and outside Egypt, to express their solidarity with the Egyptian community during this horrible time”.

According to a live phone interview with Reza Raga, deputy of the Egyptian Music Syndicate, on AlAssema TV, the syndicate has decided to ban Mashrou’ Leila from further performances in Egypt, because the syndicate is “against gay art” and considers the band’s music to be “depraved art”.

The band has previously only been banned in one other country, Jordan, on two separate occasions, once this year and once in 2016.

Egypt Independent reported on 1 October that the Supreme Council for Media Regulation ordered a media blackout on any form of support to the LGBT community, calling homosexuality a “shameful disease”, and that the only way a homosexual could appear in the media is if they admit the “non-acceptable behaviour” and “show repentance”.

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