A crackdown on LGBTI people by Egyptian authorities has seen as many as 54 arrested since a September 22 concert.
Rainbow flags were flown by audience members at last month’s performance by Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila, whose lead singer is openly gay.
Since the incident, thirty-two men and a woman have been arrested in connection with the flag-raising, with many more detained as part of a wider state-sanctioned persecution of LGBTI people.
According to Amnesty International, a 19-year-old man was arrested a day after the concert and later sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of “debauchery” after reportedly being entrapped by police on a dating app.
Amnesty also said that authorities carried out anal examinations on at least six people, a common practice in prosecuting LGBTI men in Egypt.
Six of those arrested were detained for “habitual debauchery” through use of online dating apps.
“In a matter of days the Egyptian security forces have rounded up dozens of people and carried out five anal examinations signalling a sharp escalation in the authorities’ efforts to persecute and intimidate members of the LGBTI community following the rainbow flag incident,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.
“Forced anal examinations are tantamount to torture – there is no scientific basis for such tests and they cannot be justified under any circumstances.
“The scale of the latest arrests highlights how dangerously entrenched homophobia is within the country,” Bounaim continued.
“Instead of stepping up arrests and carrying out anal examinations, the authorities must urgently halt this ruthless crackdown and release all those arrested immediately and unconditionally.
“This is the worst crackdown against people based on their perceived sexual orientation since the mass arrests of 52 people following a raid on the Queen Boat, a floating nightclub on the Nile, in 2001.”
While homosexuality is not explicitly criminalised in Egypt, authorities routinely make arrests under the guise of “debauchery”, “immorality” or “blasphemy”.
It is commonly understood that the the Egyptian government monitors social media, likely including apps like Grindr, for signs of LGBTI activity.
Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation, a government body, has also declared an LGBTI media blackout, forbidding “homosexuals to appear in any media outlet whether written, audio or visual, except when they acknowledge their wrong conduct and repent for it.”
Mashrou’ Leila made a powerful statement earlier this week condemning the crackdown.
“We denounce the demonization and prosecution of victimless acts between consenting adults.”
“We reiterate our unwavering support to the Egyptian people in this horrible time. We’re heartbroken that the band’s work has been used to scapegoat yet another crackdown by the government.”
“It is sickening to think that all this hysteria has been generated over a couple of kids raising a piece of cloth that stands for love.”