In a moment of celebration and LGBT rights activism, several concertgoers raised rainbow flags at a concert in Cairo, Egypt, on Sept. 22.
Days later, seven of them were arrested on charges of “sexual deviancy” — and that was just the beginning of what appears to be a crackdown on LGBT people in the Northern African country.
Since the concert, 33 people have been detained based on their “perceived sexual orientation,” according to Amnesty International.
Concert attendees shared photos of the flags being raised during the performance on social media with supportive messages, which Human Rights Watch said caused “pro-government media [to go] on an overdrive attack and conservative politicians and religious leaders [to demand] that the government take action.”
People raised rainbow flags in tonight's concert and this never happens in Egypt and it made me so happy and proud pic.twitter.com/3IBtgYiQvP— // SAL // (@Signsofsal) September 23, 2017
Since the military took control in 2013, it has not been uncommon for Egyptian authorities to arrest people they suspect have engaged in consensual homosexual activities, according to the New York Times. Over 250 men have been prosecuted based on their perceived sexual orientation since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
Because homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, as it is in neighboring Libya, gay Egyptians are often charged with “debauchery,” “immorality,” or “blasphemy” instead, the BBC reported.
Of the 33 people arrested, just one is a woman, and 22 were arrested over the last 4 days, according to Amnesty International. The human rights organization expressed concern over the sudden uptick in arrests of LGBT people in the country, and alarm over the Egyptian Forensic Medical Authority’s use of forced anal examinations on those arrested.
“Forced anal examinations are tantamount to torture – there is no scientific basis for such tests and they cannot be justified under any circumstances,” Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director said.
“The scale of the latest arrests highlights how dangerously entrenched homophobia is within the country. 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,” he added.
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