It’s not unusual for audience members to wave lights and posters at concerts, but for seven concert-goers in Egypt, raising a flag at a concert landed them in jail, according to the New York Times.
During a concert last week, a group of fans waved rainbow flags to promote awareness of Egypt’s LGBT community, Quartz reports.
On Monday, seven people were arrested and charged with “promoting sexual deviancy,” according to the New York Times, despite the fact that homosexuality is not illegal under Egyptian law.
The group had attended a concert in Cairo where the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila was performing. The band’s lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay and one of just a few celebrities in the Middle East who has spoken publicly about his sexuality.
Homosexuality is still criminalized in Lebanon, though the country’s capital, Beirut, hosted its first pride parade earlier this year, according to CNN. And based on a series of legal decisions, Human Rights Watch hopes that the country will abolish its anti-gay laws soon.
While Egypt does not have explicit anti-gay laws, people who are believed to have consensually engaged in homosexual acts are regularly arrested and charged with “debauchery,” “immorality,” or “blasphemy,” according to the BBC.
It's the first time that I see the rainbow flag flying in Egypt. That was so heartwarming. 🌈✨ pic.twitter.com/FdU71A0lIP— Hitch (@amrhitch) September 22, 2017
“Had I raised the ISIS flag I wouldn’t be facing half of what I am facing now,” a man who was photographed with a rainbow flag at the concert wrote on Facebook, the New York Times reported.
Life for Egypt’s LGBT community has been increasingly difficult since the country fell under military control in 2013, according to the New York Times. While the Muslim-majority country has a history of being conservative, “there was no deliberate campaign of arrest and monitoring” before the military coup Dalia Abdel Hameed, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told the New York Times last year. “Now the police are going out of their way to arrest gay men and trans women.”
“We are a religious, conservative society, an identity we need to preserve,” the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate — like a union for music professionals — told Daily News Egypt on Monday. “This is a scandal against our traditions and far from serious and meaningful art.” The syndicate is now attempting to ban Mashrou Leila from performing Egypt in the future.
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