An Egyptian court has sentenced 16 men to jail, convicting them of “inciting debauchery” and “abnormal sexual relations.”
The sentences are the most recent wave in the government-sponsored attack on LGBT freedoms in Egypt. Cairo media has reported that the men have posted bail of 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($283) pending their appeal.
This most recent crackdown appears to be have been set off in late September, when seven Egyptians were arrested after waving a rainbow flag at a Cairo concert by the Lebanese alternative rock band Mashrou’ Leila, whose lead singer Hamed Sinno (below) is openly gay. The backlash from conservative politicians and media talking heads was swift and angry.
The Egyptian queer community has been subject to persecution, which the government does not deny, since 2013, when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted then-President Mohamed Mursi.
The Independent reports that many of the initial 33 people arrested following the concert, “only 10 … are believed to be related to the flag—most of the other defendants were entrapped by online dating app stings.” At least 75 people have been arrested since the concert, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
— Hitham Alkashif (@HithamAlkashif) September 23, 2017
Why Egypt does not specifically criminalize homosexuality as a matter of law, anti-LGBT animus is widespread, and men who have sex with men are being arrested on the grounds of debauchery. Men who were arrested have described horrific inspections, including forced, archaic anal examinations at the direction of Egypt’s Forensic Medicine Authority, to seek “evidence” of sex with men. Human Rights Watch describes such practices as torture, scientifically invalid, and medically unethical. More than 60 members of parliament have indicated support for a proposed law to make same-sex sexual activity a criminal offense (punishable by prison sentences of up to 10 years) and to outlaw LGBT-friendly material. The bill is to be debated by parliament on the coming months.