The Dokki Misdemeanour Court sentenced a student for six years imprisonment and an EGP 300 fine, for allegedly “practising debauchery”, after being accused of a waving the rainbow flag in a music concert last Friday, as reported by state media.
According to investigations, as published by state media, the defendant was arrested after attending a concert by Lebanese Rock band Mashrou’ Leila. It is not clear however whether the defendant was involved in any sexual acts.
Egyptian law does not directly forbid homosexuality, but arrests have taken place citing charges of “violating the teachings of religion and public morals”. The Interior Ministry contains a “vice police” department, which is responsible for arresting defendants charged with crimes related to sexuality, ‘moral violations’, or indecency. The department has its own investigations unit, police force, and separate units in police stations
On Monday, arrests were made after pictures of concert goers waving a the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] pride flag were circulated on social media. Mashrou’ Leila’s music and lyrics mainly discuss personal freedoms, which counter religious and sexual orientations. That caused much controversy for the band wherever it performs in Arab Muslim countries.
After the Friday concert, the High State Security prosecution said it would investigate debauchery charges against seven people arrested on Monday for raising the rainbow. The exact charges and the place of detention of these individuals are not yet known, as the High State Security prosecution mainly deals with national security related cases like terrorism and militancy, causing the investigations to acquire a level of secrecy.
Since the Monday arrests, public controversy erupted over the acceptance of homosexuality and gay people’s rights, where public and religious figures, as well as local media, led a fierce campaign against the issue, calling for punishment to those who raised the flag, while other members of the parliament called for preparing a law to “punish homosexuals”.
Al-Azhar deputy Abbas Shuman published on Tuesday a note on his official Facebook page warning against “the organisation of a party for gays, declaring their homosexuality in public.” Raising the rainbow flag in “Al-Azhar’s Egypt” is a shame, the religious official added, calling for participants in such parties to be punished. Shuman added that the incident is “an act of moral terrorism that is no less than the terrorist crimes that violated societies.”
Similarly, the Ultra-conservative political party Al-Nour, presented a report to the Egyptian parliament calling to ban similar concerts in the future. Also, member of the religious committee in the parliament, Abdel Kareem Zakaria, called on the authorities to psychological examine the individuals who raised the rainbow flag.
Diplomatically Egypt as voiced its rejection to accept homosexuality. In July 2016, then Egyptian delegate in the United Nations, Amr Ramadan said that any decisions taken by the UN on matters of homosexuality and gay rights are “irrelevant and will not change the international reality commenting on the Human Rights Council’s decision to appoint an independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
In a high-profile raid on 7 December 2014, a force from the Egyptian “vice police” raided a bath house and referred the defendants to court. Four of the defendants, including the bathhouse’s owner, were charged with “running a place that organises paid sexual orgies” while the remaining 21 faced charges of debauchery.
The arrests were filmed and broadcast by controversial TV presenter Mona Iraqi who was said to have collaborated with the police officer leading the raid.
All the defendants were, however, later acquitted.
In 2014, Following a crackdown on homosexuals, online dating app Grindr warned users in Egypt against giving out their personal information and setting up meetings with other Grindr users. They said this was due to the threat of arrests against users in the LGBT community.
In October 2013, prosecution ordered fourteen suspects detained on allegations they committed “homosexual acts” in a medical centre in the El-Marg neighbourhood of Cairo.
In 2001, over 50 men were arrested on a disco cruise on charges related to homosexual acts, with some receiving prison sentences. It was the largest case involving homosexual behaviour in Egyptian history.