By: Jack MacNamara, Staff Writer, Staff Writer
EGYPT — Alarming news is going viral over seven men being arrested in Egypt for what authorities call, “promoting sexual deviancy” on social media. Under Egyptian law, the seven men must submit to an “anal examinations” prior to their October 1 trial date.
The arrests of these men are just the latest assault on social freedoms in the ancient kingdom of Egypt under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who has put forth harsh restrictions on freedom of speech especially when it comes to advocating for LGBT rights.
According to Amnesty International, the move by the Egyptian government to arrest these seven men simply because of the waving of a rainbow flag among the music fans at the Mashrou’ Leila concert, a popular Lebanese alternative rock band whose lead singer is openly gay, is outrageous.
“The fact that Egypt’s Public Prosecutor is prioritizing hunting down people based on their perceived sexual orientation is utterly deplorable. These men should be released immediately and unconditionally — not put on trial,” Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International, told Reuters. She also described the anal exams as “abhorrent” and “torture.” said Bounaim.
Although homosexuality is not outlawed in Egypt, it is strictly unacceptable in the extremely conservative country. For years members of the LGBTQ community in Egypt have faced harsh treatment in Egyptian prisons.
By the time I was putting this report together, the number of people arrested has risen to 11 people who have now been charged with “deviancy” and one of the eleven men has already been sentenced to six years in prison.
According to Human Rights Watch, the man who was sentenced did not have a lawyer present during his trial, nor will he have one on his October 11 appeal date which is standard in the ancient kingdom.
Not only that, the conservative court sentenced the man to an additional six years of probation requiring him to meet with police from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. until 2029.
According to Reuters;
“The exams are intended to determine whether the men have had anal sex in a country known for controversial medical practices. Women arrested there have often been subjected to “virginity tests” to prove that they are upstanding citizens (many arrested during the 2011 revolution and subsequent unrest there were accused of being “prostitutes”). There have been recent calls to subject women to similar exams before allowing them to enroll in university.
Reuters quoted an unnamed judicial source defending the exams: “Allegations of torturing or insulting those medically examined are lies not worth responding to. The examinations are carried out by a forensic doctor who swore to respect his profession and its ethics.”
For its part, Mashrou’ Leila has remained silent on the arrests, only issuing a statement on Twitter last Tuesday:
Rainbow flag waving for the first time in #Egypt today at #MashrouLeila ‘s concert. That was such a brave act.#MusicParkFestival pic.twitter.com/ovCkpP4y1n
— Hitham Alkashif (@HithamAlkashif) September 23, 2017
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