Politics | October 4, 2017 5:00 am

Egyptian Authorities Intensify LGBT Crackdown After Rainbow Flag Display

At least 32 men and one woman have been arrested in 4 days as part of campaign against gay people.

According to activists, at least 32 men and one woman have been detained in Egypt since rainbow flags were displayed at a pop concert in Cairo last month.

Homosexuality is not explicitly criminalized under Egyptian law, according to BBCbut the authorities have routinely arrested people who they suspect of engaging in consensual homosexual conduct on charges of “debauchery,” “immorality” or “blasphemy.”

The raising of rainbow flags happened September 22 at the concert by Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila, whose lead singer is openly gay, reports BBC. It was a rare public showing of support for the LGBT community in Egypt. But after pictures went viral, Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadek ordered State Security prosecutors to investigate the incident because it “incited homosexuality,” according to BBC. 

Six men were charged in connection with the flag-raising and went to trial alongside at least 10 others on Sunday, according to BBC and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a local human rights organization. The verdict is not expected until Oct. 29. Meanwhile, a woman who is suspected of raising a rainbow flag has been charged with “promoting sexual deviancy” and “habitual debauchery” according to BBC. 

Amnesty International reported a seventh man had been detained in Damietta, and six others detained in Cairo, while four arrests took place in Giza. Amnesty also said a 19-year-old man arrested the day after the concert was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of “debauchery,” BBC reports, and four other men are being held at Cairo police stations.

Anal examinations have been carried out by the Forensic Medical Authority on at least five of those arrested, Amnesty reported to BBC. These procedures are regularly used to prosecute homosexual sex in Egypt.

Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa campaigns director, said that forced anal examinations are “tantamount to torture.”

“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,” said Bounaim, according to BBC. 

The Egyptian Musicians Syndicate has vowed to bar Mashrou’ Leila from performing, broke their silence to say that the crackdown has left them “heartbroken,” according to BBC, and that they denounce the “demonization and prosecution of victimless acts between consenting adults.” They had originally remained silent for fear of escalating the situation, but that it had since become clear “that the state apparatus is hell-bent on executing the most atrocious of human rights violations,” writes BBC.