Mashrou' Leila, the Rainbow Flag and Egyptian Repression
It started at a September 22 concert by the Lebanese rock band Mashrou' Leila. Fans in the Cairo audience waved rainbow flags. Now the BBC reports ...
Egyptian authorities have arrested at least 22 people in the past four days as part of a campaign against LGBT people, Amnesty International says.
Thirty-two men and one woman have now been detained since rainbow flags were displayed at a pop concert in Cairo last month, according to activists.
Anal examinations have been reportedly carried out on five of those arrested.
The flag-raising provoked a public outcry and prompted the public prosecutor to order an investigation.
Homosexuality is not explicitly criminalised under Egyptian law.
But the authorities routinely arrest people suspected of engaging in consensual homosexual conduct on charges of "debauchery", "immorality" or "blasphemy".
The blinding speed of the legal backlash in Egypt might feel familiar from recent events in Indonesia, Chechnya, Malaysia and Brazil. However, its roots in the larger struggle for human rights in the Middle East place it in the peculiar context of western imperial desires.
Mashrou' Leila formed in 2008 among a group of friends at the American University of Beirut. Their openly-gay frontman, Hamed Sinno is the public face of a subtle, queer, cultural revolution in the Arabic-speaking world. According to Sinno, Mashrou' Leila's songs tackle love, lust, mourning, social control, politics, the Arab spring, and most importantly, dancing.
During their 2016 U.S. tour, they visited NPR the day after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL.
Mashrou' Leila's 2017 U.S. tour is underway through mid-November.