Egypt detains Mashrou’ Leila concertgoers for raising LGBT flag
Egyptian authorities detained seven people on Monday for raising the rainbow flag of the LGBT movement at a Cairo concert by Lebanese indie band Mashrou' Leila, which now faces a ban in Egypt.
The flag was raised during a performance on Friday in a mall in an upscale suburb of the city, with images and videos of the flag-raising going viral online.
Homosexuality is a taboo in Egypt among both Muslims and the Christian minority but is not explicitly prohibited.
The seven arrested on Monday were charged with "inciting immorality", security officials said, adding that the Supreme State Security Prosecution acted after authorities discovered they had raised "the flag of homosexuals".
Egypt's Syndicate of Musical Professions will now push for a ban on Mashrou Leila from performing in Egypt, according to its deputy chairman Reza Ragab said in remarks to local press.
While the role of the Syndicate of Musical Professions is “not restricting”, Ragab said, "we must prevent such bands and musicians from getting on stage because they perform abnormal art”, he adds.
Mashrou' Leila, whose lead singer is openly gay, have played in Egypt before although they have twice been banned from Jordan over accusations that the band's music violates the kingdom's traditions and is blasphemous.
An exasperated host on one television channel urged deputy head of the official musicians union Reza Rageb to explain how such a thing like raising the LGBT flag could have happened on Egyptian soil.
"We are against gay art," Ragab said in a phone interview on AlAssema TV. "It is depraved art."
The band had acquired all the necessary permits to perform, including approval from state security services, but would be banned from future performances, Ragab added.
Mashrou' Leila on its Facebook page called the Cairo show one of the best they had ever played, saying it was an "honor to play to such a wonderful crowd."
The feed quickly became a culture war, with heated exchanges that both insulted and praised the group.
Egypt regularly arrests gay men in large police raids, with the most famous incident coming in 2001 when 52 men were detained at a dance party on the Nile called the Queen Boat.
The men were put on trial in a highly publicised proceeding during which they were mocked by the media and their names, photos, and addresses were published online.
Almost half were sentenced to jail after the trial, which was widely criticized by human rights groups and Western governments.