Up to 54 arrests, media blackout as Egypt continues LGBT crackdown
KARIM SAHIB (AFP)
The number of arrests in a widespread campaign against gay people in Egypt has jumped as high as 54, human rights group have said, as a regulator prohibits any appearance of "homosexuals" in Egyptian media except to "acknowledge their wrong conduct."
Egyptian authorities went into overdrive last month after pictures were published on social media showing a small number of rainbow flags -- a global symbol of the LGBT community -- being waved at a Cairo concert of Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila.
So far, six people have been sentenced to between one and six years in prison under laws prohibiting “debauchery” and “incitement to debauchery,” Human Rights Watch said on Friday.
Several more are awaiting trial, although many are not suspected of involvement with flag-waving at the concert.
Local human rights groups in Egypt have put the number of arrests since the concert at between 43 and 54. They include straight activists, one of whom told her lawyer she had been physically and sexually assaulted during her interrogation.
Some have been subject to anal examinations, which Egypt says help determine an individual's sexuality. They were recently outlawed in Lebanon and Tunisia.
HRW also said that a media regulation body, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, which is officially headed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, forbade "homosexuals" from appearing in any Egyptian media outlet.
A decree issued amid the crackdown cited by the New York-based NGO says “it is forbidden for homosexuals to appear in any media outlet whether written, audio or visual, except when they acknowledge their wrong conduct and repent for it.”
The council referred to homosexuality “a pure, great and eternal evil that must be rooted out.”
Mashrou' Leila, whose lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay, said earlier this week they were "heartbroken" by the crackdown.
They said they had initially remained silent on the arrests for fear of "further inflaming the situation".
"It has however become rather apparent in the last 48 hours that the state apparatus is hell-bent on executing the most atrocious of human rights violations," the band said in a statement posted on its social media accounts late Monday.
"The state is currently rounding up kids and violating their bodies," the statement added.
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What happens when they do their 6 years?