Fans Arrested For Raising Rainbow Flags

Seven people were arrested for allegedly raising rainbow flags – commonly known as the gay pride flag – during a Sept. 22 concert by the Lebanese indie rock band

Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that the fans were charged with “inciting immorality.”

Raising The Flag
– Raising The Flag
A photo posted on the Facebook page for the LGBTQI organization Rainbow Egypt shows crowd members waving rainbow flags at Mashrou’ Leila’s Sept. 22 concert in Cairo.

The BBC reported that prosecutors opened an investigation after photos from the concert went viral, including one of two crowd members holding rainbow flags, which was posted on the Facebook page for the LGBTQI organization Rainbow Egypt. According to the BBC’s Sept. 26 report, the seven individuals were detained Sept. 25 for “promoting sexual deviancy” but were not formerly charged yet.

Reza Regab, the head of Egypt’s official musicians union, said that the union would ban Mashrou’ Leila from performing in the country in the future.

“We are against gay art. It is depraved art,” Regab said in a phone interview on AlAssema TV. He admitted that the state security services had approved of the Sept. 22 concert and the band had all necessary permits.

Mashrou’ Leila had previously been banned from performing in Jordan on religious grounds. 

The band’s lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is openly gay. 

Mashrou’ Leila posted the following statement on its Facebook page Sept. 26: “Dear everyone, we were on a flight to New York, where we will be teaching a workshop for the next two months, when the media frenzy began. We have not yet commented about the situation in Cairo, as we have received conflicting reports, and honestly have not been able to figure out what is actually happening. Our trusted sources on the ground have not been able to verify anything pertaining to the arrests or the alleged ban on future performances. We hope everyone is safe and well, and appreciate your patience.”

The band praised the audience at the Sept. 22 concert at the Cairo Festival City Mall with a post on Facebook that declared, “Cairo! This was one of the best shows we’ve ever played! Was an honour to play to such a wonderful crowd! So much love! <3”

Pollstar reached out to the band’s agent and manager for further comment and was directed to Mashrou’ Leila’s official statement.

AP Photo/Diaa Hadid, File
– Mashrou
In this Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 file photo, Mashrou’ Leila performs in the ancient Roman amphitheater in Amman, Jordan.

The BBC notes, “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.’”

Police regularly conduct raids on parties or bath houses. A 2001 raid on a dance party on a floating nightclub moored on the Nile resulted in 52 men being arrested, with almost half sentenced to prison.

Mashrou’ Leila, which is represented in North America by Paradigm Talent Agency and internationally by Creative Artists Agency, is set to kick off a North American tour on Oct. 1 in Alexandria, Va., at The Birchmere. While in the U.S. this fall, the band is leading a workshop at New York University as the Hagop Kevorkian Center’s artists-in-residence.