Egyptian security forces have been on the hunt for people suspected of homosexuality using absurd "debauchery" charges since September 22, 2017. This followed the Arabic folk-pop band "Mashrou Leila" concert, where the LGBT flag was raised as a symbol of solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, in New Cairo, Egypt.

Mashrou' Leila, is a Lebanese group that has an openly gay lead singer and has performed songs addressing same-sex relationships and gender identity, which opened a door for dialogue and cultural exposure and awareness of LGBT issues all around the Middle East.

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However, they are now facing an extreme backlash from the Egyptian extremist community, which caused the Egyptian Musician's Syndicate to open an investigation into the event and has banned future Mashrou' Leila concerts to be held in Egypt.

Attacks on the LGBT community in Egypt

The raising of the Rainbow Flag was considered a provocative and immoral act by Egyptian pro-government media who serve an ongoing attack against the LGBT community in the nation, urging local conservative and religious leaders to take action. As a result of the harassment and social injustice the LGBT community is facing, security forces have collected at least eleven people in the past week by tracking video footage of the concert and identifying their alleged suspects. Additionally, the Egyptian police force arrested one man on September 23 through a widely known gay dating app - a method commonly and previously used in Egypt.

"Whether they were waving a rainbow flag, chatting on a dating app, or minding their own business in the streets, all these debauchery arrest victims should immediately be released," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director at the Human Rights Watch.

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The Dokki Court in Giza passed its first sentence on the first victim on September 26. It was six years in prison and a fine for "debauchery," based on presumptions of his sexuality. Prosecutors allegedly claimed that the victim was among those who raised the flag at the concert. The court sentenced him to an additional six years of probation with parole which will require reporting to the police from 6 PM to 6 AM until 2029. No lawyer was present at his trial as he was forbidden to request one. Shortly after the sentencing, he was granted legal representation and his appeal will be heard on October 11. The six men arrested on September 27 are scheduled for trial on October 1st.

Outdated and humiliating examinations

Egypt's Forensic Medicine Authority also frequently subjects people to forced anal examinations by using an anal probing archaic technique that was used in the 19th century to seek "evidence" of homosexual conduct. Forensic experts including The UN Committee Against Torture and the African Commission on Human and People's Rights have condemned the practice as lacking any scientific validity and considered the exams a form of torture.

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate has yet to take any steps preventing doctors from conducting these immensely degrading exams.

"Egypt should stop dedicating state resources to hunting people down for what they allegedly do in their bedrooms, or for expressing themselves at a rock concert, and should instead focus energy on improving its dire human rights record," Whitson said.

Incidents involving homosexuality and LGBT rights are quite recurrent in the Middle East as LGBT laws are harsher than most countries. Egypt ranks high on the discrimination list as police occasionally pursue and persecute gay and bisexual men and transgender women. They actively look for them and entrap them through social media and dating apps. One Cairo-based organization has documented the heinous prosecution of at least 34 people for consensual same-sex conduct in the last 12 months.

Egyptian activists fear that the past week's arrests could initiate the beginning of an even harsher crackdown on LGBT members and those who publicly support them. Egypt is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that protect the rights to privacy and the freedom of expression, along with Egyptian government constitution laws protecting these rights. The homophobic Egyptian police forces continue to abuse this law and concentrate on outdated "debauchery" and "inciting debauchery" laws to completely isolate, alienate and horrendously eliminate any signs of an LGBT community among men.